I ran across this article this morning and just wanted to share it. It’s from 1987, so, a bit dated. It’s also Australian, and we all know what those people are like. Just kidding! I only mean to say that there may be some opinions or attitudes here which are influenced by their own cultural views.
The article / research touches on a lot of topics, but none of them are presented here in depth. Some of it is a no-brainer, but it’s still worth reading. It’s not the best-written piece ever, but there are a few nice portions:
Masculinity never exists by itself. It exists in relation to femininity, in the context of an over-arching structure of gender relations. To understand that structure is a complex proposition. The structure includes - at least - the social organization of production, the structure of power and authority, and the social organization of emotion. A recognition that structural change is important is nevertheless a key to understanding what is happening to masculinity as a form of personal character.
The dominant form of masculinity in Western culture embodies men's social power over women. It emphasizes force, authority, aggressiveness. But to sustain this cultural ideal, the majority of men as actual living people must be put down. Some fail to match up: their legs are too flabby, their chests not hairy enough, their glance insufficiently flinty.
The dominance of heterosexuality has been socially constructed by tabooing other forms of sexuality. But, as Freud showed, what is tabooed is not abolished. On the contrary it is likely to be given new symbolic and emotional power. Homosexuality haunts the masculine world, as endless jokes about football teams illustrate. Beyond flashy genital performance is a world faintly sensed by many men and actively explored by some of relaxed, mutual, whole-body pleasure. In this direction (though very much in the future) lies a form of sexuality in which gender would cease to be one's social fate and would become mainly a means of play.
I particularly like that line “in which gender would cease to be one's social fate.” Humans cannot help but see themselves as gendered beings. (As Cordelia Fine points out, gender awareness is typically a child’s first form of social identity, preceding identities based on race, religion, nationality, etc.) Nonetheless, some men take a very fatalistic view of their gender or their social gender role. By fatalistic I don’t mean pessimistic. I mean predetermined, unwavering, inevitable—that there is only one way to be a man. Case closed. End of discussion.
Also, it is worth focusing on the social pressure that individuals experience to conform to accepted norms, which all groups of people seem to spontaneously and unconsciously create. Concerns about masculinity have just as much to do with social conformity as they do with male gender, perhaps even more so. When men examine their own masculinity, it is often less from their own perspective than from that of others. Frequently, it is not so much a question of Who am I?, but How will I be perceived by others? As social creatures, acceptance by our peers is important to us, and peer rejection is painful. These emotions are strong motivators. They encourage (or sometimes force) conformity while simultaneously encouraging animosity towards the non-conformist.
Here is the article. Take from it what you can, or want:
THE EVOLVING MAN
We may believe that masculine behaviour should change. But this can be dismissed as mere personal opinion - which is why academic study of masculinity is so valuable. Bob Connell, Norm Radican and Pip Martin publish here for the first time the findings of their pioneering research on men.
'One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.' Simone de Beauvoir's insight applies equally well to men: one is not born, but rather becomes a man. Dean, a bus driver we interviewed, put it simply: 'I've always been brought up that the man is the breadwinner and that the man serviced the woman. They had children. She stayed at home and cooked.'
History and anthropology tell us that this apparently 'natural' arrangement is both recent and culturally specific. In other times and places the arrangements about work, the family, and economic responsibility are very different. What a man believes to be 'masculine' or 'manly', the way he expresses his sexuality and identity, depend mainly on when and where he was born.
Masculinity, then, is produced by historical processes. To understand the way it works and its effects in the world we must study the way it changes. These changes are not trivial. In Renaissance Europe, for instance, the dominant form of masculinity made no sharp distinction between heterosexual pleasure and homosexual pleasure. A powerful man, such as a prince or famous artist, could and would enjoy himself both with boys and with women. By the late 19th century the homosexual and heterosexual components had been split apart. The dominant form of masculinity was now defined as strictly heterosexual. 'Homosexual' became the label for a minority whose whole social being was defined as criminal. Oscar Wilde was one of the men whose lives were destroyed in this process.
We are plainly living through another phase of change now, though its shape is not well understood. Since the rise of the new feminism in the early 1970s there has been a good deal of interest in 'men's liberation', masculinity and men's social position. Around 50 books on the subject have been published in English in the last 15 years. Unfortunately the volume of output has not been matched by quality. The research base of most of the 'books about men' is slight Most authors have taken one dominant form of masculinity for granted, as a definition of the 'male sex role', and have concerned themselves with where the shoe pinches - where men do and don't fit into their 'role'.
As a way of understanding the realities of men's lives, this is very limiting. It stimulates little curiosity about other forms of masculinity, especially those that are marginalized or stigmatized. It plays down the issue of sexual choice: most discussion of 'sex roles' conspicuously avoids the experience of homosexuality. Equally it avoids the issue of social power, whether of men over women or of men over men. In consequence the social acquisition of masculinity is presented as a rather bland process of learning sex-role 'norms'.
But consider this far-from-bland account of a boy's first day at secondary school:
'The boarding school master and my mother were there and they handed me over to this guy named Anthony who was a charming young chap in third form, good family and all that Anthony was supposed to show me around and look after me. But as soon as we left the office, it was "biff bam" and I was hanging upside down by my legs with a rope. It was quite cruel actually.' (Matthew, a student).
Violence is a vivid childhood memory for many men, from all social backgrounds. (Matthew came from an affluent background and was talking about an élite private school). The making of masculinity cannot be understood without taking close account of the patterns of social power. And yet power, in turn, cannot be understood abstractly. It is about relationships, and can only be understood by looking at how men live their lives on a practical day-to-day basis. [continue]
bah... anytime someone gay posts something you get your shits in a dick.
Not at all, OC. As I've pointed out before, Dallas is very far from being the only active poster around here who is gay. He's just the only one with this creepy weird, peeking-over-the-bathroom-stall quality.
In your wet dreams, Denny.
Thank you Dallas. I appreciate you validating my opinions of you. Especially the frequency with which you do it.
Nice try. Better luck next time.