A redistribution of energies

So long!

After three-and-a-half years, this little online magazine-cum-experiment in broadening the scope of what it means to be a man will cease publishing. Please settle in for the obligatory ‘letter from the editor’, which will be reflective and grateful and may kid itself that it is instructive.

When I started Homer in 2016, I was driven by the conviction that the roles of men and masculinities in gender, feminism and socio-political change were under-theorised and under-written. Closing in on four years later, that conviction has been strengthened. If the 70-odd pieces and 25-odd podcasts we’ve published have demonstrated anything, it’s that we know so, so little about the ways men are gendered, about how they interact with and ‘do’ gender to the benefit and detriment of themselves and others.

Let’s not kid ourselves: how men explain masculinity is really important, for a hundred different reasons. And right now, rather than those uncomfortable, confusing, difficult-to-obtain realities, we are getting some of the most two-dimensional pseudo-intellectual buzzwordism you’re likely to see outside of a GOOP seminar.

Frankly it abounds in most fields, but somewhere between theoretical frameworks like patriarchy and labels like toxic masculinity, in amongst the case studies and personal essays and spokespeople at all points on the spectrum of opinions, there’s reality. Some people are getting closer to it, most aren’t. And it remains the case that if you broach this particular topic in mixed company, pretty much everyone is gagging for a chance to talk about it.

Would that my heart were still in this, but we are allowed to care about more than one thing. More than that, we must.

Back in 2016 gender was the most important thing in the world to me. I felt a keen personal responsibility to create and populate a space where men, especially, would interrogate masculinities, taking responsibility for their part in this conversation by grappling with its past, present and possibilities. To an extent, it worked. Homer published less pieces by men than I wanted, but the fact that we had about 60 per cent male writers and our readership was almost 45 per cent male is, to my mind, a pretty great success, especially given the topics men wrote about and the manner in which they addressed them.

Homer also owes much of its success to the women, writers of colours and trans writers who contributed incisive, generous work about their fathers, brothers, sons, lovers and friends, and about our world and themselves. Overall we’ve had some 30,000 visitors since we launched, which still amazes me.

In that time, though, the world changed—or I don’t know, caught up with me.

Everyone has probably had the experience of trying to renew their commitment to something through overhauling some element of that thing. I’ve tried that with Homer a few times now, but when something’s not right at the core of things, superficial and sometimes even substantial change won’t do the trick.

I have always been trying through Homer to have writers address the ways that masculinities interact with factors of class, race, ability, education and so on. I struggled with submissions and pitches that placed gender in a vacuum, or which were focused on personal experience without a sense of scope. This, in my opinion, describes the vast majority of gender-related writing, and it is a detriment to all of our intellects, not to mention an obstacle to political change. It’s also a pushy, specific brief—not the kind of permissive editorial script I’d want as a writer.

This approach stemmed from a feeling that a structural, resonant, inclusive approach to writing about masculinities was essential. This is about what kind of action seems important at this moment in history—from a straight white man like me, yes, but frankly from all of us.

So ending Homer is about ceasing to participate in the creation or endorsement of siloes. Political change is cooperative if it is to be effective. Through Homer, I’ve been trying to pull people from the lilypad of gender onto those of class, race, ability and structure—into a take on the big picture matrices of inequity and reform. But it feels ass-backwards, and it inevitably favours the lens of gender above others.

People who write and think about gender understandably want to write and think about gender. The person who is deep into structural discrimination and violence, who thinks about class, race and gender as inextricable, is less likely to take time out of their day to write about masculinities.

I am, and perhaps always was, one such person. My heart is not, first and foremost, in masculinities. I bear a responsibility, and I will never cease to be conscious of how I can talk to and work with men and others to improve where masculinity’s at and where it’s going. And having more men engage critically with gender, our own and others’, is critical; the reformation of masculinities is work we are both best placed to do and most responsible for undertaking. But it doesn’t feel like the thing any more.

Because the thing is all of us, it’s everything: poverty, racism, the climate, war and yes, of course, sexism and misogyny, but really all forms of violence, and how we can and must work together to rectify them. Not regardless of our signifiers but in full acknowledgment and consideration of them.

Masculinities are a product of greater forces and facts, and it’s impossible to talk meaningfully about them, let alone to take meaningful political action to alter them, without consideration of the others. It may sound like a lot, but I really feel we should all be doing all the things.

So while Homer will remain live and accessible indefinitely (a courtesy to the 100 or so people who visit every week), I’ll be directing whatever energies drove me to start Homer—my idealism, sense of possibility, you get it—into inclusive movements for structural reform.

On that note: join your union; participate in creative, disruptive protest; put your body (especially if it looks anything like mine) next to those of vulnerable people and stand with them against those who seek to claim or exploit them or their lands; don’t reason with fascists; tax the rich; and always, always listen to people whose bodies, experiences and voices are marginalised.

Thank you so much to all the people who supported this site, talking to me, donating money, contributing their creative and technical skills and—most of all—submitting their writing in return for what were really always token sums of money.

Thank you to all the women, and especially to a particular few, who first spoke passionately and incisively about gender with me, and who were supportive yet never uncritical when I first began thinking about a thing like Homer. I have grown so much as an editor and person in this time and I owe it to all of you, and especially to my co-editor Jeremy Stevens, who has served as my stabiliser, sounding-board and sanity-check, not to mention my friend, throughout it all.

One last thing: If you have ever enjoyed Homer, please exit through the gift shop: grab yourself a tote bag custom-designed by the wonderful Australian artist and masculinity savant Samuel Leighton-Dore. All money raised through the sale of these limited edition tote bags will be put in a piggy bank to pay the costs of keeping this website live for as long as possible.

Thanks, in solidarity.

Ashley Thomson

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