Partnership & Accountability blog series

Partnership & Accountability blog series

Accountability to the women´s and to social justice movements is crucial for building collaborative and equitable partnerships. Accountability requires the development of a receptive capacity in men and others who have been placed in positions of power and privilege, so that they can listen to the perspectives and needs of oppressed groups in order to become authentic allies. Accountability and partnership building also require us to engage in respectful dialogues, and a willingness to constantly address issues and concerns raised by our partners.

We hope that this blog series contributes to these ongoing conversations and serves as another platform to share useful information.

Blog posts are written by member and partners of MenEngage, for whom we provide a platform for dialogue. The opinions expressed in the posts do not necessarily represent those of the MenEngage Alliance.

To learn more about MenEngage & Accountability go to www.menengage.org/accountability

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Accountability of boys, men and fathers in the gender equality process: a progress framework

by Markus Theunert
There can be no doubt: It is crucial that men reflect on their (fundamental and everyday) accountability if they are to engage in gender equality work. But we have to be aware at the same time that accountability is something like felicity: It always makes sense to look for it but it’s seldom that we experience it to its fulfilment. That is, as long as we perceive and are perceived as men, we can’t act ungendered, we can’t disclaim male privileges, we can’t have the same experiences of inequality as women do. Therefore, our struggle for accountability will never be won: We just can try to get as close as possible again and again. But it will remain an approximation.  
Humans are used to living with tasks which never can’t be finished. So, what’s the problem in pointing this out? There is a danger connected to the accountability approach: The danger that we reflect so hard about acting accountably that we neglect to act or even don’t dare to act at all. Since getting paralyzed can’t be the goal of men moving toward gender equality, we have to look for smart ways to integrate and anchor accountability in a broader framework, as Sebastián Molano demands in his contribution to this blog series. This framework should provide orientation for what we can do (and not only state what we should not do). 
masculinities.ch is the umbrella association of progressive men’s and father’s organizations in Switzerland. During the last decade we developed a conceptual framework which is based on  practical experiences with Michael Messner’s valuable ‘triangle of politics of masculinities’ (1997), differentiating privileges, costs and inequalities of masculinities. While Messner’s triangle proved to be highly helpful for developing positions and alliances, other practical challenges remained unsolved.
We suggest a Triple Advocacy or Triple Accountability model as a complementary concept for gathering and framing progressive contributions of boys, men and fathers to gender equality (e.g. Theunert 2014). The concept simply says that roles and contributions to gender equality that can be provided by boys, men and fathers simultaneously and equivalently enfold three different responsibilities and tasks:
-       Primarily, we are supporters of women’s rights movements and issues (allies);
-       Secondly, we are spokesmen and interceders for the vulnerabilitites and concerns of boys, men and fathers in pursuit of gender equality;
-       Thirdly, we are partners in a larger alliance evolving for social justice and equality for all genders.
The center of the triangle is deemed to be the area of progressive men’s contributions.


Our experience shows that the Triple Advocacy or Triple Accountability framework can prove helpful to deal with challenges and contradictions such as: How can men deal with their institutionalised privileges without denying them or losing themselves in an altruistic, knightly – and therefore still patriarchal – battle for ”the weak ones”?

Markus Theunert (1973) is a Swiss expert for masculinities and gender issues, president of masculinities.ch, umbrella association of progressive men’s and father’s organizations in Switzerland, and program manager of MenCare Switzerland. Mail theunert@maenner.ch

Literature:
Messner, Michael (1997). Politics of Masculinities. Men in Movements. Thousand Oaks/London/New Delhi: Sage
Theunert, Markus (2014). Gleichstellungsorientierte Männerpolitik(en) – Konzept und Spannungsfelder. Eine Positionierung. GENDER, Heft 2/2014, S. 128–139

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