Thursday, March 29, 2007

Both Tough Guise and Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept examine the relationship between the social construction of masculine identity and various popular culture ideas including media images and social movements. Both sources discuss this “hegemonic” or “tough” exterior American males are socialized to display in order to successfully perform their male gender.

The hegemonic male is the reaction to men’s insecurities in the face of minorities increased assertion into the mainstream. Both Katz and Connell discuss the evolution of the “hegemonic” male in response to various social movements that threatens the dominate culture. With the growth of the civil rights, women’s, and gay/lesbian rights movements, the heterosexual white male needed take control of the idea of masculinity, essentially by defining “what is male.” . This narrow and “boxed” version of what is a “real man” is hyper-masculine and, just like emphasized femininity, is a constant performance of gender.

In my opinion, the most interesting theory of hegemonic masculinity is the fact that it is a pose; it is an act. As Katz states, “white kids ‘acting black’ is just as much of a performance as black kids ‘acting black.’” Acting male is nothing more than an imitation of what our culture and media portrays as male, which are consequently controlled by white males.

Further, another interesting aspect of the hegemonic male is the link to violence, especially sexualized violence. Particularly, the recent school shootings where bullied teenagers seek revenge by shooting their peers has a close connection with asserting manhood, by “being tough and strong.” With guns the “weak” students equalize the playing field by exhibiting their strength and toughness, essentially by displaying their masculinity.

However, the most surprising aspect of the tough guise theory lies in the reaction from the media of the increased violence in middle-white suburbia. By “normalizing” the problem with boys, the media ignores the problem altogether. Whereas, violence in low-income black neighborhoods goes unannounced, images of white violence are shocking when portrayed in the news. When “normal” kids are involved, we seek to find the solution to the problem by pointing fingers at music, video games, and television instead of at the socially constructed idea of manhood.

I also found the comparison of male icons from the 1950s to the 1990s incredibly interesting. When comparing the slimmer action figures to the buffer and more defined heroes of today, it’s no question that hegemonic masculinity is being force fed to American children. Further, with media images of chiseled male celebrities and models for boys with waif-like heroine-chic female role models for girls, it’s no wonder why there is an epidemic of sexual assaults, eating disorders and drug addictions in American. When boys can buy steroids online or search the web for all-protein diets, the hegemonic masculine identity flourishes.

This is a social problem that needs to be addressed and no longer can be ignored. Personally, I think we need to begin at the source of the problem, by educating children on equality and by de-gendering childhood. I think Hollywood and the media need to address this issue as well and partake in more socially and culturally aware images of masculinity and femininity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Have a Uterus... I can still work

Self explanatory.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reaction Paper #3

Catharine MacKinnon’s discussion of the distinctive power men have over women’s sexuality is applicable to many of the advertisements on the About Face website. One point in particular that MacKinnon makes really struck me. She discusses violence against women, and how many people trivialize rape and sexual abuse, blaming it on women’s passivity and that sexual refusal is really sexual inhibition, and so on. This is extremely difficult to swallow, especially since so many women are beaten and killed by boyfriends or husbands each year, as the website informs viewers. One particular ad, by Guiseppe, depicts a beaten or killed woman, with her lower body hanging out of the trunk of a car. Another by Roberto Cavalli is a photograph of a man with a sword and hook to a woman’s neck. Although the underlying themes of violence against women are clear, what I found even more disturbing was that this woman willingly posed for this advertisement! If we as women want to rid society of the imposed stereotype that females’ resistance to sex is a myth, then women have to stop willingly presenting themselves this way.

Another point that MacKinnon raises made me think of something else that disturbs me, not the advertisements on the website. MacKinnon says that “all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water” and must present themselves “as a beautiful thing.” I am an avid fan of ice hockey, and attend numerous games each season. During the game, the snow that accumulates on the ice needs to be shoveled away during breaks. My home team has “Ice Girls” who skate onto the ice in tiny, revealing outfits to shovel away the snow. Many other teams have young boys or maintenance workers who accomplish this task. I find this similar to the advertisements and the idea that these women are being displayed as sexual objects for men and must be presented as beautiful and appealing to the majority of male fans. All the fans become aroused, clapping and yelling for these girls, and I am certain that they are not cheering for their ability to clean up the ice.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reaction Paper # 3 - Sex, Power, and Advertising

Countless times I’ve heard the phrase “sex is power” and wondered exactly what it means. Does it mean women use sex as power or women are used for sex and powerless? I think that the idea of women using sex as power is not quite honest. We are sexualized by men; whose definition of what makes us sexy becomes how we define ourselves. Many of us try to live up to these models of attractiveness; we wax, pluck, and squeeze ourselves into the pervasive images of what is “female.” But the problem is, when women are depicted as sexy in the media - such as in commercials on “about face,” there usually seems to be something degrading about it. Women are shown as sexy plus cunning/dangerous vixen, which implies women are immoral or untrustworthy. In other cases, women are shown as sexy plus innocent and inviting, which suggests they are passive and attractive objects. Catharine Mackinnon writes that, “male power takes the social form of what men...want sexually, which centers on power...” (Mackinnon 161). Through sexual dominance of women men are able to feel powerful, and women’s lower social status is evidenced in the popularity of media that put women down.
Commercials are interesting, because they absorb as well as generate social ideas. The violence against women we see in some commercials is especially pernicious because we aren’t looking for it. One couture designer’s ad on “about face” shows a young woman’s legs dangling from the back of a car trunk; this designer is counting on people’s dismissal of the obviously destructive message. It’s supposed to be understood that he’s talking about selling shoes, but instead he mixes the message between sex and violence. Such a commercial simultaneously says, “Here are sexy legs – this woman was violated and possibly killed.” Her powerlessness is associated with her sex appeal, and through the commercial’s publication society churns out another wave of messages. One message is that women are things “for sexual use” (Mackinnon 160), not human beings in their own right. Another is that women don’t have thoughts or feelings but are mannequins and dolls that sure are pretty and love to be pampered.
Commercials that depict women being pampered suggest women use sex as power, but actually there is nothing to suggest women’s power. They are shown in their underwear, or being fed by men (a very literal translation of dependence). They are shown with expensive items to suggest that if we dolled ourselves up and attracted a wealthy man, we too could have an expensive items. Sometimes in commercials, the “pampered woman” image is mixed with the “violated woman” image. For example, she may be shown in a designer dress, but she’s being pushed up against a wall by a man. The message here is that he’s been so aroused by her he can hardly contain himself. But the underlying message is: he’s pampered her, now she’d better give him sex for it. Rape is thus made to seem an insignificant factor in ads. Mackinnon says,
“In the permissible ways a woman can be treated, the ways that are socially considered not violations but appropriate to her nature, one finds the particulars of male sexual interests and requirements” (Mackinnon 161).
In essence, if men find raping women attractive, then rape and other forms of violence against women will be snuck into the social ideas of what is simply “part of women’s nature.” This makes it seem as though we want to be “conquered,” one of many euphemisms for rape. The notion of women as submissive and powerless, but also untrustworthy and threatening (to men’s power) is omnipresent. It is paradoxical and takes away women’s actual sexual power, by confusing us and imposing sexual identities on us.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Check out the Carnival of Feminists #33

Check out the 33rd Carnival of Feminist that is available now on The Greatest Blog You'll (Probably) Never Read. There are lots of interesting musings on feminism, current events, blogging, and more!