Week 4; January 27th- February 2nd Blog Entry #1 (Done by M).

Challenging the Gender Binary

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Upon first viewing, this “Huffington Post” interview presents a seemingly comedic take on a decline in masculinity and a rise in metrosexuality. Upon second viewing, it became apparent that not only was Nick Adams not joking about his belief that there is a decline in masculinity, but he accredits it entirely to the increase in feminism, resulting in male oppression. After more viewings, it struck me as necessary to further explore his theory that a decrease in masculinity holds potentially catastrophic consequences.

Here is an overview: Nick Adams newest book, “American Boomerang” addresses a supposed global decline in male masculinity. Adams largely accredits this decline to the rise in feminism, which he claims has resulted in “angry women, and feminine men” (Adams). According to Adams, masculinity is associated with rough-and-tumble men, which he refers to as “manly men” (Adams). Adams argues that male tendencies and activities are being suppressed, consequently resulting in “metrosexual” men, who are not in keeping with the traditional perception of masculinity, upon which Adams bases much of his opinion (Adams). This can apparently have negative repercussions at both the domestic and international level. Because of America’s dominant role on the world stage, Adams deems it especially pressing that this ‘problem’ of effeminate men be reversed back to ‘normal’. Adams maintains that there are widespread implications for this decline in masculinity, including potential compromise in American national security. For all these reasons, I will examine Adams’ hypothesis that feminism is a detriment to male-behavior, and masculinity is defined only by the degree to which one can measure up with Adams’ idealized ‘man’s man’.

Adams holds masculinity to one standard, with no room for variances or outside interpretation. At the outset, what he fails to realize is that masculinity is a socially constructed phenomenon. He says, “all aspects of male culture have been called into question. Whether it’s gathering around on a Sunday afternoon to watch football with a few friends, whether it’s going to the range and shooting some guns, whether it is just being a male has now been made really suspect – and that is a very dangerous thing” (Adams). What is important to note about this sentence is how Adams operates under the very contestable assumption that “being a male” has to involve these types of activities (Adams). With Adams, male culture is universal; in reality, culture is merely beliefs and values subject to individual understanding. For some individuals, it could be the case that shooting guns and watching football is part of their culture, but it is presumptuous to assume every male adheres to this one standard of behavior. While society progresses, some people are left behind. This seems to be the case with Adams, as in the nineteenth century, “the identification of manliness with sport appeared as a strong theme”, and now this is changing (Root Aulette, and Wittner). Sports were predominately male-dominated, but now that they have expanded beyond gender constraints, it has allowed for “increasing women’s athleticism”, which “represents a genuine quest by women for equality, control of their own bodies and self-definition, and as such represents a challenge to the ideological basis of male domination” (Root Aulette, and Wittner). Contrary to Adams’ belief, feminisms is not about oppressing men, or even solely about raising feminine awareness; feminisms goes both ways: it is about allowing people from all walks of life a free and just society, with equal and ample opportunity. As equality becomes more customary in society, it is becoming acceptable for men to pursue occupations and hobbies that were once exclusively feminine. In this respect, and operating under Adams’ notion of ‘manly-men’, his aforementioned notion of masculinity in decline holds some merit. However, this should be viewed as a step in the right direction for all types of people who have interests that challenge the gendered vertical mosaic.

Adams is correct in saying that because America is an international leader, it must set an example that the rest of the world can follow. These same sentiments were share by United States President, Barack Obama during his celebrated State of the Union address on January 28th, 2014. However, their respective definitions of a ‘positive example’ are fundamentally different. Whereas Obama takes a diplomatic approach to international affairs—“our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power ­– including strong and principled diplomacy” (Obama), Adams sings a different tune. Because he believes that America wants to “win” in the international system, he calls on a masculine approach to do so—“wimps and wussies deliver mediocrity, and men win” (Adams). This begs the question, if men “win”, do women lose? First consider this: Obama’s method of American diplomacy has persuaded over fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials and weaponry from reaching the wrong hands. If this is a result of masculine decline, I like it.

Barack Obama discusses women's equality in his 2014 State of the Union Address

Barack Obama discusses women’s equality in his 2014 State of the Union Address

Masculinity is a socially constructed ideal. During the very first class of GNDS125, we were presented with a picture of Ernest Hemingway as a baby, wearing a pink outfit. This picture, taken at the end of the nineteenth century presents a sharp contrast to what is considered ‘usual’ today—where pink is associated with femininity, and blue with masculinity. Arbitrary social norms such as this are everywhere in our society, and unfortunately they usually go unquestioned and unchallenged. However, in a society as progressive and accepting as it is today, (think gay marriage or gay parenting) people of all types are given the opportunity to explore what was considered unchartered territory hundreds of years ago. We are no longer bound by gender taboos to the same extent (though it is still an uphill battle). In regards to Adams’ claim that feminism is oppressing men, it should be repeated that feminists give a voice to all types of people. The metaphor that he uses about men switching from wrestling crocodiles, to wrestling lattes pretty much sums up his whole argument. However, he has not considered the possibility that some men simply prefer lattes.

– M

Work Cited

Adams, Nick. Interview by Elisabeth Hasselback, Colin Cowherd. American             Boomerang. 17 01 2014. Huffington Post. 01. Print.             http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/elisabeth-hasselbeck-            feminism_n_4619669.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular.

Root Aulette, Judy, and Judith Wittner. “Gendered Worlds.” Trans. Array Popular             Culture, Media, and the Spectacle of Sports. . 2nd. New York City: Oxford             University Press Inc., Print.

Obama, Barack. “Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address: Full text.” CBS             Newspaper[http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obamas-2014-state-of-the-            union-address-full-text/] 28 01 2014, n. page. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.             <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obamas-2014-state-of-the-union-address-            full-            text/>.

Week 4; January 27th-February 2nd Blog Entry #1 (Done by R).

The Exceptions 

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The priorities of our modern day society have shifted and now instead of teaching not to rape, women are being taught how to not be raped. Rape is being justified and rapists are being defended. Rape victims are constantly being scrutinized for irrelevant facts such as their previous sexual history, what they were wearing or anything else that makes them seem like they ‘deserved’ it. Rape is not something anyone deserves and under absolutely no circumstances is it anywhere near to being remotely understandable. Roman Polanski plead guilty to drugging and raping Samantha Geimer, a young girl at the age of 13 years old. If he had been any other regular human being there is no way this story would have received so much attention and controversy. The facts are simple. He raped her and in our world, rapists are punished. Yet in the eyes of our star-struck society, Polanski is not a normal person, he is talented and extraordinary, so because of that he is above the law. Hollywood actors and actresses backed this horrendous man, trying to justify that a mere 42 days in jail was enough, that he had served his time, and now he can return to being a celebrated Hollywood icon. In no way is rape justifiable. These famous icons have a huge effect on young people around the world, and hearing them justify rape is so incredibly damaging to our society. “He made a little mistake 30 years ago,” and “it wasn’t rape-rape,” were some of the appalling excuses made to defend this man by famous icons. Why is Polonski given special treatment while other inhumane rapists are left to rot in jail? He deserves this punishment just as much as the rest, yet because these ‘powerful’ people support his horrific actions based on his talent, he is above the law- an exception. These famous icons need to realize the effect they have on the world and on us ‘normal’ people. They need to understand it is not justifiable for a man to rape a 13-year-old girl and certainly not acceptable to be excused because of his status and ‘genius’ work.

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Unlike Polonski who admitted to his crime, the famous Woody Allen denies the allegations against him to this day. He was charged with molesting his adopted daughter at the age of 7 years old and because of his status and persistence that it was a lie, the allegations were swept under the carpet. He is now free to live a privileged life while Dylan Farrow, his victim, has to live her life with the constant reminder that the fatherly-figure she grew up with and who abused her, got away with it. When Woody Allen was given the honor of receiving a Golden Globe, his son Ronan Farrow tweeted, “Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?” This disgusting behavior should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Not only did this man molest his adopted daughter, but his wife found naked pictures of their other adopted child when she was 18 years of age. Allen used his fatherly and white dominance over his adopted Asian child and I have no doubt in my mind that affair started before she was of legal age, so not only is that incest but it is abuse.

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Intersectionality comes into play in this topic because in modern day, people in regular society, with normal jobs and lives are seen to be in a completely different class with less rites and a quieter voice than these celebrities. They are so idolized, celebrated and loved, that even when one emerges as a criminal, excuses are made and people attempt to justify their crime. They are separated from us and are made to seem more superior because their talents have become popular and known around the world. Yet they are on the exact same level as everyone else in this world. Laws that apply to regular people apply to them and under no circumstances can these ‘genius’s’ crimes be justified. Celebrities need to become more aware of and not be so ignorant about these different issues because their voices are heard and they have the power to influence so many people. There is no defense for rapists and molesters. Someone who would willingly inflict that kind of pain upon another person and basically ruin a life deserves absolutely no form of defending whatsoever. There should be no difference between a regular criminal and a genius that has committed a crime. They are under the same law and should be treated that way, with no exception. 

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Sources:

 Awards.hell. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://awards.hell.ca/roman-polanskis-arrest-makes-everyone-go-insane-029841.php&gt;.

 The Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2442225/Woody-Allen-scandal-Son-Ronan-Frank-Sinatras-daughter-Dylans-sexual-abuse-claim.html&gt;.

 SheWired. 2014 Here Media, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://www.shewired.com/opinion/2014/01/17/op-ed-when-hollywood-excuses-famous-men-who-rape&gt;.

Week 4; January 27th- February 2nd Blog Entry #1 (Done by S).

mannequinssidewalk

A “Window” into Body Modifications
Living in a society obsessed with the physical form, I am inundate daily by images of the body through beauty, fashion, health and fitness. Popular culture has literally taken over every corner of my world through; newsstands, convenience stores, billboards, online ads and shop windows. Images assault consumers parading pictures of the ‘ideal’ physical form, the ‘perfect 10’, and ultimately telling individuals what is beautiful and what they need to look like. If consumers don’t measure up, and let’s be honest, who can, no need to fear because you can change yourself. There are a plethora of body modifications one can submit to in the lifelong struggle to attain the holy grail of human perfection set out by society. Easing in gently beginning with make-up, dieting follows fast on its heels; a ‘rite of passage’ from childhood to adolescence, and the overabundance of hair removal products indicates with great clarity that hair should only exist on the top of your head. With that being said, in January 2014 artist Dov Charney teamed up with the clothing company American Apparel, injecting new energy into discussions that target the question of free will in regards to body modifications when they featured more ‘natural’ looking female mannequins in their East Houston Street storefront. Clothed in sheer undergarments the female forms sport a healthy growth of pubic hair, helping to renew interest in the question of how much free will do we have concerning our appearance?

Free will is a controversial topic of discussion that often ends up incorporating philosophical viewpoints in accordance with ethic and morals. I believe that the concept and right of free will is a concern for every individual. Within societal norms and laws individuals can decide how much free will they choose to exercise and over what aspects of their lives. In my opinion combining free will in accordance with body modifications and representations of beauty portrayed through popular culture creates a relevant discourse in understanding the ways in which society influences individuals but highlights the question, is it possible to overcome this in a structured patriarchal society?

Advertisements are a powerful source of subliminal messaging. It doesn’t take much conscious effort to internalize the pictures and the attached meanings from what is portrayed to us. Following fashion week on TV how many of us find ourselves drawn towards the ‘new hot colours of the season’ the next time we’re out shopping. Apparently we learn quickly and advertisements work. The powers that be within society tell us what we should look like and we work hard at making it happen. Body modifications are done everywhere in the world, the outcomes being specific to what the culture deems as beautiful. With that being said, North Americans are significant participants in the business of body modifications. We are our bodies; we wax, pluck, shave, pierce, snip, and colour them choosing what we hide or strut. Whether the conscious choice is made to pick up a magazine and read it, or purposefully watch that television ad, or actively window shop, a glance is all it takes to plant the visual seed that tells us that we don’t measure up. Glorification of our body parts through advertising propaganda and questionable publicity has created a perversely distorted view of normality, where creams and potions are considered ‘child’s play’ in the world of body modifications and surgery is a one’s best friend.

There are reasons individuals stand in front of the mirror squeezing, squishing, analyzing and critiquing every square inch of their bodies; distraught at the discovery of some new bump or wrinkle. I believe bodies, specifically womens bodies are commodities ‘owned and operated’ by the dominant social group of white, male, heterosexual men, having claimed jurisdiction they maintain control through popular culture. “It is through these visual medias that we learn what a ‘proper’ height/weight ratio may be, even if we end up harming our bodies to attain it. We learn that filling out that C-cup will make us more confident. We learn that we must not have scars or stretch marks and our genitals must look like those we see in magazine photos…” (Bond).

Since popular culture presents the ideals of the dominant class there are messages that will be seen and those that won’t. Having chosen to go outside the conventional ‘box’ of advertising Charney’s mannequins are on display for society to gawk at and react to. Being a white woman who looks affluent she remains on the safe side of race and class. However, being a white woman who looks like a businesswoman she is branded by sex role stereotypes that accuse career women of being masculine aggressive, and pushy (Hurn 2012:130). Struggling through work and family conflict perhaps she is unable to take the time for her own personal care and grooming. She is socially acceptable by remaining tastefully sexy in her sheer undergarments only to be objectified by her gender through the presence of nipples and sheer nylons reminiscent of pornographic images. Inside the controlled boundaries of hegemony and popular culture, Charney’s ad pushes the limits of beauty; what is beautiful and what is socially acceptable. However, it can also be viewed as contributing to the systematic patriarchal confinement of beauty by objectifying women and attributing value to them as objects that should be scantily clad having merit only in their physical form.

Having come full circle in the question of free will over appearance; choice is an option that includes shades of grey but only inside the black and white rules maintained by social control. Women and men will continue to face themselves in the mirror and compare their reflections with images provided through popular culture. They will make choices to wax, pluck, shave, pierce, snip, or colour the offensive parts and some of those choices will be based on their personal desires while others will be their response to the control of others in society. In this way society continues to create the ‘perfect 10’ and the cycle of beauty continues.

– S entry.

Sources used:
– Bond article taken from http://www.bookslut.com/21st_century_fox/2004_12_003784.php
– Photo and article topic taken from http://gothamist.com/2014/01/16/american_apparel_mannequin.php
– Hurn, Brian J. 2012. “Removing the boardroom glass ceiling.” Industrial and Commercial Training
44(3):126-131.