Dear Readers,
From ISIS to Sisi, masculinity in the Arab world is being performed and negotiated in a number of ways. But what does it mean to be a man in the Arab world today? And what are the consequences of performing—or failing to perform—certain notions of masculinity? Is masculinity in crisis? If so, what does this crisis look like? How are common understandings of masculinity being challenged, transformed, or subverted by men and women? And how do war, displacement, class and sexuality change how masculinity is expressed, understood and performed?
The pieces selected for this collection explore some of these questions in new and inventive ways. Each of them, in their own way, demonstrates how notions of masculinity in the region are, as always, in flux. What becomes clear is that there are no rigid understandings of what it means to be a ‘man.’ The four stories here highlight the agency of normal people finding their way through changing structures of masculinity and femininity in tumultuous and uncertain times.
In Atiaf Alwazir’s subtle and tender short story, ‘I Just Can’t Understand You,’ a young Yemeni couple struggles to reconcile their expectations of how men and women should behave, and offers a glimpse of how class dimensions and Westernization has affected perceptions of masculinity among young people in Sana’a.
In ‘Red Chinos, Resistance, & Masculinities in Crisis,’ Philip Proudfoot reflects on how notions of masculinity change with displacement and the rupture of social and economic life amongst a group of young Syrian men living in Beirut. In the wake of the Syrian uprising and civil war, a certain form of hegemonic masculinity linked to a man’s capacity for social and economic reproduction has crumbled. But amongst its ruins, new ideals of masculinity have begun to emerge.

In ‘Darting Shadows,’ Tha’er Waheed recounts the pain of a young boy in Jordan who fails to live up to society’s ideals of what it means to ‘be a man,’ and the power of love in finding a sense of peace and self-acceptance after trauma.
Finally, in ‘Muscles and Glitter,’ Raja Farah takes us on a journey from the United States to Beirut, delving into high school crushes, Grindr hook-ups, and men in high heels. His exploration of the ways masculinity is played out in Beirut’s gay scene ends with a call to embrace both the masculine and feminine within us all.
These pieces are only the beginning of a conversation about a sensitive, complex, and evolving discussion on masculinities in the Arab world. We hope to continue the conversation with you both on the site, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Engage with the authors, ask questions, and share your own thoughts and experiences. We look forward to hearing from you.
Saleem Haddad