Men, masculinities and work in climate change and development discourse

There have been many studies conducted on climate change and development trends. Within this research, women, particularly poor women, have been viewed most often as climate-change victims or victims of development-related concerns, as opposed to agents of change. For this reason, we need to also discuss women’s positive contributions to efforts to deal effectively with climate change. Similarly, we also need to ask, what is the effect of climate change on men, and what positive contributions can they make in responding to this process of change?

In many cultures, being a man is synonymous with being the breadwinner or head of the household (Brittan, 2005). Men’s sphere of work is normally associated with notions of masculinity, which in many contexts link to an ideology of power and authority (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005).

Men would normally strive to adapt once they face an economic crisis due to climate threats, disasters or other causes. Along the way, their identities as breadwinners or income earners might be challenged, as would their role in the household. For example, in a case study conducted in Mexico, Gutmann and Viveros (2005) found that it was not unusual to find men who lacked employment alternatives and did not have a high level of education or strong economic resources at home caring for their own small children, while in upper-class families, child care was mostly performed by maids and nannies. However, there have been other studies that have argued otherwise; for example, a study conducted in Russia and the United Kingdom showed that when men became unemployed or economically inactive, their contributions to housework and care-related activities changed very little (Ashwin & Lytkina, 2004). Although many factors influence these different responses to change, one involves the conception of masculinity and appropriate masculine behavior in a specific cultural context.

In Viet Nam. particularly in mral areas, men's work is often described as hard work, needing a great deal of physical strength. This work is mostly done outside the home; women's work, in contrast, is often traditionally associated with tasks carried out within or nearby the home. A large part of women’s work, both hi productive and reproductive spheres, is home-based and is generally either unpaid or poorly paid, which can create a gap between women and men in terms of financial contributions to household income. These differences between women's and men’s socially designated responsibilities have created gender-differentiated stereotypical roles and statuses, including specific conceptions of masculinity (Hoang & Yeoh, 2011).

Masculinity is a pattern of behaviors attached to social expectations about how men should act and their position with respect to gender relations. Although “common features” of masculinity generally include "dominance, toughness, and risktaking” (MenEngage Alliance & UN Women, 2014), masculinity is usually seen as socially constructed so there are "multiple definitions” of masculinity (Connell, 2015). Different cultures, periods of history, or even different groups of men in one society would have very different expressions of masculinity. For example, in some cultures, soldiers are considered heroes, and violence is "the ultimate test of masculinity,” while in others, violence is regarded as “contemptible.” Moreover, the conception of masculinity in working-class life may be different from the conception of men's positive roles in middle- or upper-class life. Among different masculinities, some are more honored while others can be dishonored. As stated by Kabeer (2007), gender norms and practices related to the division of labor are partly shaped by different cultures, social class, and ethnicity. Men from poor and less-privileged groups would be the least able to conform to their traditional conception of masculinity when their livelihoods are not secure, or their ability to make a living is threatened, with the result that they may not be able to deliver on the breadwinner role they are socially expected to play.

What men do is important in defining the power structure in the family. However, in some cases what men do not do is even more important in creating masculine identities (Wetherell & Edley, 1995). Housework, for example, is considered to be within women's sphere in many societies, and men keep their distance from doing domestic work to maintain their status. It is common in many societies for women to be expected to share productive work, but men are not expected to engage on the same level with reproductive work. Men's participation in domestic work is often considered as helping their wives rather than sharing responsibilities. In some contexts, men’s participation or non-participation in domestic work and child care identifies men's "degree” of masculinity (Hoang & Yeoh. 2011). In some cases, even when women take over the breadwinner position, men are still reluctant to share housework because of the fear of compromising their sense of masculinity and self-esteem. This was shown in a case study of men in the Philippines - when then masculinity was more secure as a consequence of their financial contribution to the family, they were more willing to participate in domestic work (Parrenas, 2005).

In cases where men were unable to financially support their families, including as a consequence of climate-related events, it was found that the failure to cope with what is perceived as a sudden change or a reduction in their power often led to psychological problems, and thus men in these circumstances can be considered victims as well. In other cases, evidence of domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse were recorded (Ashwin & Lytkina, 2004; Kabeer, 2007). These were also considered some of contemporary masculinity’s “toxic effects,” which include negative impacts on the lives of men themselves as well as on women. Physical violence is, according to Connell and Messerschmidt (2005), one expression of toxic practices built on the concept of hegemonic masculinity and "based on practice that permits men's collective dominance over women to continue” (p. 840). Hegemonic masculinity is a common term used widely in gender studies, referring to a culturally dominant form of masculinities not just among different masculinities, but more importantly in the gender order (Connell, 2000).

Engels used male privilege to build the definition of patriarchy in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). Back then, patriarchy, which was referred to as "rule by fathers,” was a social system in which fathers held primary authority over women and children. Patriarchy implies ideologies that are based on the idea that men rule, and women submit socially, politically and economically. In a patriarchal society, power relations are hierarchical and unequal. In Theorizing Patriarchy, Walby defined patriarchy as “a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women” (Walby, 1990, p. 20). Men have power over production, reproduction, sexuality, assets, economic resources and almost all aspects of women's lives. The power relations are maintained by gender stereotypes regarding masculinity and femininity that have been socially and traditionally determined.

In the case of Viet Nam. according to Tran et al. (2006), the mainstream culture is male-centered and strongly patriarchal due to the enduring influence of Confucianism. Men are considered the head of the household with a designation as having the most important role in the family. Men are the ones who are socially designated for practices associated with ancestor worship, and they benefit from patrilocality. In earlier times in Viet Nam, women were clearly constrained by patriarchal perceptions and Confucianism that placed women as men’s inferiors and subordinates. The constraints were expressed in the forms of the "three obediences” (subordination to the father and the elder brothers when young, subordination to the husband when married, subordination to the sons when widowed4) and the "four moralities” (womanly work, womanly appearance, womanly speech, womanly deeds5) - principles that all women should follow. Although modified, the influence of these conceptions continues in modern times. In Viet Nam, patriarchy is used to express the dominance of men over women, especially in rural areas. Patriarchal society nurtures men's power over practically every aspect of women's lives. Gender stereotypes and prejudices are also maintained accordingly; for example, Viet Nam's mainstream society expects women to be beautiful in order to be selected by men because getting married is seen as the biggest task and goal of a woman's life.

Especially after Confucianism was introduced into Viet Nam’s culture, the principle of valuing men over women was emphasized (as the expression goes, "One boy child, write ‘yes’; ten girl children, write ‘no’”). Although it may have originated from a more positive intention, that men should shoulder the family’s responsibilities, it led to an overestimation of men's contributions and an underestimation of women's roles in the family. Among other problems, this way of thinking allowed men to have many wives (and "naturally,” the reverse was not allowed). Women were often blamed for any problems that happened in their lives; as an example, a woman would be blamed for not being able to keep her husband and her family together if her husband had an affair. A woman could even be blamed for her husband beating her because people might think she was not well behaved or what she did or said upset her husband. Gender stereotypes and gender prejudice about masculinity and femininity have thus established and maintained the "accepted” (traditional mainstream) gender order in Viet Nam with men as rulers and women as subordinates.

Men, however, have not always benefited from such privileges. Men are under pressure to act in "manly” ways that are, in many societies, synonymous with behaviors manifesting physical strength. They are often not encouraged to participate in housework or to be very involved in raising and taking care of their own children but rather to focus on financially supporting their families. They are often raised and taught to be tough and less emotional. If they fail to meet social expectations of masculinity, they would despise themselves as well as be despised by their respective families and communities (FAO & UNDP, 2002; Salemink, 2003; Swinkels & Turk, 2006; Tran et al., 2006).

In the same way, men also have not always benefited from such privileges when viewed from contexts involving climate change and disasters. For example, although much of the literature emphasizes women’s vulnerability in relation to climate change and disasters related to climate change, recent studies indicate that, in certain contexts, men's work-related activities make them more vulnerable to negative health impacts of climate change - for example, through increases in heat exposure and infectious disease - than would be true for women in these settings (Sellers, 2018). Moreover, as mentioned earlier, men often suffer greater injury or loss of life during disasters, depending on what is expected of them in a specific context.

Regarding difficulties, recent research now offers new insights into different responses to disasters using an intersectional approach to understanding men and masculinity (Enarson & Pease, 2016). This includes a focus on the potential for an increase in men's psychological and physical stress, which can result in selfdestructive behavior, gender-based violence and other serious consequences in the wake of periodic disasters and long-term climate threats, often because of loss of work and income and their previous roles and status in the face of these sudden changes.

Finally, it is important to note that a number of recent discussions on climate change have also emphasized the need to focus on current and potential new contributions that men and boys can make: “It is important to bring men and boys, as well as women and girls, into the gender-and-enviromnent conversation” (United Nations Environment Program, 2016, p. 209). In fact, a number of new approaches to men’s participation in climate change-related efforts have been suggested in recent years (e.g., Hultman & Pulé, 2018). These themes - of difficulties faced by men and boys, as well as positive contributions they can make - will be a key part of the analysis presented in this study of gender and climate change in the context of Viet Nam.

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