Archive by Author

Feb 13
Authoritarian build-up revisited

I am re-reading Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies (1977). I had it in book paper format, but someone ‘borrowed’ it, a long time ago, so my memory had grown hazy. Now it is available on the web. Re-reading is an interesting experience.  Here is why this work is considered a classic in the (still small and new) field of masculinities studies.


«Male fantasies» revisited

Klaus Theweleit’s 1977 work Male fantasies is one of the classic texts of masculinity studies. This is because Theweleit focused on men and masculinities as a subject – beyond existing theories at his time, which mainly did not focus that way. Theweleit’s work was pioneering because it proposed a new research field through a dramatic example – the build-up of Nazism in Germany.

Theweleit used texts and images from the first part of the 20th century, mainly from the German soldiers and “Free corps” members after the first World War. His material documents an extreme fear of women as catalysts of change from the older patriarchal order. Reading this material, one wonders (in line with Theweleit), if the subordination of gender actually mainly went before the subordination of ‘race’, in the emerging totalitarian ideologies at the time  (1920s, 30s). His material makes it likely that Nazism had large and still not fully analyzed masculine dominance underpinnings.

One main reason why this text is still often very relevant and eye-opening, is because it sticks to the phenomena, or tries to do so.

We will be examining a series  of phenomena  that  move along the hazy border  between  “outright terror” and “mere convention.” Is there  a  true  boundary separating  “fascists”  from  “nonfascist” men?, he asks (p 27).

He finds that existing paradigms, even the critical ones, are not good enough. He discusses “latent homosexuality”, quoting Reich and Freud (p 54). Freud uses “mass  commitments” (Massenbindungen) to the organizational dynamics  that  occur  in hierarchical  institutions. He notes Adorno:  “Totalitarianism and homosexuality go together.” 55

Yet Theweleit critisised this type of use of Freudian concepts outside of therapy – it leads to arbitrary abstractions, he argued (p 56-57). An early perceptive argument, in hindsight. Instead he proposed a more empirical “masculinity in context” type of perspective (my term), focusing on the main phenomena in the material, regardless of existing theories.

So, as a kind of critique of simplistic theories of the authoritarian man, or even that Nazism can be reduced to latent homosexuality – here is his list of “observables”, focusing on the hazy border of what makes men fascists:

“The   type  of  man  we have  before  us  “loves”:

—the  German  people,  the  fatherland

—the  homeland  soil,  native  village,  native  city

—the  “greatcoat”  (uniform)

—other  men  (comrades,  superiors,  subordinates)

—the troops,  the  parish,  the  community-of-blood  among  fellowcountrymen

—weapons,  hunting,  fighting

—animals  (especially  horses)

Aside from the  animals,  all of the love objects  on the  preceding  list  are ones   we’ve  encountered   previously  in   connection   with  movements   of resistance  to  women as potential  love objects.  In  other  words,  these  men claim to   “love”  the  very things  that protect  them  against  real  love-object relations!”  p 61

Describing the wider mindset, especially the “Preussian” tradition among officers, he writes:

“Women have nothing to do with the “state.”  A state  employee  is a slave,  of course, but he is a  slave  of a man and himself a man. As such, he is closer to the state than  even  the  wife  of a  general.” p 62.

Theweleit wrote before terms like “heteronormative” and “intersectional” were invented. Is he heteronormative? No. Instead he critisises heteronormative use of Freud (“latent homosexuals” as explain-away of Nazi appeal). Is his analysis intersectional? Yes clearly, if not very systematic. Postcolonial? Yes, in tendency. Imperialist ambition, social class, ethnicity, wounded pride – these are all into the picture.

His material shows that a main hate object of these men was the liberated (working class, and even communist)  woman, often seen as a whore, a traitor. Democracy is whore-like. This is a main “threat factor”, engendering – so to speak – the racist and neo-imperialist ideology of Nazism.

Even if he stumbles sometimes, Theweleit does a marvelous job to exhibit the case. The return of neo-masculinism and authoritarian policies over the last decade makes his text on the masculine roots of these tendencies relevant today also.  It is a pioneer work with continued importance.


Jun 24
Terrapin station

Maybe, the Grateful Dead were better doing free flow improvisation like on Dark Star. Or doing country rock. Yet Terrapin station struck me hard when I first heard it, this was a serious try to summarize counterculture events, when it was released in 1977. Involving an extended orchestra, choir, rhythm section, going beyond what was formerly seen as possible. I was very impressed. The concert – it is a mini concert – never left my mind. Like what some biologists call a “meme”. Once you hear it you wont forget it. At least not, if you are a musical person. It is quite demanding. I know people who heard it but could not relate to it. Too much for them, I think..

Now, Terrapin station has been remade, in today’s climate, using today’s musicians – in very interesting ways.

I have it as part of a 10xLP box, called Day of the dead.

What is it about? The lyrics are diffuse. My short hand is “therapy”. I think this works rather well. “His job is not to master but shed light” – and so on.

Recording such a big-volume many-player piece of music is difficult. The new recording is somewhat distorted, not optimal, on the loudest parts of the music. Other tracks on the LPs in this box, with less high demand for volume, have less problems.


Jun 22
Men’s health – worthy of investment?

A recent plan at the Leeds Becket University to close down their Centre for Men’s Health has created discussion, and even a petition, among researchers. I have joined it. What is needed is a follow up of this research, not a close down.

My own research shows that there are large, but so far not so much realized health benefits for men as well as children and women in terms of gender equality. These benefits emerge as clear macro trends, as well as in survey and interview studies. Other recent studies have strengthened this picture.

Not only are the health outcomes for men more positive in gender-equal countries, with gender equality as an independent factor across e g income level and income equality. Also, the social perception of men, according to experimental psychology, is more favorable – men are seen in a more positive light, in more gender equal countries.

See Holter, Øystein Gullvåg 2014:  “What’s in it for Men?”: Old Question, New Data. Men and Masculinities 17(5), 515-548; Krys, Kuba, Capaldi, Colin, et al 2017: Catching up with wonderful women: The women-are-wonderful effect is smaller in more gender egalitarian societies. International Journal of Psychology, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/ijop.12420

The petition is reproduced here:

Researchers Protest against Shutdown of
Leeds Centre for Men’s Health

It is with dismay and concern that we have learnt that it is planned to close the Centre for Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett University in August 2017. This is a huge setback not only for gender studies and critical research on men and masculinities, but for medical, sociological and psychological research as a whole. The Centre has a very high reputation on the European level and beyond.

We have collaborated in very fruitful ways with researchers in the Centre on the issues of men’s health and its connections to gender equality, violence prevention, and the enhancement of well-being for all genders. The Centre’s fantastic work on the Report “The State of Men’s Health in Europe” was ground-breaking: for the first time, data on men’s health in all European countries were analysed in a comprehensive and comparative way. Its results show the high costs that some forms of masculinity, men’s lifestyles and the lack of care bring to men themselves.

We gather that the reason for the closure is that the University seeks to restructure on economic grounds. Thus, the benefits of work of the Centre for Men’s Health, and indeed its overall social and economic value seem to be underrated. Indeed, even seen narrowly in these terms, its important work brings economic and cost savings for the wider society, the city, region and community, public services, businesses and civil society well beyond the University.

There are many good reasons to keep and develop the Centre for Men’s Health:  Men’s health issues are about to become not only more recognized, but also more relevant. They are not only related to health itself, but to gender and gender (in-)equality in society (also because of the impact of men’s poor health on women and children), to social innovation and to social development. Moreover, research has revealed a need for cross-disciplinary cooperation on methodological development, for example in terms of improved health variables in other research, and vice versa, in terms of improving health variables and indexes from gender and gender equality studies.

The Centre has proved to be an excellent partner in all these discussion and areas of research. We hope that there will be ways to continue its work. We ask the representatives of Leeds Beckett University to revise their decision and help to sustain the work of the Centre for Men’s Health!

June 22, 2017

Dr. Paco Abril Morales, Girona. Dr. Gary Barker, Washington DC. Mag.a Nadja Bergmann, Vienna. Dr. Marc Gärtner, Berlin & Graz. Professor Emeritus Jeff Hearn, Ph.D., Helsinki. Professor Dr. Philos. Øystein Gullvåg Holter, Oslo. Dr. Majda Hrzeniak, Ljubljana. Dr. Ralf Puchert, Berlin. Mag.a Elli Scambor, Graz. Dr. Christian Scambor, Graz. doc. PhDr. Iva Šmídová, Ph.D, Brno.







May 10
Men and masculinities – research news

Four news from the research front line…


Images Mena cover 2

The International men and gender equality survey (IMAGES) has recently been made in four Arabic countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine). The IMAGES survey model, developed from 2009 onwards, is partly based on the Norwegian model in the 2007 (Likestilling og livskvalitet – Gender Equality and Quality of Life) survey, adapted to international use especially in the south world, now further developed in an Arabic version. The Economist writes about the study:

The study can be found here:


IMAGES has developed the original Norwegian model internationally. At the same time, it has been developed in a European context.

Geq consortium logosThe first results from a Polish-Norwegian project (Gender equality and quality of life) are now published. A representative survey was made in Poland 2015, combined with qualitative research. The aim was not just to address the most pressing issues of men and masculinities (like IMAGES), but to improve the general mapping of gender in/equality in society and culture. The model was adapted to the more “gender conservative” (in some ways) context of Poland. Two books will be published from the project.  Now, the “European blueprint” and “guide” have been published. This is a proposal for a European-wide follow-up study, based on the Poland/Norway testing.

The first book has just been published, describing the the project and the new research developments.

The second book, with detailed Poland results, will be published soon.


Other research fields and groups are starting to pick up the results, and develop the gender equality and masculinities dimensions in their own ways. This includes an international experimental psychology study:

Krys, Kuba, Capaldi, Colin, et al 2017: Catching up with wonderful women: The women-are-wonderful effect is smaller in more gender egalitarian societies. International Journal of Psychology, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/ijop.12420

The results indicate that the perception of men is more positive in relatively gender-equal countries. In a related experimental study, the researchers find that threat and vulnerability (male role pressure) lowers men’s support for gender equality:

Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, Tomasz Besta, Krystyna Adamska, Michal Ja´ skiewicz, Pawel Jurek, Joseph A. Vandello 2016: If My Masculinity is Threatened I Won’t Support Gender Equality? The Role of Agentic Self-Stereotyping in Restoration of Manhood and Perception of Gender Relations. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17, 3, 274 –284

In another new study, in the US, researchers investigated the role of the “zero sum perspective” on gender equality – the idea that men will lose what women gain, in terms of gender equality. The results show that social dominance and sexism factors are linked to the zero sum perspective, and that men endorse this perspective more than women.  Cf Joelle C. Ruthig, Andre Kehn, Bradlee W. Gamblin, Karen Vanderzanden, Kelly Jones 2017:
When Women’s Gains Equal Men’s Losses: Predicting a Zero-Sum Perspective of Gender Status. Sex Roles 76, 17-26


The internationally renowned masculinities researcher James Messerschmidt gave a presentation of “revised” hegemonic masculinity theory, at a well-visited seminar arranged by the Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo, May 3, titled

Going into the theory development in depth, Messerschmidt described how it has led to a more nuanced, open view, which is complex, but also more precise than the sometimes “vulgarized” versions of the theory. This was followed by critical and constructive debate, with students as well as senior researchers participating. A summary and comment on the seminar, by professor Hanne Haavind, has been published at the center’s web site:



Apr 19
Men against rape

The “Men against rape” initiative

In 2006-7, there were many rape cases in Oslo. Some media called it a ‘rape wave’. I wanted to do something about this. I initiated a network and campaign, “Men against rape”. Many men signed our declaration. We got support from the Reform resource center and the Gender Equality Ombudsman.

The picture is a poster from one of our arrangements, in 2009.


voldtekter i likestillingslandet 1 IMG_20170419_0001

The text says: “Rape in the gender-equal country – conference”.

The conference was held at Litteraturhuset, in Oslo. We also had stands and distributed leaflets in Oslo.

The campaign was clearly directed towards men. We addressed men as “fathers, brothers, partners and friends”.

voldtekter i likestillingslandet 2 IMG_20170419_0001

We held several seminars and made interventions in our local contexts. The campaign also got media attention, e g

Apr 11
Gender equality – the hidden variable

For many years now, we have heard how men do this and women do that.

Men and women are different.

For example, men are more violent than women.

Only recently has research introduced gender in/equality as a control variable, regarding these proclaimed gender differences.

The results are dramatic.

Introducing the gender equality variable unsettles much of what we think we know about gender.

For example:

In the 2007 “Gender equality and quality of life” survey (in Norway), almost 2800 respondents answered questions about their childhood home. During the time of their childhood reports, the rate of violence against children generally became lower.

Violence Norway 2007Across this period,  gender equality, more than gender, influenced the chance of violence against children. “Who decided at home” (wh0 had the final say) was used as indicator of gender equality.

norway gender equality and violenc

Gender inequality, even more than gender, influenced the chance of violence against children.

Father-dominated homes had almost three times the rate of violence against children, compared to gender-equal homes, in the 1940-2000 period covered by the study. Women-dominated homes were in the middle. Gender-equal homes, where the parents decided equally, had the lowest rate of violence.

Those who decided at home were also the ones most likely to use violence.

Generally, men were more often involved in the use of violence and physical punishment of children, but this varied strongly with the state of gender equality in the home. In mother-led homes, women were slightly more involved than men.

LL07 vold vs utøver


The impact of gender equality remained strong, controlling for education and other social factors.

In most of today’s research, gender equality is not used as a variable – the evidence is at best divided by gender, or it is just presented as gender-neutral.

The above example shows the need to correct that situation. By neglecting gender in/equality, research is missing the true picture.

Recently, a Poland survey has confirmed the basic pattern found in the Norway 2007 survey.

In Poland, also, lack of gender equality among the parents approximately doubles the chance of violence against children. Even if Norway and Poland are different in many respects, including different views of gender, these basic results are much the same.

Violence against children is just one area where gender equality has an impact.

Other areas, more focused in recent research, include education, health, quality of life, social perception and social stigma.

Mar 30
Those were the days

My loft is a mess. Recently I found some pictures from way back when.

In the 1970ies I was a member of the folk rock band Samvirkelaget. I also played with other groups. Here, I play flute on a student concert, 1979.

Holter Øystein leads rock band 1979 1 IMG_20170330_0009

I was never that good on guitar, but could play my own songs, also.

Holter Øystein leads rock band 1979 2 1 IMG_20170330_0008

In 1981, I published a book on the gender market (Sjekking, kjærlighet og kjønnsmarked), which sold well in Norway, and later in Sweden (1983). A press photo from that time:

Holter Øystein 1981 IMG_20170330_0010

In 1984, I was a participant in the Oslo carnival.

Not sure exactly what we were doing, but I remember that we were hoping to bring back more of the ‘1968 spirit’.

Holter Øystein karnival in Oslo 1984 IMG_20170330_0003


oslo 1984 carnival Øystein IMG_20170330_0006




Jun 24
Brexit blues

“Why can’t we play today
Why can’t we stay that way “

Richard Wright, Remember a day, on Pink Floyd album A saucerful of secrets, 1968


Apr 22
The Beatles and The Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus

Question: What were the best albums following up the message of the Beatles, on Sgt Pepper and other albums?

My answer:

There were many good follow-ups of course, due to the seminal nature of the Beatles effort.

I think the Spirit album “Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus” is one of the best, balancing right at the edge of the 1960s and 70s music styles and social sentiments.

Q: Why so?

A: The whole framework is marvellously forwards and questioning, and the setup is great. For example, Mr Skin is a rock “plus” type of song. Some forward reflection too. Very good. Critical pop journalism abounds on the album. Together with good melodic writing, arrangement and production. When the songs are forwards into the 70s, like Nature’s Way, they are not too overblown.  A prescient album, in many ways. In my rating, a classic.

Memorable lyric:

We got nothing to hide

Married to the same bride

Source: Epic LP Bl 30267, cover:


Spirit 12 dreams of dr Sardonicus

I found a graphic interpretation of this album here.

The music sounds great on vinyl, better than the digital versions I have found on the web.



Jan 03

New music

0 Comments Written by in Music

New music

Here are three great LPs discovered recently:

Toumani and Sidiki 2014

Toumani and Sidiki – father and son playing koras – dreamlike, lifelike, rythmic (all the more flowing, without percussion or drums). Showing how world music is coming of age, this is a new classic.

Blue Oyster Cult Secret Treaties 1974 Speakers corner 2014Blue Oyster Cult: Secret Treaties (1974), reissued by Speaker’s Corner 2014. This album was actually censored in Germany when it appeared, with the picture of the Nazi jet plane and the group shown as pilots. Turned out, most of the group were Jews! Patti Smith was involved in the lyric writing. A great rock album. Speaker’s Corner has done it again – this reissue has better sound than the original.

Krieger Robby No habla 1989Robby Krieger: No habla (1989). I got this second-hand. How come, the Doors disappeared so fast into non-interesting music (or muzak, superficial entertainment), after Jim Morrison died? This record, made long after the event, shows the same pattern. The two Doors numbers (Wild Child, You’re Lost Little Girl) are great, the rest is so-so. This LP strengthens the argument: You need content in music, if not, it won’t pay off. Even revolutionary content, like Jim Morrison provided. Krieger’s playing on You’re lost…. is just heartbreaking. Wish you were here, Jim.