The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about gender representation in child's films and children's books, and how frustrating it is that even in books the animals or otherwise ambiguous characters are gendered in certain ways: such as bows on the females and other ways of making the feminine/masculine divide really clear. I have noticed that now more than ever, children understand and know the terms gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (maybe slightly less) but are still taught with materials that haven't yet broken that divide. Children are beginning to understand that there are other ways of having relationships, yet these relationships are typically still not represented in children's films or children's books. Since these forms of media are really important and prevalent during children's development, it is important that other forms of relationships and more gender ambiguity are represented in these areas.
I also decided to analyze 2 other, completely different, realms of thought surrounding masculinity. I analyzed masculinity within Wall Street and the culture of masculinity in organized athletic sports. I noticed that within both areas masculinity is fostered by competitivness and agressivness. These are the characteristics that Wall Street and organized sports look for, yet they are deeply rooted in hegemony and masculinity.
alias, njaynewton. "Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films." YouTube. 12 Apr. 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .
This film is really interesting to me because I was always frustrated by the way disney movies portrayed women as princesses. Every little girl wants to be a princess! Why is that? And why do little boys begin to feel that they must be hypermasculine heroes in order to be "a real boy"? It frustrates me that we are taught that boys don't cry and little girls like pink. We gender children before they can even navigate those boundaries on their own. One part of this film points out that "men should view women as objects of pleasure or as servents to please them" whether the message is explict or not. One line from a disney movie states, "i couldn't care what she looks like, just what she cooks like". The ideal woman that a man in a disney movie looks for is one that is submissive, beautiful, marvels at his strength and manliness, and can take care of the house. Aren't these messages slightly outdated? Why do children still get these types of messages even though we are trying to teach them differently these days? Wouldn't that only further confuse them?
Another dominate theme I have noticed in Disney movies is that the refusal to fight or stand up to something is often seen as weak and unmanly. Children are taught to become men in very specifically gender ways, and girls are taught that the things most important are beauty and submissiveness. Boys and girls are equally taught to expect these things out of the other. In these movies the final scene always involves a battle scene, typically between 2 men, that fight for status or to win the love of a woman. Whoever comes out on top, is the better man.
Ho, Karen. Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street. Durham: Duke UP, 2009. Print.
Another interesting aspect of masculinity that I recently started learning about was the hypermasculinity and competitive nature of Wall Street investment bankers. The culture of Wall Street itself is very sexist and racist by it's very nature. The Chapter I chose to analyze in this book is Chapter 1, Biographies of Hegemony: The Culture of Smartness and the Recruitment and Construction of Investment Bankers. Wall Street hirees are recruited from a handful of Ivy League schools by a charade led by analysts sent to smooze undergraduates into believing that they are the cream of the crop, the smartest and brightest people. In this structure, smartness is explicitly dependant on school pedigree as well as race. The complete equating of smartness with these institutions, the identification of historically white colleges as global, universal institutions, as well as the wholesale erasure of the white upper class male privilege embedded in these universities are part and parcel of how excellence is understood (p. 57). There are absolute class, race, and gender heirarchies that are perpetuated by and through the very structure of Wall Street. The culture of excellence Wall Street works so hard at maintaining is oppressive to many and leaves out certain people. It renders invisible its normative, unmarked privilege.
I think it is interesting to examine such a large institution as Wall Street and see how it organizes itself around such hegemony so completely and entirely. With the rise of large corporations and globalization we can look to Wall Street to set the standards when it comes to business and finance, but those with the money (i.e. the people on Wall Street) also perpetuate absolute racism, classism, and sexism within their way of life. This does not look as though it will change any time soon.
Denham, Bryan E. "Hegemonic Masculinity in Sport." Human Kinetics. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .
Another area I decided to look at was masculinity in sports. Because I grew up in a family that places a lot of value on competitive team based sports and less on creativity, music, or individual sports I always felt pressured to be a part of a team. I felt that being on a team would make me more important. I have seen first hand what competitive atmospheres do to people. Like Wall Street, sports is another area that is based off competition, and where competition lies, masculinity seems to be it's front-runner.
This article talks about how homophobia is crucial to masculinity, and in the arena of athletic sports, homophobia is taught as a precondition to being masculine. Players that tend to lack aggressivness or "intestinal fortitude" are often labeled and mocked as being pansies or pussies. In this type of institution, men are often pushed so hard that they rarely feel as though they are at the point they want to be. This type of strain can make men feel inadequate and unsure of who they are. Athletic sports seems to be the dominant case for hypermasculinity within men. And since our culture is such a competitive one, dominated by sports and winning and losing, young boys are immediately taught that to be masculine means joining a sports team and becoming a "jock". And we all know the type of "man" the sports atmosphere breeds...
Here is my tangent- I COULD NOT HATE SPORTS ANYMORE THAN I DO! WE SPEND MORE MONEY ON SPORS FACILITIES ANNUALLY THEN EDUCATION SYSTEMS. WE BUILT 2 NEW STADIUMS IN MINNESOTA WITHIN 2 YEARS. THE FACT THAT ATHLETICS GENERATES THAT KIND OF MOENY IS BEYOND ME. MAYBE PEOPLE SHOULD DO SOMETHING ACTIVE THEMSELVES INSTEAD OF WATCHING SPORTS ON TV. REALLY? CREATIVITY, ARTS, MUSIC, AND INDIVIDUAL NON TEAM SPORTS ARE SEEN AS UNPRODUCTIVE? WHERE HAVE WE GONE WRONG?