volume 16, number 1/2015: Men and Masculinities
Guest editors: Iva Šmídová, Ivan Vodochodský and Jeff Hearn
It has been almost twenty years since the first academic endeavours into critical studies on men and masculinities (CSMM) emerged in the Czech Republic. As some of us still remember, the first half of the 1990s was a ground-breaking period in Czech social sciences. The discipline of sociology started to reassert itself after many years of lost continuity and of being cut off from developments in the discipline beyond the country’s western borders. CSMM was not the only new discovery in this rather complicated process, but it was probably one of the most challenging. The idea that men and masculinities could and should be subjected to systematic scientific observation based on a (pro)feminist standpoint, drawing from academic gender studies that emerged in Central and Eastern Europe only few years earlier was very revolutionary at that time (and for many people it is even now). Among the pioneering texts in Czech CSMM were the studies by the two Czech guest co-editors to this thematic issue, Iva Šmídová (1997) and Ivan Vodochodský (1999), the thematic book reviews by Hana Havelková (1995) and Pavla Horská (1994), the research studies by Hana Maříková (1999), Radka Dudová (2002), and a student research study by Petra Šťastná (1998). Prior to that, only a handful of scholars had focused on men in the Czech context specifically as a topic of research (for example, Ivo Možný 1983, Zbyněk Vybíral 1995), but none of them had done so from an openly gender-reflective position.
The date of publication of this thematic issue has special significance for the field of CSMM even beyond the Czech context. It is now twenty years since the first edition of Raewyn Connell’s essential book Masculinities was published. The publication of that book was yet another milestone for the slowly growing group of fans of critical studies on men and masculinities in the Czech Republic, as well as in other countries. Since its publication there have been few academic studies on masculinities that have not cited this highly influential work. It is thus our honour to present an exclusive interview with Raewyn Connell in this special issue. The interview is not only intended to recognise her as one of the great founders of this area of study and as someone who for more than thirty-five years has been playing a crucial role in the field, but what is more it also documents her as a vital, open-minded person who continues to think not only about masculinities but also about other related questions – gender, labour, education, Southern theory, and much more – in a global perspective. She is against thinking inside the one-gender box and instead favours a relational approach to gender – which is itself a very important viewpoint for the further development of the study of men and masculinities. In the interview she reflects on a major international conference on men and masculinities that was held in June 2014 in Reykjavik, Iceland.
This issue is probably the very first special issue of a journal devoted solely to studies on men and masculinities that has ever been published in the Czech Republic and the region. Nevertheless, it is not intended to look back on past developments in this country. In fact, the opposite is true.
It is especially pleasing to include an essay by Ann Snitow. We have published here the keynote address on men and gender that she presented at The Second Conference of Czech and Slovak Feminist Studies: Borders and Beyond, held in Brno in 2011 as a key historical document. This is particularly appropriate this year when Ann Snitow is being awarded the Courage in Public Scholarship Award. She is the first recipient of this award, which was presented to her by the New School for Social Research – Europe in Warsaw on 9 June 2015.
In the initial Call for Papers for this thematic issue the geographical scope was broadened to include authors from other countries beyond the Czech Republic. The original articles included here are placed between the essay by Ann Snitow and the interview with Raewyn Connell from the Nordic event, thereby engaging North, South, East and West. On a more personal note, there is also an interview with Jeff Hearn, a guest co-editor of this volume, and a member of this journal´s editorial board who has had ties with Czech scholars since the early 2000s. As one of the pioneers of CSMM, he speaks about his experiences of doing critical research on men and on the crucial issues and topics that have yet to be taken on extensively in academic work inspired by CSMM.
A common thread that runs through all the texts, interviews and documents in this issue is that they show CSMM as a vibrant and flourishing research specialisation, one that is helping to address some of the most current social problems and is ushering new perspectives into the wider social studies and humanities communities. On the following pages you will find texts that address such research issues as work with perpetrators of domestic violence in the region (Katarzyna Wojnicka), the self-reflection of Czech men working in a profession perceived as typically feminine, namely kindergarten teachers (Nina Fárová), and visual and spatial issues in professional care for marginalised men in the Netherlands (Iris van Huis and Marleen van der Haar). The articles in this thematic issue also analyse the literary spaces of Czech and Polish fatherhood (Marcin Filipowicz), the hegemony of men in the context of women directors in Korean cinema (Richard Howson and Brian Yecies), and representations of gay men in Czech soap operas (Zdeněk Sloboda).
Despite having existed for several decades, the field of critical studies on men and masculinities has not been integrated into the social science mainstream in most countries within the geographical scope of this journal’s readers and contributors. Despite some striking national differences, to date there has been little recognition of or demand for reflections on androcentrism or gender awareness in relation to men and masculinities in societies that have strong masculine-power-oriented or patriarchal tendencies, such as those in which we live our everyday lives. This, nevertheless, seem to be slowly moving forward. There is already a plethora of relevant and topical literature available – old and new, domestic, translated or international – on men and masculinities in bookstores and libraries. Anyone interested in this field thus faces a different situation to that which the generation of pioneers encountered, since now almost everyone has access to what is going on in research on men and masculinities. For example, critical studies on men and masculinities have become integral parts of university curricula in at least two social science faculties in the Czech Republic. One positive effect of this situation is the number of research projects that are producing informed, scholarly work written in cooperation with students, and the development of an international academic community of involved scholars that crosses and blurs national borders. The explicit, and sometimes critical, gendering of men and masculinities is also making its way onto national and international political agendas; specific governmental and European bodies are being formed. And it is crucial, when involving men in gender equality, that a critical approach and critical perspectives are applied and that we get beyond some of the trendy takes on topics associated with changing men and masculinities; indeed these are issues on which CSMM can provide valuable critical insight and analysis.
We hope that this special issue contributes to the continuing process of establishing international collaboration in critical studies on men and masculinities, including developing original perspectives and promising approaches in dealing with the many urgent problems of contemporary societies. This special issue is publishing both Czech and English texts by researchers from in and beyond both the Czech- and English-speaking contexts, and even written in both languages by native and non-native speakers. Moreover, not only is the content of this thematic issue concerned with challenging ‘men and masculinities’, as the title indicates, but the very practices of the journal of Gender, Equal Opportunities, Research (Gender, rovné příležitosti, výzkum) are being challenged in its production. This is the first issue ever published in two languages, opening up the journal to international audiences. We wish you joyous and inspirational reading!
Iva Šmídová, Ivan Vodochodský and Jeff Hearn
 As a coincidence or yet another sign of organic development, the international English edition of Studia Humanistyczne AGH, a Polish journal, will publish a thematic issue on ‘men and masculinities in the European dimension’ later in 2015.