This weeks reading from Cloud’s Strike a Pose, to Messner and Montez de Oca’s The Male Consumer as Loser, to Kimmel’s Guyland, to Adams and Coltrane’s Boys and Men in Families all captured the lack of male gendered roles in private and family life. Men are taught to be strong, successful, and callous rather than sensitive, intuitive, and self-sacrificing.
Kimmel starts the discussion of what it means to be socialized to be a man with accounts of boys forced to endure pain or humiliation by father figures – dads, coaches, teachers- in an attempt of toughening up the young men into the unflinching masculine ideals they all one day hope to embody. Boys proclaim their perceptions of what it means to be a man with sentiments like “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Take it Like a Man,” and “Nice Guys Finish Last.” As a young woman who has a father, two brothers, no sisters, a male best friend, and a boyfriend, I’ve witnessed too many times the homosocial pressures young men feel to prove their masculinity – to other men. Interestingly while women are just as, if not more, judgmental of their sex and gender, they are socialized to show off their femininity in the presence of men, while men show off their masculinity in the presence of other men. Think of the stereotypical first date. This is where women are taught to emphasize just how petite and feminine they can be. Women are taught to take up as little space as possible, let the man both pay and drive, be quiet and polite, and order a salad, all while maintaining an air of reserved sensuality. Men have no such qualms. Conversely, the epitome of masculinity always occur far from the imposing eyes of women: on boys night. Boys agree to go along with boys regardless of the stupidity or vulgarity of a plan (with the help of alcohol) simply to prove that they are one of the guys. One of the guys has a girlfriend? He had better never bail on a boys night or show any reservations about a late night strip club escapade or he’ll never live down the shame of being a “sissy.”
This socialization into separate gender roles comes to fruition in Adams and Coltrane’s Boys and Men in Families where we learn that because masculine roles only exist in the public sphere, they literally do not know what roles to play in private and family life. Men who most personify their quintessential gender norms are the most likely to perpetuate these in their children, since they cannot see the inherent similarities between their daughters and sons. An interesting portion of this article spoke about how young boys seek less attention from their mothers sometime after they turn two. It is unclear if mothers or sons (or a combination of the two) initiate this separation, but it is clear that this distancing from the adult world gives little boys more freedom to explore and play roughly with each other, while little girls are still treated delicately. I’m currently witnessing a similar push and pull from my brother and mother. My younger brother is a sophomore in highschool and has been feeling the pressure to prove his masculinity by rejecting his previously close relationship with my mother. It’s sad to watch his internal struggle as he shifts from wanting to enjoy the same mother-son bond that he’s always had and wanting to prove to all the male influences in his life that he is a strong, independent man who doesn’t need anyone. I was also disheartened by the options of family life that exists today (at least in classic heterosexual, white, middle class marriages). Since many men are not sure how to rectify their public gender roles with the demands of a feminist-influenced family, they often opt out of partnership rather than try to learn new roles. I obviously do not think this is always the case, and think it is a little unfair to think that men have no idea how to conduct themselves in family life, but this article makes it clear that men have a much harder time being in a family than they do possessing a family.
After reading both Strike a Pose, and The Male Consumer as Loser, I settled in for a long night of football, breasts, and beer (my mother has been calling it the stupidity-bowl for years). This year’s superbowl Sunday started in hilarious fashion with a text from my mother bemoaning the internet buzz about Kate Upton learning the touchdown dance reading: “way to challenge yourself and women, Kate!” (http://www.tmz.com/2014/02/01/kate-upton-new-super-bowl-dance-tracy-morgan-tmz-tv/) This TMZ video report made me hate the media even more, it’s horrifyingly exploitive and hypersexualized, but the best part is the women saying “Look what she’s wearing, she can’t dance in that.” Superbowl Sunday continued with pizza and wings with my friends – the boys drinking and hanging out, while the girls ordered their own sushi and did homework during the game. Strangely this year’s commercials weren’t actually all that bad. Yes, women were not allowed to drive and men were always shown as successful and independent with beautiful female supports, but Coke and Cheerios both impressed me by showing inter-racial relationships and attempting to break the over-sexualized media norm. After a few brief searches on the internet, I stumbled across this Forbes article (http://www.forbes.com/sites/prishe/2014/02/03/2014s-best-super-bowl-commercials/) which actually criticizes Sodastream for not using Scarlett Johansson’s full sexual power to their advantage. Apparently Oikos’ oral sex innuendos actually seemed totally sexy to Forbes instead of bizarre, uncalled for, and out of place. This year the Superbowl seemed more subtle about their genderization, which I believe reflects another shift like those noted in Male Consumer as Loser, to a more veiled media presentation of the patriarchy — in order to keep the bitches and whores from getting defensive or offended. The App #NotBuyinIt was a very interesting tool while watching the 2014 Superbowl commercials, especially when users would post horrifyingly sexists statements onto the actual forum.