Deconstructing  and 're-sonning' 'Men'

In 1973 I joined a recently started mens's group based in Moseley, Birmingham (subsequently written up in Andrew Tolson's Limits to Masculinity, pp 135 ff). After a bit we called ourselves a Men's Liberation group, but soon switched to 'anti-sexist men's group'. We participated in the first national men's conference, then hosted the second. At subsequent conferences in Manchester and Bristol  I helped raise the question of what this 'anti-sexism' meant in practice to us, which resulted in a list of 10 then 12 anti-sexist 'commitments' which some of us felt we should all sign up to (especially if 'we' reckoned we wished to claim and exercise a right to exclude women from our meetings), and others felt to be alltogther too 'authoritarian', guilt-trippy, uncool, reminiscent of the Ten Commandments ...  whatever.

The initiative ran into the sands as the national conferences fell away (or were subverted by our own shortcomings - and the spooks?). As the Labour government ran into trouble and was then overthrown by Thatcherism, much the same had begun to  happen to the national Women's Liberation Movement, even though it left powerful legacies and currents of cultural and political work such as municipal feminism in the GLC and other local authorities, the rape crisis network, and Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, to name only a few.

Although I have (like many women and 'men') too often been diverted into 'having to' try to respond to particular oppressions coming from the ruling Real Men's gangs (nuclearism, ecocide, international aggression, false flag terrorism and hate propaganda such as the War on Terror), I remain hopeful that I and others of our feminist-influenced cohort of the seventies and early eighties might eventually develop a response which is more thoroughly and explicitly based in opposition to Patriarchy/Fratriarchy - as I have come to think of it as.

Living with a feminist artist, activist and writer  from 1977 to 86 taught me such a lot, both from her and through her milieu and friends. Togther we published in Feb 1979 a booklength pamphlet with two halves, her's was entitled Women are the Real Left! , my half was called Wider We - Towards an Anarchist Politics.

Another big influence has been a dear friend since 1978 whom I have known sometimes as Val Remy, othertimes as John Remy (currently Val). I had written an article for Peace News, Industry as a Men's Hut - Rumbling Tool Power (Dec 12 1977) and Val had developed a sense of being menaced by 'frats' as s/he went around in East London, where she was also active in anti-fascist circles - especially asserting the neglected gender dimension to Nazism and fascism. Out of this a long friendship and discussion began, which since September 11 2001 has for the moment run into difficulties over our different assessments of the threat from Islamic terrorist fraternities, compared with e.g. Frats such as the US military, Esso and BP, the World Bank and G8, etc, etc. In the late eighties Val set out her theory which was published as Remy, J. (1990) ‘Patriarchy and Fratriarchy as Forms of Androcracy’, in Hearn, J. and Morgan, D. (eds) Men, Masculinities, and Social Theory, pp. 43-54.

Another inspiration has been the American activist and ethicist, John Stoltenberg, who provides to my mind the most powerful understanding of the way 'men', 'masculinity' and 'manhood' only come into existence through engagement with oppressive male collectivities. Therefore everymale needs to find a way to resign from and break with these poisonous (or unskillful) identities and institutions - which I gloss as 'return to son-hood' or 'resonning' (a verb which can be used transitively or intransitively).

My main article to date was in a paper I circulated following a 'Re-son-ing Men'  workshop in August 2000 at a Big Green Gathering, which set out my analysis and vision in some detail, including summarising my response to the positions of the other three participants in the workshop. So here it is and hopefully it won't be long before I can include some further articles, both old and new, in this area.