Tag Archives: Masculinity

“The Kitchen is the New Garage”

13 Apr

In my continued effort to move away from the advertisements, here’s a lovely article published on 4/11/11 on MSNBC: “Home Kitchens Heat Up as More Men Start Cooking.” According to the article, men spend thrice the amount of time in the kitchen today as they did 40 years ago, and are developing new interests in cooking. To meet men’s new cooking needs, some interesting new resources are popping up. The article features three:

  1. Food Republic‘s mission is to “[explore] the new culture of food through stories, interviews, global conversations, and experiences. This is the site for men who want to eat and drink well, and to live smart.” Its “philosophy” section claims: “men are underserved in today’s conversation about food,” “a good drink is as important as a great dinner,” and “entertaining will enrich your life.”
  2. Man Tested Recipes offers “grilling tips and recipes for all types of meaty, greasy goodness,” according to the article. Indeed, the site’s homepage is a smorgasbord of chili, ribs, chicken, pork, burgers, pastas, bacon, shrimp, tacos, and pancakes. Of the 61 “top tags” (categories/descriptors attached to recipes), 25 contain the word “easy” (e.g., “easy chicken recipe”), 4 contain the word “football,” and only 2 vegetables appear (corn and carrots). The word “family” appears once.
  3. Cook To Bang, new book and website, offers tips on cooking and seduction, linking the two in a symphony of misogyny. The author suggests, “Food and sex have been linked since the dawn of civilization,” and that all men should learn to cook, for three simple  reasons: “1. Cheaper than a restaurant. 2.They’re already in your home. 3. You’re dessert.” The site also contains ads for AshleyMadison.com and recipes such as “Garlic (My Balls) Bread”, “Ho’s May Blow-Tatoes”, “Lick My Zucchini Stick”, and “Reverse Cowgirl Eggs”.

The article goes on to make some pretty bold statements. Some of the gems include:

  • Food Republic offers “man-friendly topics such as how to cook a rib-eye steak or make a Rob Roy cocktail”
  • “Because if there’s anything every man is obsessed with, it’s gadgets”
  • “The kitchen is the new garage”
  • “Food Republic offers recipes that are fast and easy to execute, using seven ingredients and taking just 20 minutes — leaving plenty of time for cocktail-making”
  • Reasons for men’s increased interest in cooking include: “single guys needing to fend for themselves and, of course, their need to impress the ladies”

The article and all of the sites it promotes are bewildering in their ignorance. In so many ways, they shove men into the same boxes that we see over and over: men should be able to drink; men should be tech-savvy; men are simple-minded; men are obsessed with sex; men are the life of the party. These stereotypes hurt men by creating unrealistic expectations, both for themselves and for others. They deny of any man who does not live up to them his masculinity, thereby threatening his self-esteem and the respect of those around him. The man who cannot drink alcohol, is not interested in sex, is boring, or is emotion is demoted to the status of un-masculine (or, feminine).

What’s even more enraging about this article is that it plays at promoting social justice. According to the creator of Food Republic, “Traditional gender roles have been turned upside down, and now being a well-rounded man means knowing about food, too.” The article attempts to trick its readers into believing that it is good for men and women. Men – because it will get them laid. Women – because “Relationships are growing stronger as they cook alongside their mate.” Yet in reality the article is an attack on masculinity by defining it in the same way it has always been defined.

Sadly, in less than 36 hours, the article has already received 82 reTweets and 77 Facebook recommendations. Its popularity is a testament to its appeal – people want to believe that men are becoming more “feminine” and that the genders are become more “equal,” when in reality this is simply more of the same. I’m afraid that too many people reading this will not be shocked by the stereotyping it commits, especially since it’s coming from a reputable news source – MSNBC.



11 Apr

Many of the advertisements that I’ve featured on this blog are examples that have captured the attention and ire of the public, having appeared on various blogs, non-profit/advocacy organization websites, the Huffington Post, or other online sources. Today’s example arrived on my own stoop two days ago, along with the weekly Target, C-Town, and JCPenny ads, and various coupons. It is an advertisement-coupon combination from the cologne brand Brut, which is owned by Unilever.

Image: man with cucumber facial mask. Text: “Some men just need to be slapped.” Coupon: Save $1.00 on any Brut product.

My initial reaction: funny. This is funny. First off, they may be cucumbers, but they kind of look like pickles. Also, anyone who’s ever seen any of the other milion cucumber facial ads knows, the pickles are placed in ridiculous places – his cheeks, nose, forehead. Part of me also thought about the text as related to domestic violence and gender inequality; women suffer abuse and violence at significantly higher rates than men. In that sense, the ad and its message that men also may “need to be slapped” sometimes can be viewed as a poke at men, and a sort of leveling of the playing field. The audience for this ad is very clear: all around it are ads for women’s deodorant and cleaning materials, and the only breathing creatures featured in the pictures are White women and dogs, aside from our masked man.

After my initial chuckle, I saw the ad as falling into line with so many other examples I’ve brought to this blog, for it places men into a box. If the man “needs to be slapped,” it’s because he’s doing something wrong. But wrong by who’s standards? The implication of this ad is: men should not be interested in looking “pretty.” Also, they should be smart. With little more extrapolation, we see the classic gender roles ascribed to men: men should be strong, physical, and intelligent, not sensitive, emotional, and ignorant/dumb. Because it perpetuates these gender norms, the ad hurts men by spreading the aforementioned notions.

I repeat – the ad is funny! But without a conscious evaluation of its implication, the ad hurts women, too. If men are not supposed to wear cucumber facial masks, then by default (within the gender binary system), this is the domain of women. And yet to expect that all women should be concerned with their appearance is tremendously sexist. The ad hurts women because it indirectly forces these stereotypes on the reader, who will then either internalize or externalize the message and continue to spread it to his/her children, students, and peers. Is this ad sexist? Covertly, I say yes. It combines prejudices (the aforementioned attitudes) with institutional power – the power of capitalism. We don’t know if this ad was created by a man or a woman, but regardless it spreads a message of inequity and stereotypes that hurts both men and women.

I began this post with my initial reaction because I think it’s important to place this ad within the context of our daily lives. The ad is funny. It’s funny because it pokes fun at men, who hold institutional privilege and power in the world. It appears to “level the playing field” by giving women “the upper hand” in this very specific situation. And for that reason, very few people will speak out against this. In fact, I would bet that most men and women would defend the ad, claiming that the man does deserve to be slapped for his stupidity and sissiness. “Girls rule, boy drool,” as I heard daily in 1994. Yet beneath the shallow victory lies a much more sinister message: men and women are opposites and there are rules that they must follow. All others must be slapped.

Kind of a Weird Question

6 Mar

Being the good son that I am, I talk on the phone with my mom pretty frequently. Not as often as she’d like, but enough to keep her up to date. This weekend her sister and brother-in-law (my aunt and uncle) are in town for a conference. Today my partner and I went to lunch with them and some of their friends (a couple; let’s name them Jeff and Susan). As I was talking on the phone with my mom, she indicated that she knew this couple. She then proceeded to ask me:

“I know it might be kind of a weird question to ask a dude, but — is Jeff still ridiculously handsome?”

What’s striking to me is not that my mom asked if Jeff is “still gorgeous”. Based on her eternal Hollywood crush, I’m not surprised that she finds him attractive.

well hello, ladies

What did strike me was that she considered it “weird” to ask a “dude” to rate the attractiveness of another male. “Weird,” it seems, was serving as a placeholder for any number of potential adjectives in her mind: offensive, uncomfortable, “gay,” feminine, wrong. The other, sadder thing that struck me was my own silence.

I’m both surprised by and feeling resigned to this homophobic statement. I’m surprised, because my mom has evolved a lot since the days when “queer” was a regular word in her vocabulary (last heard c. 2003?). She’s a good person. She votes, and votes Democrat. She works with children on the autism spectrum. She’s active at her temple. We’ve talked about Proposition 8, and she supports LGBT rights. And she raised some fine children (hah). For her to morally judge one male rating another’s attractiveness seems to me very out of character.

And yet I’m not the least bit surprised. The majority of “well-meaning” people harbor deep prejudices that they haven’t come to terms with. As Thompson says, many of them consider as their peers “progressive and liberal”people [1]. Despite the moderate or left-wing policies for which they stand and perhaps even vote, internally these people are trapped in cages of prejudice. They hold onto tightly engrained prejudices, ever fearful that an offhand comment will cause them to be judged as a bigot, offend someone, or cause them to question their own privilege.

This particular manifestation of homophobia was relatively covert, a trick that those in power use to maintain their privilege and subjugate others. She wasn’t calling someone a fag, ranting against gay marriage, or discouraging me from having male friendships. She used that eternally ambiguous word – “weird” – rather than saying, “I know it might be kind of a gay/homo/queer question to ask…”. In this case, although the topic revolved around homosexual attraction, “weird” could have been replaced with “uncomfortable,” since this is the exact emotion she was probably feeling while introducing the question. That is, the uncomfortable phrasing of the question parallels her own discomfort, caused by her homophobia.

The suggestion that I, as a male, would not be comfortable rating the attractiveness of another male, reduces down to both a misunderstanding of sexual orientation as a spectrum, and, homophobia. First posited in the academic tradition by Alfred Kinsey in 1948 (although the two-spirit custom has been practiced by Native people since before we White people ever stepped foot on the continent), the Kinsey Scale suggests that no human is exclusively homosexual (6 rating) or heterosexual (0 rating). Rather, each of us is situated somewhere between these extremes (a rating of 3 is “equally homosexual and heterosexual”). I would guess that mom’s difficulty (or inability) to acknowledge that I may not be 100% straight (and I am not) is a symptom of her homophobia. Or rather, it’s a symptom of having been raised in the 50s and 60s, in a suburban Midwestern city, and been taught her whole life that men should not be attracted to men. It makes me sad that my own mother holds this prejudice. It makes me even more sad that I feel I can’t call her out on it.

As I mention again and again, my favorite analogy in social work is the “moving walkway” metaphor [2]. If we’re not actively, quickly, intentionally walking against the walkways of oppression, we’re all being led to the same societal end. This is how I’m feeling right now about not talking to my mom about her comment. Like I did a disservice to humanity (particularly the gay fraction of it, but in reality all of us) by not saying something. Like I am single-handedly perpetuating homophobia in this world. I’m recalling W.J. Blumenfeld’s article, “How Homophobia Hurts Everyone,” in which he notes that it “restricts communication…limits family relationships” [3]. Thinking more about it, I know exactly why I remained silent: because I didn’t want to hurt our relationship, which has never been perfect. I feared that by opening this can of worms, she would feel attacked. Because of my lack of skill and training in facilitating these kinds of discussions, I would botch the conversation. She would go on the defensive. And our relationship would suffer.

Did I do the right thing?

[1] Thompson, Cooper. (1997). “White Men and the Denial of Racism”.

[2] Tatum, B. (2003). “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?”

[3] Blumenfeld, W.J. (2000) “How Homophobia Hurts Everyone”. Just the bulleted list at the end of the article can be found at http://www.uas.alaska.edu/safezone/docs/homophobia_harmful.pdf.

It is Quite Manly

5 Mar

For the first time in several posts, I want to depart from my ongoing critique of modernity through analyzing advertisements and the media, and bring it down a level deeper. This post revolves around a conversation that I had with my mother, and  her idea of what “masculinity” looks like.

In a week, my partner and I will travel to visit my younger sister in Chicago for a few days. According to my mother,  her male roommate’s modesigner, and so “the apartment looks very masculinether is an interior .” When she said this, I asked her what that means — “masculine.” With some probing, I got this much out of her. Toward the end of the conversation I felt like she was feeling uncomfortable, and bailed on the topic.

“Well, there are lots of deep greens and blues. Lots of dark woods. Mahogany, I think. It may have a nautical theme. You’ll just have to see it.”

To corroborate the evidence, I asked my sister how she would describe her apartment, whether she would describe it as masculine, and why. Her words:

“It is quite manly…Most of the furniture is dark leather/wood…It’s very bold…He has some weird lion stuff”

She even send me pictures:

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These notions of masculinity are related to ideas we’ve seen again and again on this blog: men are not flamboyant (they prefer dark colors and woods); men are strong and physical (the nautical theme); men are explorers, well-traveled, well-read (safari? decor); they are fearless (“very bold”). While none of these are new for us, this time, it’s different. It’s changed because this is my family, and as we know, the family is the heart and soul of socialization. Media and teachers and peers may influence us, but before all that, there was family.

I like to think that I no longer hold these views of masculinity. That I’ve “undone” this species of sexism, the same way I’m continuously fighting to undo the racist, classist, and heterosexist lessons that have been chiseled into my brain stem. But in the end, I agreed with them. The apartment does look manly. My words: it looks classy, simple, stately, like the office of a 1970s diplomat (fact: white males constitute 77% of congress) or a magazine editor (fact: white males constitute 90%of daily newspaper editors [1]). Granted, it’s a little over-the-top with the leather, but if this accomplishes anything, it ensures that the apartment is never mistaken as “feminine.”

What does that even mean??? It means that I have not ousted the traditional definitions of masculine and feminine from the vocabulary of my unconscious. It means that, just as I’ve decorated my own apartment in certain ways, I retain certain ill-informed notions of what is masculine.

Or does it? Does the fact that I’ve decorated my apartment with some darker woods and reds, greens, and blues, signify how tightly I’m holding onto my former notions of masculinity? Or is it my own, unique style? Am I allowed to have my own style? Does my style simultaneously represent me in a way I want to be perceived and perpetuate sexist stereotypes? Am I still – even as a card-carrying feminist and opponent of traditional male stereotyping – a victim of these roles, as evidenced by something so “me,” so irreversible and defining as my apartment, my clothes, my sheets, my towels?

Ultimately, I have to acknowledge that – yes – my style is informed by my male stereotypes and prejudices; I, like my mother and sister, view dark woods and muted colors as “masculine.” And yet, No – my style does not “perpetuate sexist stereotypes.” My style perpetuates ME, in all my Ikea-loving glory. And while it is not simply coincidental that I am male, I am more than my chairs and bed. I represent a multiplicity of identities in all that I do: my Jewishness, my whiteness, my ableness, etc. To isolate my maleness and the prejudices I hold about males and attribute my window drape selection to those alone is myopic at best, manipulative at worse.

Still very confused. Send help.

[1] Thompson, Cooper. (1997). “White Men and the Denial of Racism”.

The Death of Love

18 Feb

I’m not entirely sure how long these ads have been in the New York Subway system, but regardless of which holiday they’re geared toward (I suspect Christmas), it kills me to see this ad. It tears my heart up.

Johnny Walker Black Label: There’s no need to say I love you, man, every again.

This ad is a play on the recent trend in the media highlighting homosocial intimacy. From the films I Love You, Man, Pineapple Express, and The Hangover, to the off-Broadway film Matt and Ben, to the coining of the term “bromance,” male bonding and the actions and emotions associated with it are getting new attention. From a psychosocial and gender role perspective, this is huge! Conservatives and the patriarchy have long branded homosocial relationships as being akin to homosexual relationships (while simultaneously engaging in overt homosocial activities, under the guise of “manly” hunting/fishing trips, manhood retreats,  “guys’ nights“). Through these messages of hate, men everywhere are taught that getting “too close” to another man might “make me a homo,” that close male friends might be “gay for me,” and to fear any semblance of intimacy with another man. That Hollywood, Broadway, and the national zeitgeist are accepting and promoting straight male relationships signifies a new step toward the universal acceptance and support of homosexuality and homosocial relationships.

Sadly, Johnny Walker (JW) takes this notion in the entirely wrong direction. By telling men that if they give their male friend a bottle of Scotch, they never have to say, “I love you,” JW sends the message that there’s an easy way to avoid showing emotions. JW is telling us that real men should not show emotions. The company is discouraging displays of affection between brothers, fathers and sons, and male friends. This is a tragedy, because it reinforces the messages that all men have heard since we could listen: don’t cry, don’t display your emotions, don’t touch, don’t love. The fact that JW sells alcohol is also no coincidence. The industry could show any number of messages, but the one is sends is, real men drink booze.

Unfortunately, it seems like there are very few good examples of way for companies that sell alcohol to produce thoughtful, positive messages, and still hope to sell their products. These companies have long histories of sexist ads, aimed at men, and this tradition continues today. One alternative would be to simply promote causes that have nothing to do with gender, such as one beer company’s ads promoting the NY Giants and Jets. Anyone can watch football and drink beer. Nothing in the ads (except perhaps the colors, fonts, style, etc.) are targeting toward men. Another good example of this is the Budweiser frog ads from the mid-1990s, which were hilarious (to me, at least), simple, and non-sexist.

Rather than just being neutral, though, can these companies produce ads that discourage gender stereotyping? What would that kind of advertisement (billboard, television, radio, etc.) look like?  I look forward to the ensuing conversation in the comments!


The Clothes Don’t Make The Man

16 Feb

I remember seeing the first ad of this “Wear The Pants” advertising campaign during the 2010 Super Bowl. It featured a group of men walking pantless through a field, singing some silly song, possibly relating to how they don’t have any pants but they’re still men. The role of Dockers, then, was to validate these men’s “unfulfilled manhood” by giving them something “masculine” to wear, thereby defining them as the men they are. Everyone I was with at that Super Bowl party let out a mighty groan, and I think we all figured that this ridiculous campaign would die. It troubles me that it’s still around.

“Once upon a time, men are pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they do. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions that our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave, and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since the bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar, and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to wear the pants.”

Reading this ad strikes me first and foremost as ironic, since by my understanding, khakis are not manly, or sexy. Khakis are what middle management wears. Khakis are the modus operandi of the financial adviser. Khakis are the uniform of the oppressor. According to the New York Observer, “Ivy League-inflected style” was the new cool in 2009. Considering about who wears “Natural-shouldered blazers. Flat-front khaki trousers. Loafers. Bow ties, rep ties. Polo shirts in solid colors. Lots of madras plaid. Early Brooks Brothers. New England WASPs. F. Scott Fitzgerald.” and who the Observer’s target population is, you begin to get an image of what it means to wear khaki. Please, save us from khakis and blue shirts. And vests.

Style aside, is the the content of the ad that’s the most infuriating. “Men took charge because that’s what they do… latte by foamy non-fat latte…the road between boyhood and androgyny… our genderless society…  cities crumble… heroes… grown-ups… put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar… get your hands dirty… It’s time to wear the pants.”

The ad sends a message that men are, before anything, heterosexual. In contrast, any man who listens to disco or drinks Starbucks is gay, and therefore NOT a man. Men with any feminine characteristics are somehow stranded in “no-man’s land” (ironic, that wording), lost in the ambiguity between both lacking the biological maturity of “real men” and not conforming to the thick line we’ve drawn between “man” and “women.” They are the “victims” of a “genderless society,” or rather, a society that has no tolerance for anything other than clearly definable labels. This sad dependence on the gender binary system represents an inflexibility that brings to mind the prejudice, bigotry, and violence of homo- and transphobia.

The ad goes on to insinuate that without the presence of “real men” our society is falling into ruins, and that it’s not only affecting our infrastructures, but also the young and the elderly. Perhaps they have a point, if they’re suggesting that the widening education gap between men and women is resulting in fewer educated fathers, or if they’ve hinting at the unique legal, financial, and health challenges that elderly LGBT populations face. However, I have a feeling that social justice wasn’t on the minds of the people who wrote this ad. Instead, they are discrediting the work that men do in all areas (include those female-dominated professions), and ignoring the immense privilege that men hold in society. To say that “society is falling apart without real men” is to ignore the fact that most CEOs of major companies and government officials are men – white men, at that.

To combat these ills of society (that our (white) men are currently not fit to handle), Dockers is demanding that men stop messing around with non-worthwhile pursuits (the “plastic fork” being a reference to eating out/TV dinners?) such as eating healthy, and stick to doing “real work” that somehow involves dirt. Because, according to Dockers, being a man means working in professions that require strength, muscle, and toughness, and “answer the call,” as if that’s not what so many non-residential and non-custodial fathers, working two jobs to pay their unreasonably high child support payments, are already doing.

Dockers: the clothes don’t make “the man.” The man is whoever he or she wants to be. The man wears whatever is comfortable. He works in whatever field makes him happy (even if it’s female-dominated). He is attracted to whomever he prefers, and  fits wherever he wants within the gender spectrum. Most of all, he doesn’t wear khakis.

Karate Lessons

1 Feb

Given the recent suicides of young, gay men, this kind of blatantly homophobic advertising is despicable. These ads were produced by the ad agency Zubi for RDCA Academy of Martial Arts, located in Key Biscayne, Florida. They feature a young boy applying lipstick and trying on a pair of red high heels, and the text “Karate lessons”. The message is clear: if you think your son a little too feminine, put him in karate lessons.

Fortunately, the online backlash against these ads has been tremendous. The most obviously damaging aspect of these ads is that they reinforce the stereotypes that gay and gender-questioning boys are sissies, and should be engaging in more “masculine” (read as: violent) activities. The less obvious and more insidious danger is for homophobic parents who see these ads. The ads are not targeted toward 9-year-olds, they’re targeted at 49-year-olds, with whom the message may resonate more resoundingly.

While most of the reactions on the blogosphere to these ads have been negative (i.e., pointing out their homophobia), not everyone has reacted with the same disgust, particularly in the comment threads. Here are some examples:

  • “Given that there is no text on the poster, how do we know that this was the correct meaning behind the ad? One possible meaning: ‘fix your gay son with karate’. Another: ‘if this is the sort of thing your son likes, he might need karate’. One of these positions is judgemental. The other is realistic.” [martialtalk.com]
  • “I don’t think they are about toughening up a girly boy, but about offering a self defence option to those who might need it most, in a lighthearted funny way. What has happened to the world, why can’t we just laugh at stuff cause it is funny? Why must everything be appropriate or politically correct? You know what, lots of inappropriate things are hilarious and laughing at them does not make me a bigot/homophobe/racist/sexist person. Lighten the fuck up people. Sometimes things are just FUNNY.” [mamamia.com.au]
  • “To be fair, that kid is going to need to know self-defense. Isn’t it possible that the ad is trying to convey that instead of the nefarious message you’re suggesting?” [towleroad.com]

Given that most of the websites that called out these ads were left-leaning or progressive, that the majority of the comments are negative is unsurprising. It’s a classic sampling bias. What’s scary is that these three examples of non-negative comments were largely untouched by the other commenters. I imagine that they represent the common public reaction: one of covert homophobia or outrage that we need to “lighten the fuck up.”

Including these ads in this website was a no-brainer. Yet I am also challenged by Comment #2, and the potential to see humor in the ads. As a straight white male, learning more each day about the harmful effects of my words and the words of my peers, I’ve begun to be more careful with what I say, almost to a paranoia. I find myself often feeling the need to tip-toe in my conversations, being very careful when I’m speaking with people of color, women, gays, etc., not to say something that might inadvertently offend. And when I do say something off-color*, I’ll either feel guilty and scared, or immediately point out that I didn’t mean to offend. Not long ago, I did exactly this when I made a joke with my partner about being an immigrant (she is one). Her reply? — “TCM! It was funny! Lighten up!”

How do others find a balance between a sense of humor and living up to an anti-oppressive agenda? Where do you draw the line?


*I even felt compelled to look up the etymology of the expression “off-color,” for fear of its covert racial implications. Is it so crazy that “off-color” could have come about to describe anything non-white, and therefore bad or dirty? Thankfully, the term was originally used for gems (Source: etymonline.com).

“Mi Amor,” and More

28 Jan

Being fluent in Spanish and interning in Washington Heights at an all-female, feminist agency has opened my life up to new and exciting experiences that frequently challenge my notions of race, gender, and culture. This morning, as I was taking phone calls, I spoke with a woman who naturally, genuinely, and playfully employed phrases like, “Gracias mi amor,” and “ok corazón.” My supervisor regularly calls me her “amiguito.” I remarked to her that such terms of endearment – and their seamless interweaving into conversations – are one of my favorite elements of Latino culture.

Her reply took the conversation in a different direction: “Yes, it’s beautiful. But I find that very often men go overboard with it. There’s a difference between being affable and being sexist.” I asked her, “You think Latino men take advantage of that cultural custom?” Her answer: “Yes. It becomes an excuse for harassment. If a man is talking to me, hola, mi cielito, mi bella, déjame conocerte mejor, and I call him out on it, it’s, mi amor, I was not trying to offend you, I’m just being friendly, you know, haha, because this warmness is a fundamental part of our culture. But in this case, it’s not. It’s machismo. And it’s damaging to women and men.”

This story into this blog’s theme of “American social expectations of men are damaging to males,” because machismo is damaging to men. At the surface level, studies have shown that men who endorse more machismo ideals are less likely to seek healthcare services. One level deeper, Kimmel [1] suggests that machismo ideals are rooted in homophobia – “more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay….[it] is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men.” Of course, being or becoming a “real man” is a near-impossible feat within our “white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure” [2], which bestows manhood only on a fraction of its male-identifying population — the straight, white, native-born, English-speaking, able-bodied, Christian, non-elder fraction.

In this way, machismo is not about the conquest of women, although as my supervisor illustrated, it’s most certainly a biproduct. Rather, machismo is about fear and powerlessness. Individual perceived powerlessness, contrasted completely by the power and privilege that men feel, in the aggregate. Fear leads to powerlessness, powerlessness leads to shame, and shame leads to fear. Cloaked in silence, the cycle devours itself in an unending wheel of destruction. Violence, in the form of self-hate, domestic violence, bullying, rape, and harassment, is the means by which the cycle destroys both men and women.

Destroying this cycle means uncloaking it. Men must acknowledge their role in this cycle, break the silence, and embrace the reality that neither gender can be free from fear without the other. As Tony Porter says, “My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman” [3]. This freedom not impossible in the Latino community! Despite the perceived unbreakable link between Latino men and machismo, the Latino culture is a rich temple of strengths that diametrically oppose male violence and self-hate [4]. The importance of family, the ideal of being “un hombre noble” [5], and status as a “people of color” in America, are all points of departure for Latinos in breaking the cycle of sexism. And thanks to a growing body of organizations actively working to fight racism, sexism, and homophobia (like mine), this future is now within reach. It’s now up to us to support these groups with our dollars, our skills, and our passion.



[1] Kimmel, M.S. Chapter 33: Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity. In Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W.J., Castaneda, R., Hackman, H.W., Peters, M.L., & Zuniga, X. (Eds.) (2000). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.

[2] hooks, bell. Chapter 37: Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression. In Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W.J., Castaneda, R., Hackman, H.W., Peters, M.L., & Zuniga, X. (Eds.) (2000). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.

[3] Tony Porter: A Call To Men. Ted Talks. http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html

[4] http://www.mexica.net/literat/macho.php

[5] http://www.nationalcompadresnetwork.com/principles/principles.html

Just Say No

24 Jan

Saturday night, my female partner (MFP) and I (TCM) went to the apartment of one of her friends for a dinner party. Conversation jumped from topic to topic and at one point settled on alcohol and drinking. Evidently the other male guest (we were only two) had gotten extremely drunk at a recent birthday party, gotten sick, and embarrassed himself in other ways. The women telling the story indicated that he simply couldn’t handle a particularly potent liquor he was being given.

TCM: See? Sexism affects men, too.


Guest 1: What do you mean?

FMP, shaking head: Wrong crowd, babe.


Why couldn’t he say no? Because our society teaches us that men are supposed to be able to drink their weight in booze. Because men who do not drink (including recovering alcoholics), have low tolerances (like yours truly), opt to be the designated driver, simply don’t like the taste, etc. etc. etc., are judged as being “less than” other men.

Those who abstain are the wusses, the party-poopers, the Debby Downers, the uncool, the boring, the lame, the weak, the “baggage”-laden, the bitches. Never are they the healing, the sensible, the responsible, the normal, the masculine.


21 Jan

It’s neither groundbreaking nor sufficient to say that the world is full of Isms. The human pain caused by acts of stereotyping, microaggression, discriminiation, and violence toward historically oppressed people is untold in quantity and depth. These acts can take an infinity of forms: racism; classism; heterosexism and homophobia; transphobia, cissexism, and cisgenderism; ableism; sizeism; ageism; anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, nationalism, and ethnocentrism; and others.

The sexist stereotyping of boys and men – a group that holds power and privilege over girls and women in almost every culture – in ways that glorify heteronormative gender roles, traditional masculine qualities, and misogyny, is one way in which prejudices are taught and perpetuated.

This blog will document, explore, and question instances of this type of sexism (the application of stereotypes of masculinity and other heteronormative notions) in the media, my work and studies, and in my own everyday life. I also hope to explore the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, and culture as they relate to the examples I submit.

I’ll start with a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: Disney movies. As a child of the late 1980s and 90s, I saw in theaters, owned on VHS, and constantly rewatched most of the Disney movies produced through 1997 (when I turned 13 and became “too cool” for Disney). Most of the VHSs that eventually broke from overuse were the animated films, although I held a fond appreciation for the live-action ones, too. Here are 12 that I remember loving:

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • The Mighty Ducks (1992)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • A Goofy Movie (1995)
  • Pocohontas (1995)
  • A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Hercules (1997)

Looking back at these movies, it’s clear that many (if not most) of Disney’s animated movies are guilty of promoting masculine stereotypes in ways that may be damaging to children and society in the long-term, due to cumulative exposure. Through their: dominant use of hero-princess dichotomies in which the hero always, without fail, saves the princess; reliance on physical stereotypes of successful, heroic men as young, strong, and handsome, and of cowards, useless men, and villains as frail, fat, short, old, and/or ugly; and genderized depictions of violence in which the man who fights the best and defeats the other is the hero, these films perpetuate negative stereotypes of masculinity.

What Disney Company teach men about

The lessons boys learn are how to: think about women (as objects, as creatures to be saved), appear physically (tall and muscular), and behave during conflict (aggressively) [1]. In the fictional worlds created by Disney, there is no room for fatness, weakness, emotions, gays, sissies, pacifists, intellect (even Aladdin, who is initially sharp but ultimately shown to be foolish by wasting his wishes), or old age. The day cannot be saved by anyone but a good-looking, aggressive male.

[1] – Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CWMCt35oFY.

Image source: http://media.photobucket.com/image/disney%20men/Perfektionisti/Funny/what_disney_princes_teach_men_about.jpg