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Extremism and toxic masculinity: the man question re-posed / Elizabeth Pearson

International Affairs, Volume: 95, Issue: 6, Pages: 1251 - 1270

Swansea University Author: Elizabeth Pearson

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DOI (Published version): 10.1093/ia/iiz177

Abstract

It is more than 20 years since Zalewski and feminist scholars posed ‘the Man question’ in International Relations, repositioning the gaze from female subjectivities to a problematization of the subjecthood of man. The field of masculinity studies has developed this initial question to a deep interro...

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Published in: International Affairs
ISSN: 0020-5850 1468-2346
Published: London Oxford University Press (OUP) 2019
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa51356
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Abstract: It is more than 20 years since Zalewski and feminist scholars posed ‘the Man question’ in International Relations, repositioning the gaze from female subjectivities to a problematization of the subjecthood of man. The field of masculinity studies has developed this initial question to a deep interrogation of the relationship between maleness and violence. Yet public and policy discourse often reduce the complexity of masculinities within extremism to issues of crisis and toxicity. Governments have prioritised the prevention of extremism, particularly violent Islamism, and in so doing have produced as ‘risk’ particular racialized and marginalized men. This article asks, what are the effects of the toxic masculinity discourse in understanding the British radical right? It argues that current understandings of extremism neglect the central aim of Zalewski’s ‘Man’ question to destabilise the field and deconstruct patriarchy. They instead position Islamophobia – which is institutionalised in state discourse - as the responsibility of particular ‘extreme’ and ‘toxic’ groups. In particular, the piece outlines two ways in which ‘toxic masculinity’ is an inadequate concept to describe activism in the anti-Islam(ist) movement the English Defence League (EDL). First, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ occludes the continuities of EDL masculinities with wider patriarchal norms; second, it neglects the role of women as significant actors in the movement. Using an ethnographic and empathetic approach to this case study, the piece explores how Zalewski’s theoretical position offers a route to analysis of the ways in which masculinities and patriarchy entwine in producing power and violence; and to a discussion of masculinities that need not equate manhood with threat.
Keywords: extremism, radical right, EDL, masculinity, gender, Zalewski
Issue: 6
Start Page: 1251
End Page: 1270