Masculinity Analysis

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Theorizing Masculinity: Multiplicity, Embodiment, Politics Feminist theory has sought to undo the binary opposition of man/woman and male/female, to varying degrees of success. What appears to still be intact, if only for its common use by the very theorists who would seek to unravel it, is a third binary: masculinity/femininity. As such, this paper focuses on arguments about the former term, masculinity, presented in two important works: Masculinities by Raewyn Connell and Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam. Though both are approximately twenty years old, they engage with questions that are still relevant today, and indeed can be read as, at least in part, foreshadowing contemporary theorization. In this paper I first point out the major …show more content…
The most common way that role theory is applied to gender is to see being a man or woman as “enacting a general set of expectations which are attached to one’s sex” (22). The idea that socialization led to the expression of masculinity was seen as advantageous in comparison to psychoanalysis because it allowed more easily for social change, particularly if institutions through which expectations of gender are adopted change those expectations; that is, institutions construct masculinity (and femininity) through discourse and disciplinary practices. Rather than accepting this social science as a description of things as they are or should be, feminists repurposed sex role theory and research as “a political tool, defining a problem and suggesting strategies for reform” (23). However, sex role theory was eventually revealed to be inadequate because of its lack of distinction between expectations and behaviors, the challenges it faces with issues of power, and its reactionary approach to politics that fails to produce effective strategies for change (27). With Men’s Liberation movements acting as a catalyst, the social scientific approach evolved to encompass developments in history, ethnography, and sociology that explored diversity in masculinities. However, Connell points out that the social science approach is problematically positivist in that …show more content…
Most important among these, at least in European and American cultures, is the subordination of homosexual masculinities to heterosexual ones, in large part due to the equation of male homosexuality with a certain femininity. That is, heterosexual masculinity maintains its hegemonic status through the systematic exclusion of homosexual masculinity/femininity; it is constituted through negation. This hierarchy persists amongst gay men today. The popular gay dating app, Grindr, is known for its user profiles displaying headless torsos and the declaration “masc4masc.” These users, bisexual or gay (or in some cases straight), self-identify as masculine and are only interested in romantic or sexual relationships with other self-identified masculine men. When pressed, however, they are unable to define masculinity, and ultimately qualifying as masculine is a matter of the “eyes of the beholder.” The perceived feminine gay male – referred to as a fem – is devalued in and by the very community that has historically championed the subversion of gender norms. Further, the fem is even described as not being a man at all due to his “lack” of

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