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Masculinity in America: Men Judging Men


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Student presentation for WRTG 3020, Spring 2011. The presentation contains a synopsis of key findings from Michael S. Kimmel's article, "Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity."

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Masculinity in America: Men Judging Men

  1. 1. Masculinity in America:Men judging Men<br />by Tammy Curry<br />WRTG 3020<br />Spring 2011<br />
  2. 2. “Put your mother in a straight jacket, you punk ass white boy! Come here and tell me that and I'll fuck you in the ass, you punk white boy. You faggot. You can't touch me, you're not man enough. I eat your asshole alive you bitch. Fuck you you ho. Come say to my face and I fuck you for everybody. You bitch. Come on you bitch. You scared coward, you not man enough to fuck with me. You can't last two minutes in my world bitch. Look at you, you scared now you ho. Scared like a little white pussy. Scared of the real man. I'll fuck you till you love me faggot.”<br /> – Mike Tyson  <br />Click for video<br />
  3. 3. In the previous statement, a man states dominance of another man by calling him words that are associated to femininity and weakness: Faggot, bitch, ho, pussy. He exposes his “enemy” as vulnerable and threatens to physically dominate him stating that the man is “not man enough” and that he is “scared of the real man”. Why does he choose these specific types of words to insult his opponent with instead of other possible insults? <br />
  4. 4. Dr. Michael S. Kimmel’s article, “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity”, explores gender issues from a male perspective and addresses the pressure men have to always prove their manhood. Using this article, this presentation will attempt to explore the how we know what we know about masculinity by exploring the history, the consequences, and how it is identified for the American man. Most importantly, it seeks to create awareness that we can and must change this definition.<br />
  5. 5. Masculinity was not always the competitive situation we know it as today. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries two types of men co-existed:<br />Heroic Artisans described as the working class included farmers, and craftsmen like Paul Revere.<br />Genteel Patriarchs described as refined included land owners like Thomas Jefferson.<br />
  6. 6. The Heroic Artisans and Genteel Patriarchs were able to live in society together because their gender roles complimented each other.<br />Kimmel asserts that eventually these gender roles became overpowered by Capitalists, what he calls “Marketplace Manhood”.<br />This theory is the belief that capitalism drives gender identity: wealth, power, status and the ability to conquer all that he comes across “prove” a man’s worth and therefore his masculinity.<br />
  7. 7. This masculinity is a continuous process that must always being played out and a man can never let his guard down for doing so can reveal weakness or inadequacies. <br />Kimmel describes masculinity is a homosocial enactment which includes exaggerated gendered actions and language to hide signs of so called feminine weakness.<br />
  8. 8. Masculinity resides in a homosocial* environment, perpetuating the cycle that exists.<br />For this homosocial environment to exist, exclusion of others (women, non-white men, homosexuals) must occur. <br />*Homosocial: of, relating to, or involving social relationships between persons of the same sex and especially between men)<br /><br />
  9. 9. Masculinity is a never-ending test, masculinity in our society equates to “not being like a woman”. <br />“masculinity is defined more by what one is not rather than who one is.” (p. 5)<br />“What men need is men’s approval.”<br />-playwright David Mamet (p. 6)<br />
  10. 10. To further extend the definition of manhood, Kimmel provides the following 4 phrases created by psychologist Robert Brannon:<br />“No Sissy Stuff!”<br />“Be a Big Wheel.”<br />“Be a Sturdy Oak.”<br />“Give em Hell.”<br />
  11. 11. How does the cycle begin?<br />The theory is that a young boy is evaluated for his masculinity by his father, always seeking his approval as a man.<br />Boy must prove himself to his father and eventually peers, bosses and other males.<br />
  12. 12. The boy is evaluated his whole life, seeking approval from other men, afraid for being exposed as vulnerable. Now an adult, he continues to try to dominate his world including women, minorities and homosexuals. The cycle exasperates within his interactions in society and offspring<br />Because men need to live up to a standard to seek approval from each other, this standard is rarely obtained, and usually leads to severe consequences.<br />
  13. 13. Far too often, this group who is known as being powerful describe feelings of being powerless.<br />Kimmel claims that men are afraid of other men and describes masculinity as a "nightmare" that other men will discover the man's inadequacies. "Our real fear is "not fear of women but of being ashamed or humiliated in front of other men, or being dominated by stronger men". This fear creates the feeling of being powerless.<br />
  14. 14. The consequences of the current societal definition of masculine are far reaching:<br />One consequence is the effect it may have on a man’s family in that a man may feel that he must work long hours in order to provide and succeed. This value is quite different from those of the Heroic Artisans and Genteel Patriarchs.<br />
  15. 15. Another consequence is depression and suicide because men cannot live up to the standard that has been created. According to Kimmel, “Men commit suicide three times as often as women” often due to a perceived social humiliation.<br />
  16. 16. A third consequence is violence, something manhood is often associated with. Violence is “often the single most evident marker of manhood.” (p. 8) <br />Sexism is also a clear consequence of masculinity. “One of the centerpieces of that exaggerated masculinity is putting women down”<br />
  17. 17. Racism is part of the masculine condition as manhood is given to white, heterosexual, middle/upper-class males. To give masculinity to any other group is to give them power.<br />
  18. 18. Another centerpiece of masculinity is homophobia. Kimmel asserts that homophobia exists because of a fear of being exposed as feminine, i.e., weak.<br />“The fear-sometimes conscious, sometimes not-that others might perceive us as homosexual propels men to enact all manner of exaggerated masculine behaviors and attitudes to make sure that no one could possibly get the wrong idea about us.” (p. 9)<br />
  19. 19. Violence, sexism, racism, homophobia… these are results of proving masculinity. The homosocial environment that has been created continues to give men a sense of power while keeping others out.<br />What could change if men began to embrace their feminine side?<br />
  20. 20. “Girls can wear jeansAnd cut their hair shortWear shirts and boots'Cause it's OK to be a boyBut for a boy to look like a girl is degrading'Cause you think that being a girl is degradingBut secretly you'd love to know what it's likeWouldn't you?What it feels like for a girl”<br />-Madonna<br />
  21. 21. Changing the definition<br />It is possible to allow men to embrace their feminine side. If Kimmel’s theory is correct, if we strive for gender equality can lead to race and sexual equality.<br />By changing how we define masculinity, we may be able to change our society interacts. This is a possible task that can be done through teaching new generations the importance of respecting each other’s gender identities.<br />
  22. 22. Conclusion<br />Referring back to the argument presented at the beginning of this lecture, with Kimmel’s theory we now understand why the argument contained sexist slurs and vulgarities. This behavior is a perfect example of masculinity at its most extreme degree.<br />It is important that we recognize these patterns and change the current characterization of masculinity to combat the negative affects this definition has on men, women, children and society as a whole.<br />
  23. 23. Works Cited<br />Kimmel, Michael S. "Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame,<br />and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity." <br />Gender, Sex, and Sexuality: The New Basics. Eds. Abby <br />Ferber, Kimberly Holcomb, and TreWentling, Oxford: <br />Oxford UP, 2009. 58-69. Print.<br />