In Boys and Men in Families, Adams and Coltrane discuss how we are gendered even before we are born; “Once the baby arrives, new parents advertise the sex of their infant so that no mistake can be made as to its traits or prospects for success: Is it a future president or a future wife and mother?” The contrast between these two futures is shocking. Is this true? Do we really raise our girls to be successful at home and boys to be successful in the “real” world? Certainly it does seem that what is considered boyish is seen as better. It is actually fairly common for girls to be encouraged to do “boyish” activities, to climb trees and play sports and to like toys such as Legos. For example, one ad that stood out to me from the Super Bowl was the Goldie Blocks ad. It depicts young girls ditching their dolls and all things pink in purple, and turning them into a rocket. Oddly, the ad barely showed the product it was supposed to be selling. While I appreciate the company’s attempt to encourage girls to play with other kinds of toys, I was disappointed by the message that girly toys are inferior, and girls should play with toys that tend to be gendered male (suggesting that masculinity=superiority). However, it is unlikely for boys to be encouraged to participate in more feminine activities.
A major idea that I took away from Guyland is that masculinity is “homosocial.” It is done by men for other men. Women come into “Guyland” as a way to prove and be rewarded for masculinity, but they are merely part of impressing other men. In Guyland, Kimmel mentions how he asked people how they can tell when a man is gay. The responses were problematic in that they relied on stereotypes. However, these stereotypes were odd because they were all very positive, such as having good taste and being a good listener. In any case, a stereotypically gay man sounds significantly more appealing than the stereotyped “manly man” that aggressive and aspires to have the emotional capacity of an inanimate object. Why, then, would guys go to such lengths to make sure that no one mistakes them for being gay?
Reading “The Male Consumer as Loser” made me really frustrated and really angry. Perhaps what bothered me most about the ads that were studied is what Messner and Montez de Oca call the Bitch/Whore dichotomy. In these ads, women are portrayed as either nagging, annoying, and overemotional beings that men want to get rid of, or as hyper sexualized, sex fantasy creatures that are objectified and only good for voyeurism and/or sex. Instead of presenting a problem and showing how a solution can be found through a product, these ads sell a lifestyle that becomes associated with a product. However, in doing this the ads tell men that this is the ultimate lifestyle that all men should want. This lifestyle is one of leisure, camaraderie between men, and either the sexualizing or diminution of women. Women play a minor role in these ads. They are there as sex objects, annoyances that supposedly lead to alcoholism, or in order to prove men’s heterosexuality. Men could be shown with their arms around each other and showing affection and it is acceptable, because the legs of a stripper in the foreground prove that they are straight. Women are also portrayed as the intangible; alcohol is sold as consolation for not being able to obtain hot women. As the reading says, “First they arouse men, and then they inevitably make them feel like losers.” Apparently, men these days can no longer relate to the suburban breadwinner of the 50s, nor the hardworking man’s man of the 70s and 80s. Instead, these ads suggest that the modern middle class white man can relate to “losers.” According to Messner and Montez de Oca, this idea is based in insecurities brought by a combination of deindustrialization and cultural shifts brought by “challenges to white male supremacy.” At the end of the day, however, men can still have their friends and beer. Losers seem less loserish when they have friends, and drinking is cool. Problem solved.