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.