Fitting into the societal expectations of what is masculine and feminine is something that many people are constantly trying to do. In some point or another in someone’s life, some type of interest, hobby, or activity will challenge someones perception of masculine or feminine and have to question if a particular gendered practice is accepted by society.
Countless examples exist whereas men should’t dance, and women can’t have any interest in cars. Halberstein’s work, Female Masculinity addresses the fact that masculinity and femininity are not so black and white. A girl which possesses or acts on masculine traits is considered to be employing Female Masculinity. For example, an interesting analysis on tomboys is made in this work. Any masculine traits that pass beyond the stages of puberty for girls pushes into the territory of Tomboys. Personally, I didn’t encounter too many tomboys, but I did know boys that would be more effeminate as we aged. I’m not sure if there’s really a name for these types of boys that is similar to Tomboy, but I feel like this is a prime example of how society is more accepting of masculinity. A Tomboy is a pretty well-regarded term, that doesn’t have too much of a negative implication, but when female traits are shown in a young boy, it’s more common for offensive and crude words to be used (I’m sure many example can come to mind.) I remember growing up, singing karaoke was a big family activity. Some of my favorite songs were Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” and the classic “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. When I was maybe 7 or 8 I was singing one of these songs when one of my uncles taunted me about how girly the act was. I remember being upset and not wanting to sing around my family much thereafter. So it makes me wonder about the flip side of Female Masculinity, where a young boy could be more feminine than society expects. Fitting into the expectations of masculinity and femininity is fairly hindering.
Of all the readings completed thus far throughout our course, I find “Do These Earrings Make Me Look Dumb?” by Kate Forbes and “Reenfleshing the Bright Boys; Or, How Male Bodies Matter to Feminist Theory” by Calvin Thomas really made me think, even outside the classroom. Forbes really wants nothing more the human diversity to be accepted; which sounds like it could be so simple, but sadly in our day and age, it’s not made simple. The U.S society doesn’t deal with rapidly changing diversity extremely well. She explains how the academy has yet to acknowledge the difficulties associated with queer personal matters, and how also in many cultures don’t place trans people in a position to claim and defend their identities. It’s honestly hard to say that the U.S isn’t starting to fall into that unaccepting culture when it comes to trans people rights. After our discussion on the bathroom issue going on today, I really started thinking – why is it such a big deal? Like we mentioned in class, the justification presented in denying trans people the freedom to use whichever restroom they want hold hardly any evidence to serve as a justification at all. I also really thought deeply about Forbes’ statements, “I am the primary data” and “It is not my job to fit my life into a theory, but the other way around”. Forbes has a first hand account of being a trans gender women in a primarily white man, science department, and it’s pretty disheartening to read that she feels as if the academy trusts gender professors and outside sources more than her first hand accounts; like she said, she is the true data, and people need to stop wearing blinders to this whole situation.
The main take away I left with after reading Thomas’s writing, was a different view of masculinity. Gender and sexuality is closely tied and it’s hard to pull apart an analyze one without the other. In class we made a good point that there isn’t necessarily the same pressure on a lesbian women to not be “too masculine” as there is places on a gay man to not be “too feminine”. Or, how when little girls act tomboyish, it’s seen as cute while if a young boy is wearing dresses and wanting to put on makeup, that might be considered out of the question to some. This alone shows that masculinity is placed highly on a pedestal in our country. It’s fair to say that masculinity is more highly valued than femininity no matter what sexuality.
In class, we discussed a variety of traits associated with masculinity, as well as the pressures that follow stereotypical ideals of masculinity. The reading, “Reenfleshing the Bright Boys”, is controversial to many for its comparison of oppression between the female and male gender. The article argues that the genders are “symmetric”, men are as equally oppressed as women. While I understand the argument, I refuse to acknowledge that men don’t have a supremest and more authoritative position within society, based on their sex. We live in a patriarchy, where male privilege very much exists. Although men do face pressures to maintain a masculine persona, women have to overcome innumerable obstacles just to achieve the same position as a man. Men are socialized at a young age to be dominant, the primary trait associated with masculinity and success. Meanwhile, women are raised to be passive and submissive. The differential socialization of men and women exhibits a vast asymmetry in the genders and the individualized oppression they face. This reading made me think of a book written by Michael Kimmel, titled “Guyland”. The book focuses on the male perspective of our gendered society, the ‘objective’ perspective and the pressures/influences which motivate young boys to mature into masculinity-obsessive men. As stated previously, men are entitled to feel pressured due to a social obligation to appear masculine, but it is not equal to the oppression women face in the public and private sphere. In class, I hope to further discuss the pressures of institutionalized masculinity and its effect on male behavior towards women (gender aggression/violence).
The class discussion about “Do These Earrings Make me Look Dumb” was very interesting to me. The whole time we were discussing of how society is used to one type of person, for example, as universities as an older white man it reminded me of this movie that I just watched a couple months ago called “Hurricane Bianca”. It’s about this drag queen named Bianca Del Rio who appeared on Rupaul’s Drag Race. When she starts off at the school, she comes as the sex she was born (a man). But he was working in a school in one of the Southern states when they suspected that he was a homosexual, he became to be disliked. He was disliked so much that one of the teachers basically did a “test” on him to determine whether or not he was gay. When the teacher did not go for the town whore as the woman suspected he wouldn’t, it was discussed with the principal and the man was fired for his sexual orientation. After that he came back in his drag attire as a woman and applied for the same job and at this point everyone loved him. Bianca was considered the coolest teacher in the school because her attitude had changed with the children and so did her attire. He even helped a student in one of his classes that was struggling with bullies at school because of his sexuality as well.
My point is, in the beginning no one liked the man just by the way he dressed and acted and by the end of the movie Bianca was everyone’s favorite person. She was even being hit on by the aggressively straight football coach as well. There was a set list of qualities a person had to have at this school in order to succeed and he had to change himself into Bianca for them to see the potential the the man had as a teacher. It was normal for the male teachers to be aggressively straight just like the others as well as to hit on the female teachers and Bianca did not have those qualities. I feel like this happens every day in our society. Someone has to hide who they truly are so that people will have high opinions of them and that just sucks, honestly. Even now we’re seeing that as Donald Trump overturns part of President Obama’s plans and now transgender youth are going to have this huge weight on their back again because we can’t see past the person based on their looks.
One of the first main points of the reading “Reenfleshing Young Boys”, which we’ve been discussing in class, is that the idea of Masculinity Studies raises some eyebrows because it implies that men are equally as gendered as women, and that men and women are equally installed into “symmetrically gendered” positions. This would mean that men face equivalent sorts of objectification and expectations, that are equally as disadvantageous and oppressive as they are for women. That being said, Milo Yiannopoulos, a very right wing anti-feminist political journalist, has been in the news lately, and I wanted to see what he was all about so I watched a few videos about him on YouTube. I believe some of the arguments he is making about gender go right alongside with this point from the reading.
Many of his arguments center around the fact that “some men suffer from X,Y, or Z just like women do, therefore women are no more oppressed/gendered/objectified/victimized than men.” He is doing exactly what is addressed in that first part of the reading, which is the potential problem mentioned with Masculinity Studies. I believe what his argument fails to address is the fact that a lot of the things that men go through are not a result of a system that equally advantages/disadvantages all genders, but they are examples of a patriarchal system that genders and objectifies femininity. Sometimes these toxic masculine gender roles can effect other men as well. When people exist in a system that benefits aggression, assertiveness and violence, there are going to be victims from all genders. I think we as a society need to think outside the box more when arguments are made like this, because it eliminates the idea of a tangible thing to overcome, and makes it seem like there’s no one behind the wheel, and there’s no point to strive for change.