The Concept of Experience in Studying Men

Ville Kivimäki
The paper aims at introducing the concept of experience as a mediator between the pure cultural constructivism and the studies on men's everyday life. The experience is defined as a verbalization of actual events. Thus it is shaped by culture and language, but at the same time, it refers to the non-discursive realities of human life. The problem: men between becoming and being In opening up the concept of manliness for critical research, the idea of gender as a cultural construction has been
more » ... ential. In this context, the term "masculinity" has been innovatively and diversely used to historicize the changing nature of being a man. Most commonly it has been defined as an ideal stereotype or as a "real cultural essence" of manliness. Masculinities-and especially hegemonic masculinity-can be understood as cultural constructions, which shape, direct and define the actual behavior of men. The culture " fills" men with ideals of manliness, patterns of behavior and knowledge on what a man is and ought to be. The constructivist standpoint is not free from significant problems in Critical Studies on Men. First of all, to build up a mono-causal link from masculinity as an ideal to the actual, subjective being a man falls short in oversimplifying and generalizing the complexity of a manly subject-constitution. This shortcoming is not avoided by adding anti-types, counter-masculinities, or oppressed masculinities into the scheme 1. " Masculinity" can only grasp the idea of being a man; signifying a man as an object of structures and ideals. Secondly, to use the term masculinity in a very general way in the actual research process may lead into a situation where it is at the same time both the object of the study and the explanation model used to explain itself. Masculinity may become a meta-narration comparable with modernity-actually, it often comes close to being a translation of modernity in gender studies. Specific