News and Commentary

Female Criminologist Lectures Homeless Men On Masculinity

Homeless men already face drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, social stigma, and, you know, homelessness, but a Canadian criminologist has identified another problem: their masculinity.

Erin Dej, a criminologist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, has written a book with a chapter titled “When a Man’s Home Isn’t a Castle: Hegemonic Masculinity Among Men Experiencing Homelessness and Mental Illness.” The chapter, as one might expect, seems to blame masculinity for a range of problems faced by the male homeless community.

Christie Blatchford of the right-leaning National Post, quotes from the chapter which couches the concerns of some of the homeless men Dej spoke to in terms of toxic masculinity.

For instance, when Dej spoke to “Ron,” who she said suffers from anti-social personality disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin abuse, she interprets his complaints through the lens of her own modern views of masculinity and “the patriarchal dividend.”

So when Ron told Dej that he was in poor health due to his conditions and drug problems — and described it the way most people would — saying he was scared to walk alone at night because “… like, a little girl could have killed me,” Dej only sees misogyny.

Ron described “his sense of weakness and vulnerability in relation to women,” Dej wrote. She added, “For Ron, the feminine subjectivity acts as the ultimate exemplar of physical weakness and the most absurd hyperbole of who constitutes a threat.”

Further, when Ron compared the cramps from his methadone treatment to menstrual cramps, Dej insisted it was “telling of Ron’s felt masculinity status,” because he could not have ever experienced such cramps himself.

When another homeless man, “Julian,” described emotional numbness or feeling “like an island,” Dej dismissed the idea that such a feeling would be desired by anyone in the same situation as these men, and instead made a sweeping generalization about the entire gender.

“While it is understandable why someone facing such debilitating emotions may revel in the idea of feeling nothing, the fact that this is a way of being that all men should emulate is deeply problematic,” Dej wrote.

As Blatchford points out in her article, no one said this is what “all men” strive for.

“This is part of the current narrative that masculinity itself is inherently toxic, or at least malformed,” Blatchford wrote.

While concluding the chapter, Dej suggests programs designed to help the homeless should “be provided in such a way as to mitigate the troubling ways that compensatory masculinity manifests” and should “introduce men to alternative understandings of masculinity.”

As Blatchford perfectly concluded: “Yes, because that’s the one thing the homeless – who have nothing – really need.”