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UNDRESSING PATRIARCHY: REDRESSING INEQUALITIES; Report of an international symposium 9-12 September 2013

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Abstract and Figures

The global economic crisis is showing the cracks in the surface of how patriarchy is lived in everyday lives; is now not the right time to refocus the discussion? Can we reclaim ‘patriarchy’ from the analysis of all men as patriarchs? How do we understand masculinities in a more political way? How do we address the ways that patriarchy is bad for men, whilst still recognising the battles for women’s rights? What are the implications of rights language for an understanding of patriarchy? If marriage as an institution is the foundation of patriarchy, why are gay and lesbian movements so into marriage now? What do you get if you undress patriarchy? What does it look like underneath? How can stories, film, art media help us to envision this? If the metaphor is that patriarchy is a prison, who are the prisoners and who are the prison wardens? How do elements of patriarchy replicate themselves in our feminist movements? Patriarchy may be seen as an old-fashioned term with little relevance to current work on gender, yet these kinds of questions motivated participants to get excited about the notion of ‘Undressing Patriarchy’ and inspired them to draft background papers and to travel across the world to take part in this conversation. This was an unlikely encounter of unusual suspects. They spent four days together in a hotel in Brighton, in September 2013, engaged in rather unconventional dialogues across perspectives from feminism, men and masculinities work, sexual rights and other social justice struggles. This publication captures some of the dilemmas, new thinking, the interactive process, analyses, future possibilities and challenges identified in these debates in Brighton.
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Report of an international symposium 9-12 September 2013, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies
First published by the Institute of Development Studies in November 2013
© Institute of Development Studies 2013
ISBN: 978 1 78118 143 0
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This is an output under the grant on ‘Gender, Power and Sexuality: Connecting local voices to global arenas
for equality and rights’, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
Available from:
Communications Team, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, BN1 9RE, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1273 915637 Fax: +44 (0) 1273 621202
IDS is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in
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Photo on cover page:
IDS_Master Logo
Kate Hawkins, with Preetha Bisht, Alexandra Kelbert, Carolina Maldonado
Pacheco, Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed and Jerker Edström
November 2013
This report was written by Kate Hawkins who was assisted by Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, Preetha Bisht,
Alexandra Kelbert, and Carolina Maldonado Pacheco. The report synthesises discussions which were
held at the ‘Undressing Patriarchy Symposium’ which was held in Brighton on 9–12 September 2013. The
Symposium was co-organised by Jerker Edström, akshay khanna, Stephen Wood, Alyson Brody and Jas
Vaghadia (all at the Institute of Development Studies, UK), with Andrea Cornwall (University of Sussex,
UK), Philip E Otieno (Men for Gender Equality Now, Kenya), Chris Dolan (Refugee Law Project, Uganda)
and Satish Kumar (Centre for Health and Social Justice, India). Furthermore, a broader informal advisory
UK), Pinar Ilkkaracan (Women for Women’s Human Rights, Turkey) and Marcos Nascimento (Centro
Latinoamericano en Sexualidad y Derechos Humanos, Brazil).
The Symposium forms part of a larger body of work on gender, power and sexuality at the Institute of
Development Studies. This work builds on long-standing partnerships and collaborations which have
been exploring engaging men and boys for gender equity, pathways of women’s empowerment, sexuality
and international development, and gender within social movements. The discussions, debates and
disagreements within this report build on earlier work, most notably the Politicising Masculinities Symposium
which took place in 2007 in Dakar (les/dmle/Masculinities.pdf).
We are deeply grateful to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), for their
support for the symposium, the production of this report and other outputs, under an institutional IDS grant
on ‘Gender, Power and Sexuality: Connecting local voices to global arenas for equality and rights’.
of the Institute of Development Studies. It is always a pleasure working with her and we appreciate her
Acknowledgements 4
1. Introduction 6
1.1 The genesis of Undressing Patriarchy 6
1.2 A few words from an organiser 7
1.3 Who came? 8
1.4 Motivations for coming together 9
2. The process 9
2.1 Agenda 11
2.2 The personal is political 14
 2.3Formingafnitygroups        15
2.4 Hard talk 16
2.5 Provocation: the personal is political 18
2.6 Digging deeper in small groups 20
2.6.1 Feminist frictions: beyond victimhood 21
2.6.2 Theorising patriarchy 22
2.6.3 Structures of power 22
2.6.4 Working with men and boys 24
2.6.5 Practical ways forward 27
2.7 Coming together for change: duos, triads and more 29
2.8 Provocations: feminist perspectives, Kyriarchy and the macro-political 31
2.9 What have we learned? 33
2.10 Mixing the colours 36
3. Digging deeper: future directions for undressing patriarchy 38
3.1 Challenging patriarchy in law 38
3.2 The Second Global Symposium for Working With Men and Boys, Delhi 38
3.3 Disability and the Delhi Forum November 2014 and beyond 38
3.4 BRIDGE power relations within social justice movements 39
3.5 Politicising work with men and boys 39
3.6 Focusing on men and women in power 39
 3.7Travellinglmcaravan        40
3.8 Sexual and reproductive health and HIV 40
3.9 Race and nation 40
3.10 Looking to the future 40
4. The way forward 40
From 9–12 September a diverse group of activists, academics and
practitioners came together at the Imperial Hotel in Brighton (UK) around
about the impact that patriarchy has had on their own lives; swapped
interventions for challenging harmful social norms and building new ways of thinking and acting; talked on
the move during a ‘walkshop’ on the sunny Sussex coast; and agreed a future agenda for change.
The objectives of the meeting were:
• To make visible assumptions, realities and new expressions of shifting patriarchal power structures;
• To reveal key gendered pathways and connections between different forms and systems of power, and
advance thinking about patriarchy in relation to intersecting structures of power;
• To document dialogues and communicate new thinking on patriarchy and gender justice to a broader
audience in social science, gender and development;
• To develop a roadmap for future directions and collaborations addressing patriarchal inequity.
Six years ago many of the participants at the symposium gathered in Dakar (Senegal) at a meeting about
‘Politicising Masculinities: Beyond the Personal’. The meeting was an opportunity to challenge the ways in
which masculinities and work with men and boys had been taken up in policy and in discourse. During their
discussions they: challenged the idea of the gender binary; explored the multiple contexts that give rise
movements. The meeting led to a book
Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities
(http:/, projects on mobilising men to challenge gender-based violence
institutional-settings) and a meeting on heteronormativity which took place in South Africa.
“An unlikely encounter
of unusual suspects in
Jerker Edström, one of the symposium organisers, provided an introduction into why he felt it was important
to ‘Undress Patriarchy’.
‘In August 2012, at a meeting hosted by the Refugee Law Project, some of us agreed that the time had
come to hold an international symposium that brought together thinkers, activists and policymakers
concerned with women’s empowerment, sexual rights, men’s engagement in gender equality and social
justice more broadly. The aim would be to explore the patriarchal features of different systems of power.
The feminist insistence on a focus on women’s subordination, discrimination and experiences of
marginalisation, has brought attention not only to male supremacy and privilege, but also to an almost
invisible and presumptive male centeredness of public life and discourse. Queer Theory and work on sexual
and reproductive rights has highlighted the role of heterosexist power relations and critiqued the idea
patriarchal power relations. Queer theorists, have also explored the connections between sexuality, race,
gender and structural violence. In men and masculinities work there has been progress in making men
visible within gender, to see masculinity as the performances of being manly. Progressive work on gender
has also highlighted the notion of hegemonic masculinity which makes many other forms of masculinity
Loosely following Alan Johnson, who described patriarchy as a type of complex social system based on four
roots, we could point to: ‘Male supremacy’ (the subordination of women and ‘lesser men’); ‘Male privilege’
(discrimination against women); ‘Male centeredness’ (or the ‘unmarked male’); and ‘an obsession with
control and order’. The last root, ‘an obsession with control and order’ is a way of describing how patriarchal
systems are focused on expansion, winning and domination as opposed to values like trust, diversity,
equality and mutual accountability. We could call this ‘male order’, the desire to homogenise, categorise,
abstract and exclude anomalies whilst dividing the world into binaries.
We do not expect to emerge from the symposium with a simple ‘recipe for ending patriarchy’. What we do
hope to achieve is to revitalise and advance conversations and thinking about gender inequality in relation
to patriarchy and other structures of power and to re-politicise ‘gender in development’. We hope to make
patriarchy – which is certainly problematic, complex and oppressive – more comprehensible and visible.
What may look hopelessly daunting might start to look a bit a bit less complicated once the layers of clothing
are gradually peeled off.’
of feminism, masculinities, sexuality and social justice. The group included academics, activists, and
Aarthi Pai Freelance India
Abhijit Das Centre for Health and Social Justice India
akshay khanna Institute of Development Studies UK
Alyson Brody Institute of Development Studies UK
Andrea Cornwall University of Sussex UK
Chris Dolan Refugee Law Project Uganda
Dean Peacock Sonke Gender Justice Network South Africa
Frank Karioris University of Central Europe Hungary/USA
Gary Barker Promundo USA
Henry Armas Independent Peru
Horacio Sivori Centro Latinoamericano en Sexualidad y
Derechos Humanos
Imtiaz Pavel MIRROR Institute Bangladesh
Jas Vaghadia Institute of Development Studies UK
Jaya Sharma Consultant to NIRANTAR India
Jenny Birchall Institute of Development Studies UK
Jerker Edström Institute of Development Studies UK
John Spall University of Sussex UK
Katarzyna Kosmala University of the West of Scotland UK
Kate Hawkins Pamoja Communications UK
LeylaShara United Nations’ Population Fund USA
Marc Peters MenEngage Alliance USA
Marisa Viane Association for Women's Rights in
Mariz Tadros Institute of Development Studies UK
Meena Seshu SANGRAM/CASAM India
Mien Ly Independent Feminist Filmmaker/Trainer Malaysia
Naomi Hossain Institute of Development Studies UK/Indonesia
Nikki van der Gaag Independent writer and gender consultant UK
Onen David Refugee Law Project Uganda
Patrick Welsh Independent consultant, founder member
of the Association of Men Against
Violence in Nicaragua
Paul Dover Swedish International Development
Cooperation Agency
Phil Otieno Men for Gender Equality Now Kenya
Purnima Gupta NIRANTAR India
Rabih Maher HELEM Lebanon
Satish Kumar Singh Centre for Health and Social Justice India
Stephen Wood Institute of Development Studies UK
Tim Shand Sonke Gender Justice Network South Africa
Xiao-Pei He Pink Triangle China
Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed Institute of Development Studies UK
Alex Kelbert Institute of Development Studies UK
Carolina Maldonado Pacheco Institute of Development Studies UK
Preetha Bisht Institute of Development Studies UK
For many ‘patriarchy’ is an old-fashioned term which has little relevance or connection with current work on
labelled aggressors or oppressors. For some it is a term which is just too esoteric to get a handle on. All of
these views were expressed during the symposium. Yet participants also felt that there was promise in, and
something exciting about, the notion of ‘Undressing Patriarchy’ which had inspired them to draft background
papers and travel across the world to take part in the conversation. Their reasons included:
‘Patriarchal privilege has been quietly ignored in the lives and politics of many gay men. They don’t
interrogate their privilege and I want to change that.’
‘I want to understand masculinities in a more political way and the implications of rights language for
our understanding of patriarchy.’
‘How do we produce more caring and less careless masculinities?’
‘Marriage as an institution is the foundation of patriarchy. But the gay and lesbian movement is now
very into marriage. How do we challenge this?’
‘Speaking as a young feminist I would like to explore how elements of patriarchy replicate
‘I don’t want my son to grow up to be a patriarch.’
‘I have an ambivalent relationship with the word patriarchy and yet I bandy the term around all
the time. It will be good to reclaim it from the analysis of all men as patriarchs. It will allow us to see
‘How can you explain these discussions to people who are not immersed in them?’
‘The global economic crisis is showing the cracks in the surface of how patriarchy is lived in
everyday lives. Now is the right time to refocus the discussion.’
‘Power structures are essentially male ordered, I want to explore the masculinity of hegemony.’
‘What do you get if you undress patriarchy? What does it look like underneath? Can we imagine a
‘It is about power and power can be seductive – we all embrace it in our daily lives and it can
reproduce structures of inequality in our own work for social justice.’
‘How do we address the ways that patriarchy is bad for men whilst still recognising the battles for
women’s rights? How do we make sure that in our own work that we challenge at the political level
and within the new development architecture which is in itself very patriarchal – e.g. the
post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda?’
‘If the metaphor is that patriarchy is a prison – who are the prisoners and who are the prison
The Symposium used participatory tools and small group work to enable
creativity, in-depth conversations, and action planning. It fostered
unconventional dialogues and avoided very formal presentations in favour
of collective discussions and dynamic exercises which left space for
spontaneous initiatives.
logic. We started on day one with personal and diverse perspectives, to
– on day two – work on exploring power, patriarchy and change in depth.
Day three then aimed at making connections at intersections, exploring commonalities and tensions, whilst
day four ended with setting some directions and forward-looking planning.
“We are not arriving
with all our perfectly
formed opinions and we
are having a
conversation to come to
a clearer articulation of
what we think.
Day 1: Personal journeys and diverse perspectives on patriarchy
• Welcome and Introductions
• Motivations (‘What concerns me about patriarchy?’), hopes and fears
• Ground rules and agenda overview
Coffee Break
• Lifelines drawing. Drawing ‘our lives’ encounters with patriarchy’
• ‘Walkabout sharing’
• ‘Undressing Patriarchy’: Introductory framing address by the organizers
• ‘World Café’ forformingafnitygroups.alongtheprincipalthemes
• Hard-Talk Provocations: 2 individuals are interviewed, by an interviewer
Afternoon Tea break
• Hard-Talk (contd.): 1 more individual is interviewed
• Free(...forindividualreadingofselectedAfnityGrouppapers)
Day 2: Exploring powers, patriarchy and change in depth
• ReectionsfromDay1
• RegroupintoAfnityGroups (with warm-up exercises)
• AfnityGroupdiscussions of submitted paper
Coffee Break
• AfnityGroupdiscussions(contd.)Identifyingkeyemergingthemesinafnity
- group sort emerging themes with cards and prepare an exhibition poster/display
• Market place of ‘theme exhibits’ by group
• Speed ‘dating’: tolinkwithpeoplefromothereldsto‘takeout’onapromenade
• Seafront ‘talk n’ walk-shop’: to dialogue on key dilemmas and questions they have
Return and Afternoon Tea
• Report back on dialogues:Facilitatedplenarydrawingreection
• Participants’ video ‘Film Festival’
Day 3: Intersections of inequity, shared goals, differences and tensions
• ReectionsfromDay2
• AfnityGroupdiscussions:‘Whathavewelearnedfromeachother?’(reectingonpapers,HardTalkand
beach walks, aim to surface tensions)
Coffee Break
• Reportbackbyeachafnitygroup-keyideas,dilemmasandtensions.Groupsareencouragedtodothisin
creative ways
Lunch - ‘show and tell’ Book talk
• ‘Mixing the colours’: New groups are formed along key questions and dilemmas
• Group discussions Each mixed group explores its issue, dilemma/question in depth.
Afternoon Tea break
• Report back from the new mixed cross-groups.
• ReectionsfromDay3
• Undressing Patriarchy Party.
Day 4: New directions, priorities and joint projects
• New directions emerging – Plenary: Facilitated morning debate to capture key lessons and emerging
Coffee Break
• ‘SOSOTEC’(or,‘self-organisingsystemsontheedgesofchaos’)–afree-owingexerciseforjointplanning
of new initiatives.
• ‘Walkabout sharing’ of new initiative ideas.
• Closing Evaluation. Thanks and good-byes
In order to get participants to relate patriarchy to their own histories and working practices the meeting
opened with an exercise where people were asked to draw a visual representation of their ‘Encounters with
• What are the positions of power and privilege that you enjoy today that you are comfortable/
uncomfortable with?
• What were the encounters that made you conscious about power and privilege?
• Where are the areas where you have achieved resolution?
These were then discussed in more detail in small groups. In a plenary session participants were asked to
families worked shaped their pathways through privilege in quite particular ways. This echoed the idea that
certain privileges are hereditary and some are learnt. However, moments, such as getting married or having
a particular job, also affected their relationships to power. The levels of power and privilege that people felt
they had seemed to wax, wane and shift over time.
People felt that power relations based on sexuality, ethnicity, class, (dis)ability, caste, religion etc. cannot be
removed from patriarchy. These power relations intersect and also constitute each other. They argued that
it is important to recognise your relationship with different power structures so that you can challenge them
Participants’ encounters with patriarchy had been characterised by situations where they were both
privileged and oppressed in some way. People felt that it is possible to feel simultaneously comfortable and
uncomfortable about the privileges that we have.
The term patriarchy is most familiar to people as a term which explains gendered power relations. We
explored other terms which might more adequately describe the multiple forms of power that we live with.
The term ‘Kyriarchy’ was suggested as an alternative to patriarchy. According to Wikipedia: ‘Kyriarchy
social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission.
The word itself is a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza to describe interconnected,
interacting, and self-extending systems of domination and submission, in which a single individual might
be oppressed in some relationships and privileged in others. It is an intersectional extension of the idea of
patriarchy beyond gender. Kyriarchy encompasses sexism, racism, economic injustice, and other forms
of dominating hierarchy in which the subordination of one person or group to another is internalized and
1A fuller explanation of the term can be found at [last accessed 8 October 2013].
most interesting in the background papers that had been submitted to the symposium. A brainstorm about
Feminist frictions: beyond victimhood:
• Theorising patriarchy;
• Structures of power;
• Working with men and boys on patriarchy; and
• Practical ways forward.
The Hard Talk session, modelled on the BBC World Service programme
of the same name, was a chance to hear how people are grappling with
patriarchy ‘on the ground.’
Mariz Tadros (Institute of Development Studies) interviews Phil
Otieno (Men for Gender Equality Now - MEGEN)
Men for Gender Equality Now work with boys and men in the community
in Kenya to promote human rights principles. We started, in 2001, to engage men in ending violence against
women. I was motivated to do this work based on my own personal experience. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Do
men have to be personally affected to get started in this work? What does it take?’ As a global movement I
think it is important to speak men’s emotional language and understand the problems that they have in order
to motivate them.
own. We provide a space where they can talk about their own vulnerability and the problems that they face,
for example in providing for their families. We have been mobilising men who are boda boda (motorcycle
taxi) drivers to challenge violence against women. We say to them, ‘The women who are experiencing
violence and being raped, they could be your sister, daughters or wives. That is why you should be
engaged.’ Society sanctions violence against women and so they are only ascribing to norms that they are
living with. They need to be encouraged to question these norms.
Feminists are often uncomfortable with men’s involvement in this type of work and mainstream society
considers them weaklings. They are attacked on all sides. We try to make them feel special and proud, as
people who stand out and make a difference.
Patriarchy is about male dominance and each one of us experiences this differently. We need to look at who
the main perpetrators are in order to see how we can unravel it. Patriarchy can be used in a positive way
in some instances. For example, if you are in a position of power in an organisation, you can come up with
Naomi Hossain (Institute of Development Studies) interviews Gary Barker (Promundo)
Promundo was founded in 1999 to challenge the notion that masculinity is necessarily violent and that care
work is women’s work. We worked with men in Brazilian favelas who were actively questioning the violence
around them and used their voices to shape campaigns and interventions. We believe that men and boys
should do 50 per cent of the world’s unpaid care work – and that this should be a target within whatever
“We are trying to create
role models. In doing so
we need to stress that
society and culture are
dynamic and change all
the time.
policy framework replaces the Millennium Development
Goals. Our ‘Men Care’ Campaign is active in 25 countries.
doing diverse forms of care work. Caregiving creates a close
connection with others provides deep meaning for most people.
The bodily experience of caring for others comes with some
– either because they have done care work before or because
they haven’t and they believe that they have missed out as a
result. There has been a lot of political investment in women’s
participation in paid work but we seem stuck about how we deal
with the care of others.
“Given demographic shifts we
are all likely to be more
responsible for the care of
elderly people. We need to
appeal to men, to explain that
how they treat their parents
will set a precedent about how
they are cared for.
In some settings as the wages for care have gone up then men have been doing it. Younger urban men
with some secondary education have gravitated towards care work. But they are doing the fun work not the
dirtier work which women tend to do. Out of work men are doing more of it than we might have thought. As
fertility goes down, and children are staying in school longer, women are working more and more girls are in
school and so men doing more of the care work is inevitable.
States need to support this shift. Caregiving needs to be valued in schools. For example intergenerational
mentoring is one way of demonstrating to children how care is given and why it is important.
Chris Dolan (Refugee Law Project (RLP) interviews Meena Seshu
with, SANGRAM. The sex workers in VAMP can teach us a great deal
about patriarchy, despite the fact that sex work is often seen as a ‘victim
We also work with rural married women and despite the fact that they are
having relationships with the same men as the sex workers the levels of
power that they have are quite different. The sex workers organised in a
year; the rural women took ten years to collectivise. Sex workers were
able to enforce condom use in no time; most of the HIV+ rural women I
work with have condoms and knowledge about HIV but can’t enforce condom use. Feminists look at having
to cater to a man for money as a problem. I have heard it called, ‘The trivialisation of the vagina for 20
rupees.’ But sex workers say ‘What about trivialising male sexual power for 20 rupees?’ They argue that
they are able to decide the transactions in the contract with their clients, what they will do and who they will
have sex with, this is not always so easy for other women. Sex workers say that they are not in sex work to
I was socialised to take care of my uterus and to fear pregnancy outside marriage. But sex workers are
not so obsessed with which girls are going to marry and who will father the next generation. Society has
stigmatised the relationship between sex workers and their clients because sex with love is a privileged type
because they are unhappy with their sexual life with their wives and they need to explore their desires. This
is an issue for all women.
“As a middle class
feminist I went into the
sex worker community
looking for victims
because this is what my
education taught me sex
workers were. But the
women I met refused to
be put into this box.
On the second day of the meeting we wanted to shake things up by asking one of the participants to make
us think more deeply and carefully about the issues on the table. Marc Peters of MenEngage provided some
‘My background is in US politics, where you spend a lot of time not being provocative or offending
anyone,sothisisanewexperience!Iwantedtocommentonsomeofthethingsthatareleftunsaid 
when we engage in these types of conversations.
In the US patriarchy has evolved to be a catch-all for many types of oppression, for example
discriminationonthegroundsofethnicity.Itisdifculttounpickandisolatedifferentaxesof 
discrimination. Because when we do we are asking people to be less than their full self, because
we experience the world through a number of different identity lenses. I don’t feel like I have an
identity group. I am white, heterosexual, cis male – a member of almost all the dominant
groups.Idon’thavetodenemyidentitybecausemyidentityisassumedtobetheidentityof 
everyone else regardless of the reality.
I struggle when we separate ourselves into identity groups – maybe because I don’t know where
ItinasanallyinthosegroupsorbecauseIfeelitseparatesusfromeachother.Whenwe 
divide ourselves based on identities, or things that we disagree on, I feel like there is something
missing. Disagreement and debate is important but it is easy to de-evolve from disagreement to
separation and siloes. The structure in which we live is set up to be adversarial. How do you choose
I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” where he talks about white
moderates’ fear of tension, people who prefer order or who prefer peace to chaos. Whilst white
moderates, my own peer group, have come a long way since the civil rights era there is still a section
of this group that paternalistically feels that they can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.
White men at the top level in the patriarchal system can’t be separated from race and ethnicity.
There is a popular view that men control patriarchy and dictate how it operates. But in my experience
patriarchy is operating over all of us. Men certainly have the least personal investment in changing
thingsbecauseitbenetsus.Butthesystemdoesnotallowustogiveupourprivilege.AllIcan 
do is use my privilege for social justice goals. There is a sense of helplessness in this. It is easy
tobeparalysedbyreection.Itrynottothinkaboutpatriarchy–itisuncomfortableanditis 
uncomfortable to do anything about it’.
Marc’s provocation led to a lively discussion among participants. They wondered whether his discomfort with
doesn’t belong. People felt that when you are a minority it can be exhausting living in the mainstream and
so these separate spaces and campaigns are necessary. But this doesn’t preclude the possibility of working
feminists lost the knack of speaking with men and with other groups such as sexuality activists. The sparks
within alliances you can lend your support to each other’s issues without ever truly taking them on as your
feedback and contestation.
This group looked at some of the tensions that exist within feminist movements which hamper effective work
on patriarchy.
Victims and heroines
Too often debates around girls’ agency have become another binary – either girls are victims or they are
heroines – which fails to acknowledge the complexities of their lives. Once someone is labelled a victim it
where life is always loaded against women and all men are perpetrators. But many girls and women reject
the victim label, they don’t identify with the concept. Most people feel a combination of victim and survivor at
who make an informed choice to remain in the sex industry and don’t want to be rescued or rehabilitated.
Where is the debate around agency and choice in terms of opting in or opting out in this situation? The lack
of voice given to people is problematic – they are not heard and people feel compelled to speak on their
The ‘agency discourse’ can on occasion be more problematic than the victimhood one. In its most simplistic
sense, within this model you ‘empower’ girls to enter the market based on the notion that women and girls
will save the world. It strips away gender relations and power and it is also highly neoliberal. In this model
empowerment is instrumental, to achieve economic ends, and it is often connected to privatisation and an
erosion of state provision of services.
The utility of the law in challenging patriarchy
The realm of law has been useful in furthering claims for rights and equality. However, the ways in which
patriarchy is imbued in legal and judicial systems has been under-theorised. There are contestations
that happen when you make a claim on the grounds of a certain identity. The law never intended to treat
you equally – it is there to safeguard inheritance. The recent rapes in Delhi provide an example of the
to righting the ‘dishonour’ that had been done to the victim’s family. Dalit women get raped all the time and
few people care. The overwhelming response to these crimes is related to caste and class. The victims were
working women, they were urban, and this is why the middle classes were in uproar and why the media
was interested, because they relate. The perpetrators are from a lower socioeconomic class. But nobody
questioned what is happening economically and politically to create the circumstances for this kind of crime.
There is far less interest in the dangerous combination of economic disparity, aggression, and precarious
living conditions.
Working with men for gender equality
Feminism gets reframed over time and younger women are much more open to working with men. There
are many unanswered questions about how we might do this. Much of the work on masculinities is with
poorer, less powerful men – but there is a need to work with those men who are in the most powerful
positions too. Feminism has an appreciation of structures of privilege but this is sometimes less evident
in work on masculinity. Men are either instrumentalised (we need to involve them to empower women) or
engagement with men is restricted to the personal realm (for example preventing interpersonal violence).
Some of the campaigns around encouraging men to do more care work take an incentivising, conciliatory
and encouraging approach. Whilst this has some utility, when should we stop trying to persuade and start
demanding that the balance of work and responsibility changes? Where is the moral outrage that men are
not playing a full role in caring? This is particularly important as in many settings the state is taking less
responsibility for an ageing population. With many of these campaigns we are asking poor men to do more
work and yet rich and powerful men are left to carry on as they are.
This group wanted to better understand and articulate the theory of patriarchy.
Recognising men’s vulnerability and intersectionality
In simplistic terms, the radical feminist interpretation of patriarchy is the idea that men are oppressors who
are in cohort with the system. But this a problematic way of theorising patriarchy because it fails to see
men as also negatively affected by the system. For example, this theory does not take account of power
imbalances between a poor black man in the US and a middle-class white woman. A key challenge when
theorising patriarchy is how to maintain the lens of intersectionality and continue to consider discrimination
on the grounds of religion, (dis)ability, caste, class etc.
Patriarchy involves
• Hierarchies of power relations;
• Malegure/logicofauthority;
• Production and reproduction, through acts, performances;
• Systemic dimensions with various incentives and disincentives, or rewards and punishments for different
types of behaviour.
This group wanted to try and locate and better understand different structures of power with a view to
challenging them.
Locating power
Too often gender equality is only looked at as a cultural issue but patriarchy is perpetuated by political and
economic systems. It is not always easy to locate sites of power because the play of power dynamics goes
beyond individuals or institutional policies. For example staff in organisations such as the World Bank might
want to change the politics or the system but are unable to do so either because of the interplay of global
and local forces which organisations respond to.
Development agencies often organise themselves in a masculinist manner that is ‘unmarked’ and
postings. FAO promotes exclusive six months breastfeeding as part of its health strategies but it gives only
three months maternity leave to its staff. The US government promotes early childhood education but does
not pay for the childcare of staff because the assumption is that mothers stay at home. This hypocrisy is
rarely questioned or challenged but these practices perpetuate patriarchal notions in society.
We need to understand the culture/class of organisations and the way that power orders a certain kind of
The very fact that this kind of doing business is increasingly being recognised as illegal and banks are being
issues. But having said this, these are still in power and continue to do business which says a lot about the
rigidity of power structures.
There is a certain glamour about free markets, as this system has been empowering/liberating for
certain sections of society, particularly women, by providing them with work opportunities. What remains
unquestioned or hidden are the conditions under which this liberation is taking place, for example in terms of
the insecure working conditions or the wage differentials or the extra burden that it puts on women as they
try to juggle various responsibilities.
Practice random acts of non-patriarchy
We need to better understand the gender subjectivities of individual and institutional sites of power. This
may mean research on ‘men in suits’ and the global elites and their institutions. We also need to better
understand and contest the internal policies of our own organisations.
the way that they live their lives to inspire others. We also need to think about alternative models for the
in the UK. What can we learn from pro-feminist, cooperative social movements, such as the Slow Food
movement? We need to better understand why the sum of our efforts has not led to greater change. How do
the economic crisis in Europe, and youth unemployment, there may be an opportunity to rethink work and
caregiving by constructing more non-corporate, non-violent identities and celebrating these so they become
more of the norm and less of the exception.
2For more on the Precariat see this entry in Wikipedia
[last accessed 21 October 2013]
This group formed to think through how best to politicise work with men and boys to challenge patriarchy.
Tracking change
We need to understand the cultural, social and religious environment that men and boys work within in order
to construct a theory of change which helps us to understand how transformation happens. Unfortunately,
meaningful indicators for work on challenging patriarchy which allow you to track progress over time. The
time frame within which change is realistically likely to happen is far longer than donors expect or are willing
to fund, which is a challenge.
In recent times we have faced the ‘tyranny of the randomised control trial’, these kinds of methods of
information on men’s attitudes to measure against. In Nicaragua they have experimented with doing in-depth
wives or co-workers, to get their perceptions of change. This kind of work takes a lot of time and may not
provide the hard evidence that funders are looking for.
Diversity and reach
When we talk about men we need to respect diversity, we need to give space for a wide range of men to
be involved in activities. We should use low-hanging fruit and existing platforms and systems like churches
and schools to reach out to men and anchor our programmes in existing community structures to extend our
ideas to the grass roots.
We need to consciously engage with government stakeholders and other role models. Most work on men
and boys is premised on individual learning and change, but what does this mean for larger scale policies
and practice? Some governments don’t take up lessons, they work on existing systems and structures which
This group was tasked with thinking of ways in which meeting discussions could feed into participants’
everyday work once they return home.
Talking patriarchy
By talking about patriarchy we diminish its power by showing how it is just a set of assumptions and that
are trying to defeat. This means that we need to stop talking and working in patriarchal terms if we are trying
to undress the patriarchy. To some extent the existing dialogue on patriarchy is set in a very patriarchal
model and that is why there is less change than there could be.
We need to encourage other social movements to look at issues of gender without this being a diversion
from other important issues or something that dilutes their impact. There has been a reluctance to talk about
gender and rights as they are seen as ‘soft issues’ even within the development sector. In many settings
gender discussions have not adequately dealt with issues of power and intersectionality.
How we present these issues and the language that we use is important as we do not want to alienate
people. There is a balance to be struck between engaging people whilst being suitably hard-hitting about
messages as well as get them to people with the power to make decisions. There is a need to engage
donors and the UN so that they support movement-building in this area.
An inclusive conversation
There is a disconnect between generations – young people are not invited to the table where decisions are
made. They are only needed to implement what has already been decided and this is a very patriarchal way
of doing gender work. There is a need to understand intergenerational structures within social movements
that lead to the alienation of younger people. Younger people can learn from the experience of the older
ones and get the know-how, and the older generation can better understand what’s happening with young
One area where young people have an edge is in their understanding of how to use new information
and communication technologies to reach out to new audiences. Often the older generation wants the
younger one to learn the language that they use, but they should be more open to learning new languages
themselves. This is part of letting go of what you think is your power. Using art in activism is also important.
Popular culture can be a space for the imagination, where young people can raise issues in, and on, their
own terms. That is not to say that social media is not used to enforce patriarchy, but that it can be subverted
as a force for change and as a way to bypass patriarchal gatekeepers in arenas like the mainstream media.
We also need to raise the issue of patriarchy in international policy. Post-2015 discussions provide a
useful opportunity as new agendas are being formulated. In addition, changes in South-South cooperation
mean that developing countries are no longer depending on traditional Northern donors. This is changing
understandings of resources and funding which we could capitalise on.
In order to make sure that all participants had a chance to interact and share we conducted a ‘speed
dating’ exercise. Each participant was able to chat with a peer for one minute about what they had found
interesting about the meeting so far and what was missing. When a timer sounded they had to move on
to a new partner. This was followed by a ‘Walk n’ Talk Shop’ along Brighton seafront. Based on earlier
conversations participants split into small groups to discuss the issues that were raised in more detail. The
issues that participants chose to discuss included:
• The ways in which disability intersects with patriarchy and the relative silence of the meeting on this
productive and reproductive capacities and this can have implications for the way in which disabled
people’s sexuality is viewed.
• Men’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, institutionalising this work and how it relates to
other work with men and boys.
• The problematic way that state and constitutional law functions (as a highly hegemonic tool) and the
need to be strategic in how we devise our future actions on law and patriarchy.
• Uganda and the violence that young men perpetrate and face in daily life and the customs and
practices that support this.
• The need to think more about working with men and boys beyond offering incentives for behaviour
change to making common cause because we are all effected by gender norms and power
• Mobilising men and boys to deal with gender-based violence beyond the personal and
community level. How do we link work on violence with structural change and with other issues such
as property rights and representation in the political sphere?
• Moving beyond the vulnerability frame. This has been the common way of beginning work with men
and boys. But what about those men who have undue privileges? Equality cannot only be the aspiration
of the vulnerable, it needs to be the concern of all.
• Powerrelationswithinsectorslikethecorporateworld/nancialsector,thedevelopmentsector,
the health sector and the care economy and the education sector and the military. Men in political
power are important too, for example in parliament or lawmakers.
• We need to think of politics that transcends interests and interest groups. People can be stimulated
abandoning your own interests. Consensus isn’t always desirable because it buries differences, but
these differences can give you energy. How do we work with this?
• The need to start from our own personalreectionsandconsciousness-raising so that we keep the
personal in this work.
At the beginning of Day 3 short provocations were provided by Nicki van der Gaag, akshay khanna and
Nicki van der Gaag
masculinities work. For me the personal is political and vice versa. We were a traditional family and my
mother looked after the children. My parents transmitted a very traditional view of gender roles, for example
that girls did the jobs in the house. I was a good student to try to prove that a girl could be academic.
When I got into university my mother cried with horror but my father supported me. I never married and I
was involved in leftist politics. At the time I was aware of the range of feminisms. I found radical feminism
I remember conferences where people came from all over the world and there were very evident divisions
between First and Third World women and lesbian and heterosexual women. I started masculinities work
in the early 2000s. Then as an independent consultant I did work on girls. To me it is clear that much of
the focus on girls leaves out the issue of gender. I found it was easier to talk to pro-feminist men about
women’s rights than it was to talk to my feminist friends about masculinity. From this I have the following
Men take up women’s space. Men in our society have the power and they are not going to give this up
easily. Even supportive men have been brought up to think that you have the right to speak and when
you do you have the support of the patriarchy behind you.
There is a challenge related to the allocation of resources. Recently there has been more interest
in masculinities work, which is good. However I am concerned this focus will take money away from
important women’s rights work.
I am concerned the masculinities work will move in the same direction as work on and with girls i.e. that
it will be instrumentalised.’
Horacio Sivori
‘My work has been conventionally academic although we do extension work to ensure that research is
communicated and applied in practice. I am an anthropologist and as such I am not so comfortable in
this space. We are struggling to situate patriarchy which is a loaded term and is tied to radical feminism.
Kyriarchy is the operation of structures of privilege and domination and as such is not necessarily based
on the man-woman dyad. It is a way of creating more complexity. It also seems that in the meeting there
is a polarisation between a more pragmatist and more utopian approach to this question which could be
portrayed as the unruly and the normative. The utopian approach is to provoke analysis, theory and
revolutionary politics. On the other hand, there are actors here who are invested in public policy. How do we
deal with this tension? We need to move beyond actors – whether they are feminists, policymakers, men
and boys – to debunking and deconstructing what the imagined subject is in different claims.’
akshay khanna
‘We have been focusing on subjects but we need to step into the realm of the macro-political. We need to
look at the intersections and the relationship between race, caste, class, sexuality and how these things
constitute each other rather than being separate aspects of ourselves. For example, Kemp Town is a
gay district of Brighton so it is named as a place of sexuality. But it is also extremely racist and classist.
Because we have named it a sexual space ethnicity gets subsumed. This is important because there is
a tendency towards a cynical appropriation of rights language. Talking about LGBT rights has become a
marker of being progressive. So you can support gay rights whilst carrying out illegal wars. The time when
the anti-gay bill was introduced in Uganda coincided with debates about oil and anti-corruption rising to the
Participants went back into their small groups in order to discuss what we learned from each other during
the course of the meeting and what more needs to be done in the future. Key areas for future work
• A critical focus on marriage
A large part of feminist politics has been a critique of marriage because it is a patriarchal institution
equality and entering into civil partnerships. People say that they are marrying for inheritance reasons.
This takes us towards equality but not necessarily towards liberation. In some instances when gay
because the celebration of love links sex with love and this is the respectable form of sex. But there are
only recognise these unions within the frame of marriage. In Brazil stable unions have the same status
as the married couple.
• Beyond binaries
The man/woman binary, or women and girls vs men and boys binary can bring about productive
discussions. But this meeting has failed to adequately deal with people of other genders. It is also
together that draws on all our strengths and diversity.
• Checking our own ways of working
The gender dynamics in the room are sub-optimal. Men who are relatively senior in their own
organisations are speaking over the younger people. How can we imagine a world where people
work cooperatively if we haven’t interrogated our own privilege and how they relate to class and race
• Positive approaches
It is important to avoid pessimism and to recognise the gains that we have made and give ourselves
credit as activists who have changed things for the better. Some positive developments include that:
forms and documents have taken this on; in Chile 80 per cent of men are present during childbirth;
in Senegal Female Genital Mutilation has been effectively eradicated; in Bangladesh Purdah is no
longer the norm; there have been dramatic changes in condom use among young people in Africa; and
violence against women in the US and the UK has come down. What we need to do is identify the gaps
and fractures in patriarchy and see how we widen them.
• Money problems
Groups tend to focus on the allocation of resources. The very language of ‘diversion’ of resources
(e.g. away from women and girls, towards men and boys) is problematic as it highlights deep-rooted
assumptions about the value of different people’s work.
• Allocating resources
It is not the size of the pot of money that it is interesting – it is the system by which funds are delivered
and how this evolves. Grass roots community-level organisations are often autonomous and human
national NGOs, international NGOs and government. The ‘results agenda’ and a focus on monitoring
boys and work on women’s rights
• Challenging heterosexism and homophobia
Heterosexism and homophobia should be seen as central issues in work on masculinity and patriarchy,
not just in relation to heterosexuals overcoming their own homophobia but how homophobia is also an
obstacle to change in heterosexual men.
Novel feedback
One group chose to illustrate some of the points from their discussion through a performance around
the fact that men had been taking up a lot of space over the course of the symposium. The performance
revolved around a central character ranting about individual power dynamics and spaces, privileges
and the phallus. The other people standing around him keep interrupting him, to remind him of some
of the points that had been raised during the group discussion. He always replies with a smile and the
catchphrase ‘I absolutely understand your moral outrage but…’ Through these interruptions, some of
the issues raised relate to the problem with binary understandings of gender, the need to talk about
possibility of removing ourselves altogether from conversations we deem irrelevant. By the time the last
‘interruption’ is made, the speaker realises that everyone has progressively left and are now having their
own conversations elsewhere.
In the ‘Mixing the colours’ exercise we formed new groups based on a brainstorm about questions and
dilemmas that are still outstanding. Issues that were added to the mix included: disability and patriarchy;
queer perspectives; identities and intersections; pathways of change; and capitalism, socialism and
• Disability and patriarchy
Disabled people have been invisible in the symposium, despite the fact that many of us have
impairments of one kind or another. For people theorising about power this is quite frightening. With
aging populations, living with a disability is becoming more and more common. Yet the world is
structured as if everybody is able-bodied.
Disabled people are stereotyped by the helping industry as victims, brave survivors or heroines in
ways that mirror the narrative about girls. They are often made invisible in discussions about gender
or sexuality. Patriarchy sells us an image of the reproductive body which is valorised and has certain
They are wrongly considered non-reproductive and non-productive and therefore fall lower down the
patriarchal hierarchy. Alternatively they are considered hypersexual leading to grave human rights
abuses such as forced sterilisation.
There are ways that disabled people resist and escape patriarchal pressures, creating their own
‘outsider’ communities. For example in some countries if you are small in stature you can only get work
as entertainers or in circuses. In some places small people live together in communities, creating their
own kinship network and supporting the group. Better understanding these modes of resistance may
give us new ideas for tackling patriarchy.
• Queer perspectives
Queer perspectives can shake up the binaries of femininities and masculinities. Within work on
masculinities there are often a lot of heterosexist assumptions. Although men’s movements may
be coming more aware of gay rights there is little integration of queer issues into their work. Some
all people and this is what we should be focussing on.
• Identities and intersections
Identities can cause challenges when they come into opposition with each other. Working together
means sharing power and releasing privilege so that others can gain. But much of the politics related
to social justice is about proving who is the most oppressed, discriminated against or vulnerable, rather
than recognising when you are not. A common cause allows people to put certain tensions aside but it
For example it was the women’s movement in Nicaragua that kept the issue of the decriminalisation of
homosexuality alive.
• Pathways of change
stories and testimonies can be powerful and demonstrate that change is possible and the personal is
political, but often donors want much grander and larger changes to demonstrate value for money and
return on investment and this can be hard to see or measure. They are unwilling to make the kinds of
investments that will sustain change.
• Capitalism, socialism and patriarchy
Capitalism relies on the institution of marriage for the production and reproduction of social capital, and
the protection of property. Left wing movements can also have a troubling attachment to patriarchy. For
example in Latin America left wing governments (both in the past and currently) that have come up with
different forms of patriarchy, as was the case with left wing guerrillas in the 1970s whereby often women
were depicted as ‘relief’ (descansado) for men. This generated a backlash today with many women
rejecting left wing politics. We need to acknowledge that neither capitalism nor socialism can deal with
the issue of patriarchy. Instead we need to see how patriarchy is articulated in those different situations,
as a way of helping us understand of patriarchy itself.
In order to work intensively on next steps from the meeting participants used a methodology called
‘SOSOTEC’ (or, ‘self-organising systems on the edges of chaos’). Participants chose their own priority
their topic to future action. The groups were loosely organised and people could leave them whenever they
felt comfortable to do so.
The meeting ended with a great deal of energy and excitement at the possibilities that had been generated
across the four days of work and pledges to keep in touch to continue and broaden out the debate on just
how we will ‘Undress Patriarchy’.
The best people to question the replication of patriarchal norms within the law are people practicing
jurisprudence. It is important to engage with young lawyers working on criminal and commercial law to
enable them to question their education and practice. Not just statutory law but also enforcement and
procedure. We will begin by looking at how the issue of patriarchy and law is currently framed. We will also
look at queer lawyers, such as those that fought the 377 case (which in effect criminalised homosexuality)
in India, to understand their role in this challenge. It might be interesting to compare India and Argentina in
this regard as the experiences of lawyers might be quite different across the two countries.
It was agreed that the organisers of the Global Symposium will actively try to broaden out the focus of
that meeting so that it is inclusive of other social justice movements that we would like to involve in the
conversation about patriarchy. All participants will be given the opportunity to comment on the concept note
for the symposium and provide ideas for how this might happen.
The Second Global Symposium for Working with Men and Boys will take place in Delhi in November 2014.
Participants agreed to help support the disability stream of work within the symposium – one that cross-cuts
all of the sessions being held. They will invite disability activists to be part of this effort. It is hoped that we
prepare for the Association for Women’s Rights in Development conference in 2016.
The BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social
Movements has recently been published (www.bridge.ids.
movements). It contains a number of recommendations
for social movements on working on gender. BRIDGE
be interested in piloting some of the suggestions to see if
they work in practice. This could be documented creatively
through multi-generational, non-patriarchal methods which
There is agreement that we need to augment work with
men and boys which occurs at an emotional and individual
level with more political work. To do this we need to both
better understand how masculinities activists can learn
from the feminist movements and better integrate an
intersectional analysis within the work. This could include
a series of trainings, dialogues and workshops. It would
also be useful to identify promising practice in this area
risk and vulnerability. Violence is one lens through which to view these issues. An email-based conversation
between practitioners working on politicising violence would be a good way of starting this conversation.
Participants agreed to start a collective research effort to look at men and women in power and their role
at producing and reproducing patriarchy. This may include people in the corporate, medical, military, and
development sectors. It could include looking at the networks and processes that enable these people to
maintain power and move freely across different sectors.
dialogues that they spark are collected.
A stream of work which looks at men’s sexual and reproductive health and HIV needs and the gaps in
policy and service provision was proposed. This would be explicitly linked to, and supportive of women’s
sexual and reproductive health needs and demands such as the provision of safe abortion services.
We need to better understand the relationship between race, nationalism, sexuality and gender. Participants
aggressive masculinity which are related to the idea of the nation. It is hoped that the mainstream media
could be engaged on this issue.
Participants left the workshop enthused with a sense of how they might implement thinking on the
patriarchy into their everyday practice and how they could forge partnerships for the future. They
appreciated the mix of sessions in the workshop and the way that academic papers were used to frame
topic. Linking theory with ground-level experience and programming lessons enabled them to consider how
their learning could be applied in practice.
The global economic crisis is showing the cracks in the surface of how patriarchy
is lived in everyday lives; is now not the right time to refocus the discussion? Can
we reclaim ‘patriarchy’ from the analysis of all men as patriarchs? How do we
understand masculinities in a more political way? How do we address the ways
that patriarchy is bad for men, whilst still recognising the battles for women’s rights?
What are the implications of rights language for an understanding of patriarchy? If
marriage as an institution is the foundation of patriarchy, why are gay and lesbian
movements so into marriage now? What do you get if you undress patriarchy?
envision this? If the metaphor is that patriarchy is a prison, who are the prisoners
and who are the prison wardens? How do elements of patriarchy replicate
themselves in our feminist movements?
Patriarchy may be seen as an old-fashioned term with little relevance to current
work on gender, yet these kinds of questions motivated participants to get excited
about the notion of ‘Undressing Patriarchy’ and inspired them to draft background
papers and to travel across the world to take part in this conversation. This was
an unlikely encounter of unusual suspects. They spent four days together in a
hotel in Brighton, in September 2013, engaged in rather unconventional dialogues
across perspectives from feminism, men and masculinities work, sexual rights and
other social justice struggles. This publication captures some of the dilemmas,
new thinking, the interactive process, analyses, future possibilities and challenges
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Full-text available
Jerker Edström, argues that the way forward in engaging men on masculinities and gender equality must involve moving beyond the homogenised and individualised framings in gender and development discourse, or reformed gender roles, to think politically in more structural–yet dynamic–ways about patriarchy. Recognising key contributions by feminist thinkers, on the marginalisation of women’s voices, discrimination against and the subordination of women, or the very idea of deep structures of constraint to gender equality, this chapter sets out a framework for ‘undressing patriarchy’ in four dimensions. Drawing on a range of writers in feminism, masculinities studies and on power, four dimensions are proposed as: ‘Male centeredness’ (in a cultural or representational dimension), ‘Male privilege’ (in a material and institutional dimension), ‘Male supremacy’ (in an ideological or political dimension) and ‘Male order’ (in an epistemological dimension). Whist the first three are more familiar, male order is proposed as a key sub-structural source of constraint to gender equality. Edström argues that it provides the deep-level syntax of patriarchal knowledge-power, with an underlying and divisive binary operating-code, resulting in an active obfuscation of alternative constructions of sense and meaning. After laying out this framework, the chapter briefly considers how each dimension has started to become addressed, or not, in development discourse on the role of men and boys and concludes with reflection on some possible implications and challenges ahead.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.