Strike a Pose, Guyland, Boys and Men in Families, and Male Consumer as Loser by Patrick Gallagher Landes

In Strike a Pose it is interesting to see how psychology and biology—and science in general—can reinforce our sociological perspectives. As we talked about last week, men are taught at home and at schools to take up dominant and expansive positions with their bodies. These positions are directly related to the article’s “high-power positions”. Men’s general developmental physiology to some degree creates men who are high in testosterone and are more willing to take risks and act “manly” than women. I think now, conversely, how women who adopt such a posture which seems to create a masculine image are called tomboys. So it seems to me that the more masculine identities of women who have naturalized “manly” or “high-power” postures are not an abnormality, but rather a natural reaction to chemistry in the body. Most men seem to be fine with women who do not completely identify themselves as male, however when this line has been crossed, men seem to experience a cognitive dissonance which incites violence. Most men seem not to be able to comprehend how women can be male, however I think this experiment shows that people become male, rather than being born male. Men, however, generally are the only ones with the privilege to become male because their bodies are disciplined into becoming male. In a similar way, if the world was made to look upon women as the dominant sex, women are generally the only ones with the privilege to become female.

My second reading of Guyland puts the biological socialization of men which I discussed earlier into a context of male-to-male discipline. “Guys hear the voices of the men in their lives—fathers, coaches, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, priests—to inform their ideas of masculinity,” (Kimmel 47) and disregard voices of women because they become objects for men to control. Kimmel reinforces the idea that gender is not only shaped by promotions of a specific image, but also by ‘policing’. Males utilize an already oppressive and offensive language towards males, specifically younger males (because older males have already be socialized to fit a masculine image) to create something that is not “bad”. The “Be a Man” box is actually quite empty of things to actually be and an attempt to keep everything bad out. I’m always impressed by Kimmel’s definition of homophobia. Homophobia as the fear of other men is a completely legitimate phobia because men rationalize violence and dangerous activities as a proper response to things that they perceive to threaten their masculinities. The discipline we give to boys cause them to lose their abilities to experience feelings besides anger, and thus they resort to violence to express this. It’s always a wonder to me why women aren’t more phobic of men.

My personal experience with masculinity, as I have more recently come to acknowledge, is one that often comes from a somewhat outside point of view. I am an ardent pacifist, which stems from my religious upbringing as a Mennonite (a pacifist Anabaptist religion). I have never found it appropriate to use violence as a rational way to solve problems. The emotion which I internalized most while growing up was sadness, partly because I lost a lot of good friends when they started to value more masculine activities which glorified violence and partly because sadness was an acceptable and, perhaps, the appropriate reaction to violence in my community. I try to distance myself from hyper-masculinity because I have always been aware of the violence it necessitates, but have not distanced myself from a male image because I want to prove, if even to myself, that masculinity should not be mainly anger and aggression.

Now that I read the Adams and Coltrane paper, I am reminded that my family life was not exactly heteronormative. My father was a stay at home dad until my mom went to graduate school. My mom, once she finished grad school, made a comfortable living; if we lived with just my father’s income—even to this day—we would be below the poverty line. I also grew up with an older sister who I had no real power over—she got better grades than me, she was better at sports than me, she got better roles in plays than I did. Both of my parents were very careful not to insist that I do anything—just that if I wanted to do it, I could do it—just like I saw my sister do. Certainly my parents were gendered enough that I knew who was male and who was female, but they never made gender a reason that they did anything. All of these things helped me see women and men from a non-masculine viewpoint. It wasn’t really until college that I realized that my family was not normal at all and that my upbringing in it made me also not normal.

These gender norms that my family did not follow are very evident in commercials. Reading Messner and Montez de Oca relayed the irony that these commercials portray such narrow gender definitions yet still can portray a happy and healthy lifestyle. As we have established masculinity does not necessarily lend itself to a happy family, nor does femininity. This article goes further than the previous readings in that it illustrates the instability of hegemonic masculinity in today’s world and how commercials and print images are rushing back to try to save it. The authors really hit it home when they describe how a beer advertisement portrays a perfect world for the masculine man. With beer, and a masculine existence, a man can do whatever he wants in this world where women are hypersexualized, itemized, and portrayed as bitches or scary– never whole women. This paper also shows that men are socialized to be ill-suited for family life by the rejection of women as complete humans.

I found that this year’s Super Bowl commercials were less focused on the “loser” aspect of masculinity, and more on the way that masculinity is highly associated with wealth. Almost all the car commercials had a man dressed in at least a collared shirt if not a complete suit. I also found women to be less itemized and sexualized, however elements of this still existed.

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5 thoughts on “Strike a Pose, Guyland, Boys and Men in Families, and Male Consumer as Loser by Patrick Gallagher Landes

  1. Luis Ramos:

    What exactly makes one “normal?” It seems to me that you’re a bit ashamed that your family is not like other families we tend to hear about and label as ideal. I’m actually intrigued by your personal experience just because I’ve never met anyone whose father was a stay-at-home day. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. If anything, your dad was contradicting social norms by doing what “typical” fathers wouldn’t do, and I admire him for that. Growing up, I always hoped, and still hope, to become a stay-at-home dad. I mean, the idea itself sounds magnificent, just ‘cause working from home wouldn’t require much work. Apart from that, I love working with children. My father was never home until the late hours of the day. I don’t want to be like my father, missing every special occasion of their child’s life, therefore I think being a stay-at-home dad would be beneficial and quite an experience. Up to this day, I don’t pay much attention to gendered norms. I acknowledge the difference between what a male should/shouldn’t do compared to a female. I’m not an average-masculine guy. I think it’s only “normal” to be who you truly are rather than trying to be what others expect you to be. Your masculinity/femininity does not determine who you are. There are other characteristics that play a role into that determination. So whatever you consider “normal,” might actually not even be “normal.” You’re ultimately in charge of making that decision all by yourself.

    1. Luis, I think I meant “normal” in a heteronormative way. I’m very glad that my family wasn’t heteronormatively “normal”! I think that a “normal” family system generally does follow heterosexist norms, and I’m certainly glad that I didn’t grow up with them. But going against norms is difficult because you face, at the very least, micro-aggressions when you are within a heteronormative environment. So it has not been easy for me, although I know who I am is right.

      Patrick

  2. Gracie Hall:

    Patrick, I connected your analysis of Kimmel back to Messner and Montez de Oca. You mentioned how men are constantly reaffirming their masculinity through homosocial competition and affirmation, whereas women are disregarded from this process almost entirely. This I thought, seemed to contrast with my reading of Messner and Montez de Oca’s article. Now of course, Messner and Montez are analyzing ads, and Kimmel real life–but I thought it was interesting how these commercials were often structured with women being the main determinant of a man’s masculinity. Messner and Montez de Oca highlight how men are often portrayed as “loser” who are
    “always on the cusp of being publicly humiliated, either by their own stupidity, by other men, or worse, by a beautiful women” (1887). As I mentioned, I think both authors are analyzing different things so it isn’t a question of who is right or wrong, but I think it is an interesting difference that I believe can be connected back to violence, especially violence against women.

  3. Alia Roth:

    Gracie, I completely agree with your connection analysis of Kimmel and Messner’s article back to violence against women – specifically with your point on their commentary on how men are taught to reenforce their masculinity and how that impacts their need to demonstrate violence (often in sports, which we spoke about last week) as well as towards each other and women.

    Patrick, I more wanted to comment on your concluding remark, “I also found women to be less itemized and sexualized, however elements of this still existed.” While I somewhat agree, there were not women in bikinis or pouring beer on themselves or the usual sexism that is portrayed during the Superbowl. However, what was there was extraordinary underlying tones of sexism and gendered remarks.

    In the Volkswagen commercial which featured at least 10 – 15 german engineers, there was (debatably) one female engineer who was visible and she was merely someone riding the elevator, getting her butt slapped by the wings growing on the male engineer next to her.

    While GoldieBlox is a huge step forward for the ad industry, it is still so outrageously gendered. With so many of the toys being pink or purple, the girls in the commercial wearing mostly pink and yellow and the lyrics to the song playing says “girls build like all the boys..”. The implications of these kinds of lyrics and colors still abide by the social constructions of gender which are still steps back (in my opinion).

    The Budlight commercial explicitly had one man state to another during a ping pong match “not a bad shot for my little princess”

    Chevy opens their commercial with “A man and his truck”

    Go Daddy stereotyped all male and female body builders to be obsessed with spray tanning…

    I don’t even need to comment on the Soda Stream commercial as a few of our classmates have posted on it and it screams sexist.

    There are so many more subtle micro-aggressions specifically pertaining to gender that I could comment on in regards to the Superbowl. Yes, there was less explicit objectification and sexist commercials – but is it not scarier when there are more subtle remarks that we are socialized not even to hear anymore? So many of my friends commented and were like “Aren’t you thrilled that there were no naked women in the Super Bowl commercials? Yay progress!” and my response was merely… “Are those really how low our standards are for women?”

    To watch some of these commercials:

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