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/>.

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4 Comments

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

    A refreshing view to look at these issues of feminism through a masculine perspective. After all, men make up 50% of the population (or there about). How many years has it been since the female suffragettes began the adventure that has taken all of “us” (men and women) on a roller coaster ride and here we are in 2014 still subject to the same fears…that women and feminism are something to be feared. That ‘we’ (women) will only be happy when we have broken every man who walked the face of the earth, bullying them into wearing pink and bowing down to our wims. It would appear that as men (like Nick Adams) perceive feminism to be growing stronger they are rallying the troops and urging all men to boost themselves with a shot of testosterone and join forces on the front line to fight this female menace and resetting the balance…or should I say power and control! So what’s changed, what’s different from the 60’s when women like Naomi Wolf and Gloria Steinem were verbally attacked by male interviewers? Nick Adams has joined them with his rant that in all actuality expresses his own fears that he will have to find a way to be in community with men that choose to wear pink shirts and decorate loft apartments rather than drive monster trucks. Is there anything wrong with either of them? NO!!! Let’s hope that we are all ‘big’ enough to see value in every person’s experience and welcome the diversity that genetics creates everyday in every birth.

    -S.

  2. When I watched that interview with Nick Adams I was shocked completely by the horrible things he was saying about women and men. He seems to have this ignorant mind-set that all men must be manly, football watching, beer-drinking men, and all the others are “wimps and wussies.” I really liked the way you took the quote “wimps and wussies deliver mediocrity, and men win” and discussed how that effects women and I also thought your analysis of that on Obama was very smart too. When you spoke about feminists giving voices to all types of people, I thought this was a great way of putting it because it is so true! We aren’t just fighting for the rights of women; we are fighting for the equality of everyone. For men who are considered “wussies” by people like Adams and anyone else who do not fit under this tiny and impossible category of a “manly man” or the stereotypical ‘beautiful woman.’

    -R.

  3. My first thoughts when I viewed this video were similar to yours, I thought this was a sarcastic response to the rise of feminism. I agree with you when you question Adams’ definition of masculinity and how he restricts it to American culture. As you said, he has most definitely been left behind in the progress of society. It strikes me as odd that Adams even begins to associate shooting guns and watching sports with masculinity when society has progressed so far to cut the lines between what is considered masculine and what is considered feminine. I think it is safe to say in 2014 that a woman watching football on a Sunday night isn’t out of the ordinary – no one took a double take at me watching the Super Bowl last night at least.

    Along with your closing comment regarding the switch from wrestling crocodiles to wrestling lattes, and the idea that some men may simply prefer lattes, I don’t understand why the switch or the preference even matters. Men acting more ‘feminine’, as Adams would say, isn’t actually causing any harm. I think it’s rather admirable and empowering that there are men willing to face the criticism from people like Nick Adams to be true to themselves, regardless of their ‘masculinity decreasing’.

    – J.

  4. How do we even determine what masculinity is? Does it have to solely be a beer drinking and gun shooting culture? I like how this blog challenged those thoughts and stated that the problem with Adams’ hypothesis is that Adams was viewing masculinity from one specific, bound definition. The example of Obama’s diplomacy is a solid one that shows how thick Adams’ ideas are and negates his hypothesis. The one liner at the end about some men preferring lattes was clever and true. Through feminism, men have been able to do things that are more socially accepted now compared to how they would have been perceived years ago before the third wave. It was also refreshing to read a perspective on this video from a male who seemed to believe what he was writing, and not just because all of his group members are girls and felt he should take that stance.
    L

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