Tag Archives: masculinity

Gender and Super Heroes/oines

In light of Captain America’s soon-to-be film debut, I saw this article today on the Good Men Project:

“Captain America is the Best Man” by Mark D.:

As a longtime comics fan, I find inspiration in many of the superheroes whose adventures I read every month, but none inspire me as much as Captain America. Simply put, to me, Cap stands as an example of the best we can be. He embodies all of the classical virtues that are just as important now as they were in the days of the ancient Greeks, including honesty, courage, loyalty, perseverance, and, perhaps most importantly, honor (in particular, military honor). While I can’t be as strong or fast as Cap, I can hope to be as honest, courageous, and honorable.

(Although Mark D. argues that Captain America has moved beyond his jingoist, hegemonically masculine, and paternalistic roots, in a post-911 age these historic roots cannot be denied.)

And that’s great and all.  The guy seems just swell.

But it got me thinking – where are all of the honest, courageous, and strong superheroines?  Most of them are either crazy or can’t control their powers or they’re young with teenage troubles or sex on the brain. 

Literally I can only think of Xena.  Any thoughts?

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Drinks, Masculinity, and Sexuality

Jesus Christ, who knew that sodas were now being segregated by sex and gender?  I mean, I’ve always heard about alcoholic drinks being divided by gender (and sexuality for men) and have always hated the assumption that drinks were weaker and therefore more feminine based on sugar content and color.

On this thread, men not only argue that appletinis are for girls and Guinness is for boys, but go even further by arguing what shots are considered “girly” and what mixed drinks “manly,” regardless of the drink’s effect on your blood alcohol level.

This gender and sexuality binary is perpetuated in pop culture.  Case in point – Scrubs:

But now things are reverting back to the Stone Age, i.e. the 1970s and before.

Here’s the new commercial for Dr. Pepper 10, with the tagline, “Not for Women”:

As long as I’ve been keeping track, Dos Equis ads have always been marketed towards men, but here’s a new one comparing women to wild animals and men to hunters, with commentary from Jezebel:

And here’s an ad for Imperial whiskey from 1975, with the slogan, “Every man should have his own.”  Obviously talking about more than just liquor…

I don’t really know what to make of this.  At what age do drinks become gendered?  Are grape juice boxes more masculine than apple ones?  And is Dr. Pepper’s new tagline working, for a drink that I’ve always considered gender-neutral?

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The Good Men Project

The Good Men Project – a website about men that’s not sexist and heterosexist, for single men and fathers.  Check it out.  Here’s their about:

First, we’re try­ing to make the world a bet­ter place. Seri­ously. In that pur­suit, we give 25 per­cent of our prof­its to orga­ni­za­tions that help at-risk boys.

Sec­ond, we’re try­ing to rede­fine what a men’s mag­a­zine can be. Sure, we write about sports. Yes, we write about sex (although we do it with­out sell­ing sex). But unlike so many other men’s mag­a­zines, we don’t patron­ize or car­i­ca­tur­ize our audi­ence. We try to bring out the best in men, and we do that by pro­duc­ing con­tent that chal­lenges men to think deeply—and to talk about the things they don’t usu­ally talk about.

With a name like the Good Men Project, some folks assume that we’re going to tell men how to be good. This assump­tion has led at least one media critic to sug­gest that we might be a “con­ser­v­a­tive culty thing.” Oth­ers have called us “fem­i­nists” because, we sus­pect, we cel­e­brate, pub­lish, and appear to be very pop­u­lar with women. (Ms. Mag­a­zine said we are “what enlight­ened mas­culin­ity might look like in the 20th century.”)

We sup­pose we are a dif­fi­cult mag­a­zine to cat­e­go­rize, and that’s exactly how we like it. We’re not inter­ested in telling men how they should go about liv­ing their lives, nor are we intent on pro­mot­ing a cer­tain “image” of mas­culin­ity. We’re inter­ested instead in cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity where men (and the women who love us) can talk openly and hon­estly about their lives.

 

And here’s one of the many great articles from the website about Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

Men and the Sexualization of Young Girls by Hugo Schwyzer

Encour­ag­ing princess culture—however innocently—contributes to the sex­u­al­iza­tion of girls. Men can be part of the solu­tion to the ‘princess prob­lem.’

This may sur­prise the read­ers of the Good Men Project Mag­a­zine, but we’re part of a prob­lem: the princess problem.

More and more experts rec­og­nize that “princess cul­ture” does great harm to girls. I don’t know how many GMPM read­ers also read Red­book, but it’s worth check­ing out this story: “Lit­tle Girls Gone Wild: Why Daugh­ters Are Act­ing Too Sexy, Too Soon.” In it, Peggy Oren­stein (the author of the new and impor­tant Cin­derella Ate My Daugh­ter: Dis­patches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Cul­ture), makes the case that a lot of the pre­ma­turely sexy behav­ior and dress we’ve all noticed is actu­ally rooted in some­thing we think is very inno­cent: the world of princesses.

You may balk—what’s sexy about a lit­tle girl in a pink princess cos­tume? But sexy, as it turns out, is not the same thing as sex­u­al­ized. Sex­u­al­iza­tion is not just impos­ing sex­u­al­ity on chil­dren before they’re ready and view­ing girls as sex­ual objects, but also valu­ing a girl for her appear­ance over her other attrib­utes. “Princesses are just a phase,” Oren­stein writes, but they mark a girl’s “first foray into the main­stream cul­ture. … And what was the first thing that cul­ture told her about being a girl? Not that she was com­pe­tent, strong, cre­ative, or smart, but that every lit­tle girl wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.”

This may be true, but how is it our prob­lem as men? Many—maybe even most of you who are read­ing this—don’t have daugh­ters. A lot of you aren’t dads at all. Whether you think lit­tle girls dressed up as Snow White are cute or not, what does the prob­lem Oren­stein describes have to do with you?

Well, for starters almost every man has—or will have—a lit­tle girl in his life. If not a daugh­ter then a niece, a lit­tle cousin, your buddy’s kid, your son’s friend from play­group. And if you care about the well-being of these girls, this issue of princess cul­ture and sex­u­al­iza­tion mat­ters to you. The bad news is, you may be part of the prob­lem; the good news is, you can be part of the solution.

♦◊♦

Thank­fully, most men aren’t sex­u­ally attracted to pre­pu­bes­cent girls. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a very strong response when we see a 6-year-old dressed up as cute as can be. For men, com­pli­ment­ing older girls and women for their looks is often sex­u­ally charged and likely to get you in trou­ble. But as fathers, uncles, and oth­ers notice, lit­tle girls of princess age rarely have the same cau­tion and sus­pi­cion about older men as their older sis­ters. Often trans­par­ent in their eager­ness for atten­tion and val­i­da­tion, they light up at praise. And no com­pli­ment is eas­ier to give than “You’re so pretty.”

Five-year-olds in princess cos­tumes are cute. But the prob­lem is that the com­pli­ments we give as fathers, uncles, and coaches have an impact on the self-esteem of lit­tle girls. As they grow up, they real­ize quickly (cer­tainly by age 8 or 9) that Cin­derella cos­tumes won’t cut it any­more. If they want to sus­tain the same level of atten­tion that they had when they were adorable first-graders, they’re going to need to employ a dif­fer­ent strat­egy: sex­i­ness. And that sex­i­ness gets our atten­tion all over again.

Wait a minute, you’re think­ing. I don’t leer at 10-year-olds in miniskirts. I don’t tell my niece that she’s hot. I wish girls would wait longer to be sexy! How am I part of this problem?

As Oren­stein and oth­ers point out, lit­tle girls take their cues about what is desir­able by look­ing at how boys and men respond to older girls and women. The father who lav­ishes ado­ra­tion on “Daddy’s lit­tle princess” but ogles high school cheer­lead­ers is send­ing his daugh­ter a clear mes­sage. The mes­sage is that the princess phase won’t last much longer, and if you want to grasp and hold adult male atten­tion, you need to be sexy.

This sex­i­ness has very lit­tle to do with sex, and every­thing to do with the crav­ing for val­i­da­tion and atten­tion. While all chil­dren want affir­ma­tion, princess cul­ture teaches lit­tle girls to get that approval through their looks. Lit­tle girls learn quickly what “works” to elicit ado­ra­tion from mom and dad, as well as from teach­ers, uncles, aunts, and other adults. Soon—much too soon—they notice that older girls and women get val­i­da­tion for a par­tic­u­lar kind of dress, a par­tic­u­lar kind of behav­ior. They watch their fathers’ eyes, they fol­low their uncles’ gaze. They lis­ten to what these men they love say when they see “hot” young women on tele­vi­sion or on the street. And they learn how to be from what they hear and see.

♦◊♦

This doesn’t mean that good dads shouldn’t let their daugh­ters dress up as princesses. It doesn’t mean that good dads, good big broth­ers, and good uncles should never, ever tell a lit­tle girl that she looks “cute” or “beau­ti­ful.” It does mean that those good grown men need to make sure that they’re also giv­ing her plenty of com­pli­ments that focus on her other qual­i­ties, like her intel­li­gence, her kind­ness, or her ath­leti­cism. But some­thing else mat­ters just as much: how we look at and talk about other girls and women.

Too many men do every­thing they can to pro­tect adored daugh­ters, nieces, and lit­tle sisters—while mak­ing lit­tle attempt to dis­guise their long­ing for other young women who aren’t all that much older than the child they cher­ish. Girls who are raised to see com­pli­ments as cur­rency quickly learn that if they want to keep their praise flow­ing in, they’ll need to do more to “earn” it. And too often, they learn exactly how to earn it from by lis­ten­ing to the words and fol­low­ing the eyes of the men they love and trust most.

 

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Men’s Health has a Feminist Blog

Say what!?

You heard me.  Men’s Health, the obviously titled magazine on men’s health, has added a section on feminism to its online blog.  The posts from this section are written by Kiera Aaron who seems intelligent, nice, witty, and understandable, unlike many commentators on the site.  She’s going to need a flak jacket to deal with these mofos.

If you need some karma today, go to the blog and add a supportive comment feminist blogger Aaron as she tries to make sense of feminism for many very unsupportive, unenlightened, and highly agitated men.

 

For those of you interested in profeminist men’s blogs or readings, check out:

The Takeback: Meditations on Masculinity, Politics, and Culture

Men’s Nonviolent Project

Feminist Allies

Bill’s Profeminist Blog

National Organization for Men Against Sexism

And please add some more if you come across any.  Please and thank you.

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Dinosaur Comics on what it means to say “Man Up!”

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Break free of the “Man Box”

I love this video so much.  First of all, because this semester I’ve read a hell of a lot about men – I’ve been researching the mid-seventies profeminist men’s movement in Rolling Stone.  And it’s really exciting to see many of the same discussions about masculinity more than thirty years later.  In the words of then associate editor of Rolling Stone, Michael Rogers, it’s as if men still feel as if they are an “overclass that ha[s] suddenly sailed dead into a powerful egalitarian movement.”

“While women in the past decade have developed a whole new series of devices to deal with sociosexual pressures, men have not.  Simply to mimic the techniques that work for women is to ignore the obvious fact that men approach the whole problem from precisely the other side.”

I’m here to tell you that Tony Porter is speaking truth to power.  Listen up, men!

At TEDWomen, Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don’t “act like a man.” Telling powerful stories from his own life, he shows how this mentality, drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other. His solution: Break free of the “man box.”

I would also like to encourage you to check out TED where this video is from.  This site has a wide range of speakers presenting on important global issues, WITH translations!  Here are some big names: Isabel Allende, Julian Assange, Bono, Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Eve Ensler, Jane Goodall, and toonnnss more!

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The Plastics at Morehouse

With all of the recent dialogue over homophobia due to the recent teen suicides, we need to have a better discussion about the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality.  In my most recent post on C. J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag, I included a snippet from her section on the racialized contexts of the use of homophobia epithets.

One issue that she didn’t get into is the pressures of heterosexuality within the black community, especially for black men.  After reading Vibe’s article on the new dress code at Morehouse and how it affects transgender students, I felt like I needed to go read some bell hooks.

I initially heard about Morehouse’s changes in its dress code policy when I attended Agnes Scott College – an all women’s college not too far from Morehouse.

In our day and age, traditional femininity is devalued.  (More conservative) Parents expect their daughters to be born fragile, vulnerable, and domestic because they believe these characteristics are biological.  Parents, therefore, encourage girls to be more masculine – more powerful, more engaged in sports, and louder.  Women are lauded for having a balance of both characteristically masculine and feminine traits.

Young boys, on the other hand, are expected to be born masculine, and any hint of femininity is perceived as homosexual, feminine, and therefore weak.  In saying, “Don’t be a sissy, don’t cry!” parents force their boys to continuously “accomplish” their masculinity throughout their lives as they feel that they constantly need to prove it to themselves and others.

Combine this incessant quest for masculinity with the issues of race and you’ve got a hell of an article.

Although it would be great if all Princess Boys could grow up in loving families with supportive schools, Morehouse shows more discussions are needed in how institutions help reinforce heterosexual masculinity.

Here are some excerpts from Vibe’s article “The Mean Girls of Morehouse.”  Read the FASCINATING story in its entirety here.

You should also check out the comments, where you can witness largely black men and women criticizing the actions of these Morehouse students because it reflects badly on the race.  Take, for example, this comment by Desiree, (1 of 234 comments) who stated:

If you dont know about Morehouse College, then you would not understand what the president is coming from… I go to Clark Atlanta University, which is right next door to More house College. What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (who graduateed and tought at Morehouse) say if his school all of a sudden had male students looking like women.
As black people we can not turn our cheek and let foolishness continue. We need to make our ancestors proud and be better for our future. I do not have a problem with gay men because they know what they want, men. I have a problem with Men looking like women claiming to be men and a gay guy looking for a women like man to be his boo, then find a female….
Posted 10-12-2010 01:27 pm
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And finally, some excerpts from the article:

WITHIN THE OPENLY GAY COMMUNITY AT ATLANTA’S MOREHOUSE COLLEGE, THERE’S A SUBGROUP: GENDER BENDERS WHO ROCK MAKEUP, MARC JACOBS TOTE BAGS, SKY-HIGH HEELS AND BEYONCÉ- STYLE HAIR WEAVES. CAN A MAN OF MOREHOUSE BE GAY? ABSOLUTELY. BUT CAN HE BE A WOMAN? MEET THE PLASTICS.

Diamond Martin Poulin, 20, teetering in strappy sandals with three-inch heels, steps into an eclectic clothing boutique in Little Five Points, a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants two and a half miles outside of downtown Atlanta. “Ooooh,” squeals Diamond. “What about this?” Holding up a white floor-skimming skirt with an eyelet hem, he swoons. The proprietor of the store looks up at Diamond, does a double take, and immediately picks up the cordless phone at the register. “There’s a man in here with heels on!” she whispers loudly into the phone. Diamond raises his eyebrows and continues browsing the racks. He shrugs when asked if the comment bothers him. “Isn’t it true?” he says, chuckling. “There is a man in here with heels on.”

Nibbling on sushi later that day, Diamond explains why he left after one year at Morehouse. A bastion for producing leaders in politics, community service and medicine, Morehouse College has long been viewed as the ultimate HBCU for young Black men, who are conferred with the mystique of being “Men of Morehouse.” Established in 1867 in Augusta, Georgia, as the Augusta Institute, the school counts such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr.; financier Reginald E. Davis; School Daze writer/director Spike Lee; the late Keith “Guru” Elam of Gang Starr; and the late Def Jam exec Shakir Stewart among its graduates.

"Diamond"That pedigree is what brought Diamond (pictured left) to Morehouse, but he says the school’s social conservatism drove him out. In October of last year, the Morehouse College administration announced a new “appropriate attire policy.” The dress code stated that students, referred to as “Renaissance Men,” were not allowed to wear caps, do-rags, sunglasses or sagging pants on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events. But what raised most eyebrows was the rule about women’s clothing: no wearing of dresses, tops, tunics, purses or pumps.

The new dress code resulted in a flurry of media coverage, prompting Dr. William Bynum, Jr., vice president for Student Services, to release a statement to several news outlets: “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.” During a recent visit to the campus, the poet Saul Williams wore a skirt in solidarity.

“Morehouse wasn’t ready for me,” says Diamond, who has the word “unbreakable” tattooed on his collarbone and the acronym C.R.E.A.M (“Cash Rules Everything Around Me” coined by rap group Wu Tang Clan) wrapped around his right wrist. “I’m about freedom of expression. I’m about being whomever you truly are inside. I came to Morehouse because of all the historical leaders that attended and impacted the world so heavily. You know, I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. I don’t think Morehouse believes that someone like me—someone who wears heels and dresses—can uphold that reputation. But they’re wrong.”

“We respect the identity and choices of all young men at Morehouse,” Dr. Bynum said via email. “However, the Morehouse leadership development model sets a certain standard of how we expect young men to dress, and this attire does not fit within the model. Our proper attire policy expresses that standard.”

Diamond now attends American InterContinental University, majoring in fashion marketing and design. “I want to, like, teach at Parsons. Or you know, maybe even in London—who knows?”

“I was in the cafeteria, and I had on this cropped hooded sweatshirt. So my stomach was out,” he recalls. “I had on a nice pair of jeans and some sandals. And this boy, a football player, said something that sounded like ‘faggot.’ Before I could even stop myself, I threw my plate of food at him. That’s not even my style. I’m more of a middle-finger kind of person. We ended up yelling at each other for a few minutes, but nothing really came out of it. He could have hit me, but he didn’t. But he didn’t have to. I was already hurt and embarrassed.”

While Diamond insists he’s happier at AIU, his tone and demeanor suggest that he wishes he’d had the opportunity to prove his worth at Morehouse. “I wanted to go to an HBCU,” he says, dipping shrimp tempura into soy sauce. “I wanted the whole African-American experience. I thought it would be a beautiful thing.”

After leaving Morehouse, Diamond would return occasionally to see friends at the school and use the computer lab. Earlier this year, after the new dress code was enacted, he was asked to leave by school security officers. “I had my Nicki Minaj-style Chinese bangs,” says Diamond, a defiant twinkle in his eyes. “I showed them my ID from AIU. I didn’t go to the school, so the dress code should not have applied to me. But they wanted me off campus anyway.”

Kevin Rome, Ph.D., Morehouse class of 1989, is the former vice president for Student Services for the College. He says that people like Diamond are a small minority of the students at the College, and shouldn’t make up such a large percentage of the press the school has received about the appropriate attire policy. “There are nearly 3,000 students at Morehouse, and maybe three that [the ban on women’s attire] applies to. We’re giving such a large influence on a minute population. It’s not representative of the school.”

This is not the first time Morehouse has had to deal with controversy surrounding its gay community. In November, 2002, Morehouse student Gregory Love suffered a fractured skull after being beaten with a baseball bat in a dormitory bathroom shower. A fellow student, Aaron Price, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and served seven for assault and battery. The attack was reportedly prompted by what was thought to be a sexual advance from Love.

Diamond believes he’s a trendsetter. While the population may be small now, he sees the gender benders as a growing group. And as for the future gender benders at Morehouse, Diamond is hopeful. “Even though I’m gone, the Plastics are still represented at Morehouse,” says Diamond. “And I think as time goes on, the administration will have to accept the different types of men enrolled. They need to look to the future. It didn’t work out for me, but I put in the work for people like me to come to Morehouse….”

Read on, friends!

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