Bringing in margin and centre: ‘open’ and ‘closed’ as concepts for considering men and masculinities

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This article suggests and develops the terminology and concepts of open and closed masculinities for conceptualising, discussing and understanding men and masculinities. These open and closed masculinities are located within a framework of margin and centre, in which possibilities for movement between open and closed expressions of masculinity are critical. This approach to men and masculinities builds upon the concept of the gender order, while allowing for flexibility in considering and theorising men, masculinities, and the multitude of theories of masculinity that have emerged within critical studies on men and masculinities (CSMM). These notions of open and closed masculinities can maintain a focus on reproductions of closedness, while also revealing possibilities for movement towards greater openness. Thus, this terminology helps to avoid reification in conceptualisations and theorisations of men and masculinities and provides useful language for empirical work. The approach developed here positions and empowers the margin, rather than the centre, as the locus of emerging languages and practices of openness. I explore the terminology and concepts of open, closed, margin, centre, and movement, drawing on feminist, sociological and CSMM thought as well as work on mobilities and geographies of gender. I suggest how theories of masculinities stemming from CSMM can be plotted in relation to these concepts, allowing these theories to be positioned as in conversation with one another. Finally, I suggest the concepts developed here can also be utilised to consider men and their shifting expressions of masculinity.




Elliott, K. (2020). Bringing in margin and centre: ‘open’ and ‘closed’ as concepts for considering men and masculinities. Gender, Place and Culture, 27(12), 1723–1744.

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