Toxic Masculinity

Toxic Masculinity


Our course series is created in conjunction with the performance of “He” in Austin this April. The performance is a dystopian meditation on patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and whether or not the possibility exists of restructuring masculinity within a feminist, collaborative, decolonized / decolonizing framework. 

In our classes, we consider gender-as-performance, the ways in which patriarchy shapes those performances, how toxic masculinity shapes the current administration, and explore what better modes of being.

Week one, we  talk about gender. What is it, who has it (is it even something you "have?"), and how is it failing us? Specifically, we'll read about performances of masculinity as both an intro to and a way to GenderFuck the rest of our series.    

Texts (optional, but encouraged):
"Boys of the Lex: Transgenderism and Rhetorics of Materiality" (Gayle Salamon) (Give yourselves a minute on this one, folks. It's dense)
"The Drag of Masculinity: An Interview with Jack Halberstam" 
"On pronouns" (Jack Halberstam) 

Extra Credit:
Gender Trouble (Judith Butler) - A foundational text for gender studies. 
"The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto" (Sandy Stone) 

Week Two: Understanding Patriarchy

Last week, we launched our Toxic Masculinity series with a class on the way rigid gender binaries fail. For Wednesday, we'll keep this failure in mind as we examine the patriarchy through a canonical article by bell hooks and an investigation into affect and emotion in the Men's Rights Movement.

Texts (optional, but encouraged) 
"Understanding Patriarchy" (bell hooks)
"Phallic Affect, Or Why Men's Rights Activists Have Feelings" (Jonathan A. Allan, Men and Masculinities)

Extra Credit
"The Gay Men Who Hate Women" (Seán Faye, Broadly)
"Butch Please: Butch with a Side of Misogyny" (Kate, Autostraddle
"The Shooting in Orlando: Terrorism, or Toxic Masculinity (Or Both?)" (Syed Haider, Men and Masculinities)
"Towards an Intersectional Approach to Patriarchy: Male Homosociality in an American Context" (Frank G. Karioris, IDS Bulletin)
"An Imagined Date Between Two Straight Men" (Rebecca Caplan and Shea Strauss, The New Yorker)

Film Screening: Young Torless

In advance of this week’s discussion group on Toxic Masculinity and the rise of Trump, we invite you to join us for Monday night’s free film screening of Volker Schlondorff’s tragically under-viewed 1966 post-war film, Young Torless, 7pm at the Motion Media Arts Center (2200 Tillery St.). The film follows Torless, a gifted student at a pre-war Austrian boarding school who witnesses and participates in “the ‘normal traumatization’ of boys,” as Terrence Real put it in last week’s bell hooks reading. Based on a novel by early 20th century philosopher Robert Musil, the film observes the cruelties and disciplinary functions of adolescent masculinity. 

More to the point, it explores how this violent behavior is rationalized and normalized, both internally and systemically. This will be crucially helpful as we think through the rise of the alt-right in the U.S., and the ways in which the current president’s most toxic behavior has been normalized, excused, and even embraced as an expression of his “strength” and “manhood.” Though the film was intended as a socio-psychological study of the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, chilling correlations to our own moment lie just below the surface.

Trigger warnings: hazing torture, implied rape, adolescent boys behaving very badly

Week Three: Toxic Today

In this class, a continuation of our series on Toxic Masculinity, we'll consider trolling and Trump. What does masculinity look like on the internet (or at least in some of its darker corners), and what is the relationship between those surprisingly complicated demonstrations of chauvinism and the masculinity of the Tweeter-in-Chief? At the same time, how does criticism of Trump itself traffic in discourses of proper male behavior and morphology and phallic shaming?  

Texts (optional, but encouraged):
4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump (Dale Beran, Medium)
The New Man of 4Chan (Angela Nagle, The Baffler) (TW: Gun violence, rape threats, murder, racism. Pretty much everything terrible)
PSA: Your Transphobia and Body Shaming Isn't Radical (Meg Sri, Feministing. Re: "The Emperor Has No Balls," the naked statue of Trump)

Extra Credit:
Donald Trump is the Personification of Toxic Masculinity (Touré, The Daily Beast)
Trump, JFK, and the Masculine Mystique (Steven Watts, The National Review)
Trump is a Climax of American Masculinity (James Hamblin, The Atlantic)
Toxic Masculinity and Murder (James Hamblin, The Atlantic)

Week Four: Feminine Qualities

Continuing our series on Toxic Masculinity, in this class we will begin to consider possible alternatives to the violent, patriarchal bullshit we've been discussing so far. The Heart podcast, "an audio art project about intimacy and humanity," recently did a series on this very issue, and we will use that season as our primary text for this class. The series, "Pansy," looks at what happens when masculinity and femininity meet, and reveals how transgressive and suspect femininity still is even in some queer spaces.  

Texts (optional, but encouraged)
The Heart - "'Pansy': A season where masculinity and femininity meet"  
          Ep 1 - Twirl (20 min)
          Ep 2 - Ultraslut (22 min)
          Ep 3 - The Beloved (19 min)
          Ep 4 - Local Honey (15 min)
Note: if you only have time to listen to some of these, we recommend going in order. 

Extra Credit:
"The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto" (Sandy Stone)
"Caring Masculinities: Theorizing an Emerging Concept" (Karla Elliott)

Week Five: A Discussion on He with Ben Martin

This week, we conclude our Toxic Masculinity course series with a special look at the upcoming event that brought the classes together, He.

He, the concert from creator Ben Martin, will premiere April 28th and 29th at the Museum of Human Achievement. Get tickets to the event here.

"He is a immersive concert experience that seeks to investigate and critique toxic masculinity in our current socio-political moment, and also explore gentler, more collaborative, more radical avenues for male-ness and masculinity. The performance meshes vocally driven electronic music with show specific custom projections, lighting, stage design, wardrobe, and surround sound to create a fully immersive aesthetic experience."

In advance of the HeHuman Sciences will hold a discussion with Ben Martin on his concert, reflecting on the process of theorizing and developing the event. This class is free and open to the public.


Human Sciences Critical Theory Reading Group

Human Sciences Critical Theory Reading Group

Groove Redundant by Taft

Groove Redundant by Taft