Masculinities: Feminist Duration Reading Group

Reckitt, Helena; Fuller, Sabrina and Dunster, Flora. 2020. 'Masculinities: Feminist Duration Reading Group'. In: Masculinities. Barbican Art Gallery and online, London, United Kingdom 5 March – 17 October 2020. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Image (Feminists Look at Masculinity listing, Feminist Duration Reading Group, Barbican Art Gallery, March 5 2020)
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Masculinities: Feminist Duration Reading Group
developed by Helena Reckitt with Flora Dunster and Sabrina Fuller

A series of four events, held between March and October 2020 under the aegis of the Feminist Duration Reading Group, foregrounding feminist perspectives on masculinity. Over the past fifty years, and with increasing urgency starting in the 1990s, feminists have critiqued the hyper-sexualisation and commodification of Black and in other ways ‘othered’ bodies. They have explored lesbian and queer identifications with masculine roles, and imagined a world freed from gender binaries. Questioning dominant representations of masculinity they have fashioned subversive new images and identities as part of a commitment to forging new alliances and strengthening social movements.

The first event, 'Feminists Explore Masculinities,' took place on 5th March as part of the public programme for the group exhibition ‘Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography,’ at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. Participants were asked to bring with them an image that evoked a resistant or challenging representation of masculinity - from a personal photograph or image to a reproduction of an artwork in the Masculinities exhibition. A writing exercise followed.Divided into pairs, participants spoke about the image they had brought, and then wrote up and were invited to read an account of their partner’s account.

Three online sessions, originally intended to take place as part of a daylong event and rescheduled for online due to Covid-19, followed. Each session focused on a foundational feminist essay from the 1990s, and included an introduction, out-loud group readings, and discussion.

The first online meeting on April 25th focused on Gayle Rubin’s 1992 article ‘Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender, and Boundaries.' Chiming with arguments about gender fluidity that have become central to the movement for trans self-identification, Rubin argues: 'Categories like "woman,” “butch,” “lesbian,” or “transsexual” are all imperfect, historical, temporary, and arbitrary. We use them, and they use us. We use them to construct meaningful lives, and they mold us into historically specific forms of personhood. Instead of fighting for immaculate classifications and impenetrable boundaries, let us strive to maintain a community that understands diversity as a gift, sees anomalies as precious, and treats all basic principles with a hefty dose of skepticism.'

The second session, on June 20th, foregrounded Eli Clare’s 1999 autobiographical essay 'stones in my pocket, stones in my heart,' in which dynamics of ableism and sexuality intersect with those of class and race. Tracing a movement from isolation and shame to community belonging and grassroots activism, Clare explores what it means to listen to their body and reclaim their desires. Published as the trans liberation movement is gaining momentum, Clare wonders if they will find a home “as some third, fourth, fifth gender? Some gender that seems more possible since trans people have started to organize, build community, speak out about our lives. Some gender that I have already started reaching toward.” Clare writes: “You don't have pronouns yet for us.”

For the third Masculinities session on October 17th the group read bell hooks’s 1995 ‘Representing the Black Male Body.’ Analysing the racist imaginary developed under patriarchal capitalism, hooks looks at how contemporary artists informed by feminist, queer, and decolonial perspectives represent Black masculinity in ways that are liberatory and oppositional, thus restoring mind, soul and life to images of Black bodies and Black subjects.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Other)


feminist theories of masculinity trans gender art and masculinity disability and identity Black masculinities

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



17 October 2020Completed

Event Location:

Barbican Art Gallery and online, London, United Kingdom

Date range:

5 March – 17 October 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Jan 2021 11:46

Last Modified:

04 Jan 2021 11:46


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)