Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Power of Culture: Michael Jackson Tribute in Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Center

Many of you will undoubtedly recall the re-enactment of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video seen on YouTube, carried out by inmates at the Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Center (Philippines).

The inmates from this center recently carried out a Michael Jackson tribute performance, being broadcast again on YouTube, see below.

I really know nothing about the criminal justice system in the Philippines or this specific institution. However, given the overcrowding and ethnic diversity in U.S. prisons, the rigid notions of violent masculinity that prevail, and the especially punitive ways the American criminal justice system operates, I cannot see something of this magnitude ever being carried out in a U.S. prison.

From a story in

For the past two years, the inmates have been dancing Jackson's "Thriller" inside the walls almost every month to curious audience who visited the prison up the hills in Metro Cebu's Opra city, or recently, watched it through Youtube on the Internet.

The four-minute video clip generated 23 million views after it was posted in 2007.

Now, as the legendary music talent passed away on Friday before his scheduled farewell concert in London on July 13, the prison birds across the Pacific decided to perform four Jackson songs in a row to pay their final tribute.

Clad in the orange uniform, all of Cebu provincial jail's 1,581 inmates, sentenced to one to ten years over murder, rape and drug crimes, on Saturday rocked the prison playground with Jackson's tunes, a bizarre scene that drew around 500 visitors and an army of local and international journalists.


...dancing brought so much happiness to these inmates, and their popularity could be considered as positive from the angle that it restored the inmates' self-esteem.

"Dancing is good for them," said Segundo Ganedo, assistant provincial warden at the jail, gazing at the dancing crowd. "After all, they are very disciplined and pose no dangers."

Simply amazing, not only the performance, but also the rehabilitative nature of the activity.

Some commentary on the degree to which the inmates practiced for this video:

(Photo courtesy of

Side note, my personal favorite MJ video, with sister Janet:

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sexual Violence as Male Bonding

SocProf addressed this over on The Global Sociology Blog already but I thought I’d add in my two cents. A recent study conducted by the South African Medical Research Council found that 27.6% of the men they sampled (N = 1,738) admitted to having raped a woman or girl in their lifetime.

The study included men from different race and age backgrounds, who lived in rural and urban areas, and noted the tendency of men to gang rape as a form of male bonding. The sample was relatively young. IRIN reported some other alarming statistics from the study.

Of the 27.6 percent of men who had committed rape, "23.2 percent of men said they had raped two to three women, 8.4 percent had raped four to five women, 7.1 percent said they had raped six to 10, and 7.7 percent said they had raped more than 10 women or girls," the report said.

"Asked about their age at the first time they had forced a woman or girl into sex, 9.8 percent said they were under 10 years old, 16.4 percent were 10-14 years old, 46.5 percent were 15-19 years old, 18.6 percent were 20-24 years old, 6.9 percent were 25-29 years old, and 1.9 percent were 30 or older."

Note that first sentence from the second paragraph, about 10% of those who admitted committing rape did so the first time before age 10. Of course conducting research for the sake of research can just be flat out depressing. The study revealed some interesting correlation’s that may help to push for solutions to this violent public health concern.

"Men who disclosed having raped were significantly more likely to have engaged in a range of other risky sexual behaviours. They were more likely to have had more than 20 sexual partners, transactional sex, sex with a prostitute, heavy alcohol consumption, to have been physically violent towards a partner, raped a man, and not to have used a condom consistently in the past year."

Significant factors in the high incidence of rape were parent absenteeism, childhood trauma, bullying, teasing and "deeply embedded ideas about South African manhood ... which can be predominantly addressed through strategies of apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators" the report said.

South Africa’s History of Apartheid

The issue of parent absenteeism merits additional commentary. A 2007 documentary carried out by the BBC World Service titled “Sexual Violence in South Africa” quotes researcher Rachael Jewkes, a leading scholar in the area of women’s sexual victimization and who helped conduct the first study cited above.

(Starting at 4:50 of the podcast):

One feature of South Africa is that we have quite a large proportion of the population who have been massively traumatized through the history of the country and through growing up in apartheid. And one of the things that apartheid did was it systematically destroy family life … the past law system meant that you couldn’t reside in an urban area unless you had a job. And often that meant that a man would be able to get a pass and come work in an urban area but he wouldn’t be able to bring his family with him. And so this lead to the destruction of family life.

And very often they would end up breaking ties with that family because of the untenable situation … And one of the things we know from South Africa, as well as internationally, is that men who have been traumatized in childhood, whether experiencing severe physical violence or sexual abuse, but also emotional abuse and neglect, and physical neglect are much more likely to perpetrate rape when they get older.

Another interviewee from the podcast who is male spoke to the legacy of apartheid in South Africa on men.

(Starting from 10:00 of the podcast):

Apartheid created a thinking and a feeling that men, in particular black men, that you were nothing. You’re subhuman beings. And in most cases, black men would be left with pain, would be left with anger. And more often than not, not anger, but pain is translated into violent behavior or violent tendencies.

Thus, as the mass exploitation of people occurs, the violence trickles down with women and girls of color feeling the added exploitation at the hands of men from their own and other ethnic groups. Clearly, apartheid had its ill effects in adding to an already severely patriarchal culture by disrupting stable family life. As stress increased, ideas about how to achieve appropriate masculinity became more corrosive, furthering women’s abuse.

Male Bonding through Sexual Violence in North America…

Of course this does not only happen in Africa or those “other foreign, non-western” areas. Philippe Bourgois’s classic ethnography, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio clearly illustrates the way colonized men of color in America’s urban ghettoes also exploit women, using gang rape as a way to bond with each other and assert a violent masculinity.

And it’s not just poor men of color who engage in this sexually violent means of bonding. In all-male or predominantly-male groups, men frequently exploit women (or girls) as a means of becoming a more cohesive group. This happens far too frequently in athletics, increasingly from high school up to the professional ranks.

Jeff Benedict’s book, Public Heroes, Private Felons documents the different ways American college and professional athletes have utilized the criminal justice system and public opinion to get away with both physical and sexual abuse of women. The same thing happens in Canada with hockey stars (see Laura Robinson’s Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport), and in Australia among rugby footballers.

…And in Australia

A recent documentary carried out by the Australian Broadcasting Company vividly demonstrates how the culture of rugby influences too many players to objectify women and then use them to build cohesion among their male peer group.

Sarah Ferguson’s excellent report, “Code of Silence” still has two interviews up that point to the problematic nature of male athletes' socialization and how it perpetuates women’s victimization. From an interview with Charmyne Palavi, who was raped by an Australian rugby player:

(Starting at 3:26 of the video):

Interviewer: Do you see that this, or hear about it, this issue of there being three players, four players, or a couple watching or what’s going on there?

Palavi: I don’t know of many girls that knowingly go with a player, thinking that all the other players are gonna come in. They’ll go with a player thinking that it’s gonna be just them and the player. And they get back to the hotel room, or when they get back to that player’s house, cause they never really know where they’re going to, [the other players] either come into the room while it’s happening. And you know, what’s a girl supposed to do? … To think that they need these guys around them. Where’s the whole one on one sexual activity? [They have] Power in numbers.

Also interviewed for the piece was Steve Burraston, CEO of the Newcastle Knights, who chimes in on why such a high proportion of athletes (or in this case rugby players) engage in violent and/or drug-related behaviors.

(Starting at 12:10 of the video):

We have to recognize that we attract young, aggressive, risk-taking males. That’s what we want. When we run ‘em on the field, we want them to be aggressive. They’ve gotta make tackles. They’ve gotta be fearless. Then we went ‘em to do things that other people don’t do….they’ve gotta take certain risks on the field. So we attract an aggressive, young, risk-taking male.

We give him a shower, put a suit on him and then say now we want you to be a submissive male. Here we want you to go out there and not have any problems. It’s very difficult to do that, so you have to keep educating people. You have to keep talking to them. You have to keep putting them through programs. You’ve gotta make sure you have a stringent structure, that you’ve got the right policies and procedures. And certainly, that you take the right action and you give the right messages.

As these different cases from across the globe show, although men and boys are socialized in very different contexts, their socialization can have similar patriarchal tendencies and result in the systematic sexual victimization of women and girls. In South Africa, where collective violence was the most extensive for the entire society, the degree that men from various demographics rape is accordingly the highest across society.

However, even in high-income countries like Canada, the United States, and Australia, there are certain contexts, such as sports (namely in hyper-masculine sports), where male bonding occurs at a disproportionately high level through gang rape. And among the men in these groups who do not sexually exploit women, there is almost always a code of silence (or humor) that protects the male perpetrators.

Not to mention, sports media constantly bombards fans with images of women as sexual objects. Being a fickle fan of mixed martial arts, it is impossible not to notice the incessant ring girls and contests that try and find the next “beauty queen” who will sell magazines, ultimately negating any intellectual and athletic talents she may possess with images that highlight sex appeal over substance.

Is There an Answer?

So what can be done? Jackson Katz argues prevention needs to begin with the re-socialization of boys. He offers Ten Things Men Can Do To Prevent Gender Violence. Listed below is #10, but reading the entire list is recommended.

Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don't involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men's programs. Lead by example.

(Photo courtesy of IRIN)
Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Health Care and Education

From The Guardian.

Child's Eye: Sierra Leone's slum children
Kroo Bay is a slum shantytown built on a rubbish dump and fetid swamp in Freetown. One in four children here will die before their fifth birthday.

Check out the video.

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Backlash to America's First President of Color Continues

Backlash to America's first President of Color appears to be on the rise (listen here, fast-forward to about 9 minutes into the discussion). Today's announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicates movement towards constructive diplomacy in the incessant conflict between Palestinians and Israel, although the following comments will not likely sit well with any Palestinian leadership (from NPR).

Netanyahu, in an address seen as his response to Obama, he refused to heed the U.S. call for an immediate freeze of construction on lands Palestinians claim for their future state.

In any case, the catalyst for
Netanyahu's announcement is obviously U.S. President, Obama. The picture, above, indicates how Obama will be constructed by majority groups who must now begrudgingly deal with an African American leader making serious efforts to address minority rights.

How further resistance to Obama by those wanting to maintain the status quo shakes out in public circles could be very disturbing.

(Photo courtesy of NPR).

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Picking and Choosing Criminal Types

Much has been written about James van Brunn, the eighty-eight year old white supremacist who allegedly entered the Holocaust Memorial Museum last week and fatally shot Stephen Tyrone Jones, an African American security guard. This past Friday on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” host Michel Martin interviewed Randy Blazak, PhD, Associate Professor of sociology from Portland State University.

Dr. Blazak made some important comments regarding violence in American society, both the gendered nature of gun violence, and the way ethnic stereotyping plays out in mainstream media descriptions of crime and violence. First, Dr. Blazak briefly noted that those who engage in these mass shootings are always men. Additionally, I would note that in school shootings, the perpetrators have been boys. Point being, with very few exceptions, mass shooters are consistently male.

Secondly, when talking about white supremacist ideology, Dr. Blazak made the following insightful comments, highlighting that although racist white supremacy is not always blatantly visible, it still exists covertly and often times supports the more glaring extremist actions in private:

It wasn’t that long ago that white supremacy was the law of the land, and there are still people who would never dawn a Klan robe or put on a swastika arm band, who are sympathetic to many of the ideas that these groups hold. So I think it’s problematic to call these folks a few fringe crazies because there are many people who secretly who share some of the same beliefs about Jews or about immigration or about minorities.

From there, Dr. Blazak makes the very important point that in our national discourse on race, religion, and extremist behaviors, the Muslim religion is constantly spotlighted. Christianity, however, never enters discussion, even when it is tied quite closely as an ideological motivator for extreme violence.

…I was watching the coverage on Wednesday from Lou Dobbs on CNN, who was talking about acts by Muslims and plots by Muslims, and then he talked about the murder of George Tiller and failed to mention the religion of the man who shot George Tiller, which was Christian. And I thought that is another example of the normalization of the type of bigotry that ends up at the extreme with people who are willing to do violence to defend their beliefs.

This was an excellent point that merited further discussion. When the mainstream media picks and chooses which races and/or religions to target and associate with extreme violence, those that are exonerated from these associations are further extended their social privilege in society at large.

Thus, instead of analyzing how religious fundamentalism can lead to violence across the board, we only look to those “dangerous” people the media typically associates with terrorism and other types of crime.

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Saturday, June 13, 2009

When you owe a country $1 trillion, they can pollute as they wish

The U.S. is not significantly pressuring China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What a shocker, pollute away. According to The Guardian, we are merely asking China to improve standards that would help to slow climate change, but not prove any real outcomes.

From The Guardian:

The US said today it would not demand that China commits to binding cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions, marking an important step towards agreement on a global treaty to fight climate change.


Jonathan Pershing, head of the US ­delegation in Bonn, said developing countries – seeking to grow their economies and alleviate poverty – would instead be asked to commit to other actions. These include increasing energy efficiency standards and improving the take-up of renewable energy, but would not deliver specific reductions.

We shouldn’t be too surprised since (1) the U.S. and China are the two biggest impact players that pollute the world, and (2) China can basically bully the U.S. around when it comes to international policies due to the colossal amount of money we’re indebted to them. Zachary Hubbard asked back in Feb 09, “Is America becoming a Chinese puppet state?” Apparently so.

Between 2001 and 2008, the U.S. increased its military expenditures by 112%. Last year, the U.S. spent $711 billion on the military. This amount comprised 48% of the entire world’s military spending. Gee, no wonder we’re so heavily in debt.

Out of control military spending, climate change, the national debt, inconsistent international relations…they’re all interconnected. And as for pollution and climate change, if
an increase in natural disasters and mass population shifts don't affect developed countries significantly in this generation (and that's a big "if"), I doubt if the next generation will be so lucky.

(Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Respect" and Violent Masculinity

The Independent has a story up titled “Guilty, the men who killed teenager for ‘respect.’” A good deal of scholarship in the past two decades has examined the ways that hegemonic masculinity interplays with different types of violence – self-directed (e.g., suicide), interpersonal (e.g., dating, family, strangers), and collective (e.g., gang, war) (see here for definitions, p. 6).

Most of the research that examines the relationships between masculinity and peer/gang violence has focused on different parts of the United States. However, this story demonstrates the somewhat superficial issues that can spark very serious violence between young men in the United Kingdom. A said lack of “respect” resulted in homicide.

Three men will be sentenced to life in prison today after being found guilty of murdering 16-year-old Ben Kinsella, the brother of EastEnders actress Brooke, in a row over "respect".

Ben, who had been out celebrating the end of his GCSE exams in June last year, was stabbed 11 times in just five seconds by Jade Braithwaite, Juress Kika and Michael Alleyne.


Ben was murdered on his way home from a bar in Islington, north London, on 29 June last year. He had spent the evening in Shillibeers bar celebrating the end of his GCSE exams when a row, not involving the group he was with, broke out.

It involved Braithwaite, 20, and two of his friends, who felt he had been "disrespected" by another group of youths. Braithwaite and his friend Osman Ozdemir then confronted a friend of Ben's called Alfie.

During this confrontation, Braithwaite gestured at his trousers, suggesting he had a knife, and was heard to say: "Tell your boy if he wants trouble, I've got my tool on me and it will open you up".

Shortly after this, about 30 youths attacked Ozdemir, leaving him with a cut to his head that required treatment. As he went to the hospital, Braithwaite too left the pub, but phoned Kika and Alleyne, 18, for back up. The trio went to the bar and chased the group still standing outside. As the other teenagers ran, Ben crossed the road. Braithwaite, Kika and Alleyne approached him. A witness, named only as Claudia, told the court that Ben asked the men: "What are you coming over to me for? I haven't done anything wrong."

Braithwaite, who is 6ft tall, kicked Ben in the stomach and the three launched their attack. One of the knife wounds was so ferocious it broke his rib and punctured his heart. As the murderers fled, Ben staggered across the road and died in the arms of his best friend, Louis, the son of Birds of a Feather actress Linda Robson.

It appears while an expressed lack of respect was the reason that prompted the homicide, there was an escalation of violence emanating from the group violence that preceded and probably contributed to Kinsella’s death, in the sense that emotions among the perpetrators were running high and thus, their actions would intensify.

Still, as young men in society long for ways to define their masculinity and the conventional pathways (e.g., education, work) are less of an option, violence becomes a more attractive means to achieve masculinity, or “earn respect.” When there is only a small amount of “respect” to go around (as is common in poverty-stricken areas), allegations of disrespect become that much more important and are dealt increasingly with violence. Cavender (1999) calls this "compensatory" masculinity.

Following the verdicts, Ben's mother Deborah read an impact statement to the court. In it she said: "Ben went for a good night out and never came home again. The people who murdered him knew nothing about our Ben. They had never met him before or spoken to him, they just cruelly took his life away with knives for no apparent reason.

"We had brought Ben up to always walk away from trouble. This sadly cost him his life. He walked away to get safely home and they took advantage of that – he was one boy on his own. It seems unfair their intent was to stab someone that night."

The world's high prevalence rates of male-on-male violence would suggest that it be in men’s (and society’s) best interests to redefine the values that men pursue. I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Cavender, G. (1999). Detecting masculinity. In J. Ferrell & N. Websdale (Eds.) Making Trouble: Cultural Constructions of Crime, Deviance, and Control, pp. 157-175. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine De Grangler

Academics Business Directory - BTS LocalSubscribe with Bloglines

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hegemonic Masculinity Run Amok in Gran Torino

So Clint Eastwood's lastest flick, Gran Torino (2008), has been heralded as a wonderful film that casts Hmong actors in its lineup and tells a compassionate story of the Hmong community's plight while it adjusts to American culture. Likewise, it supposedly illustrates a rigid, white male's self-reflection as he matures, and learns to accept his immigrant neighbors of color. Hmmmm, really?

Not so. Gran Torino follows the recycled racist and sexist storylines that have historically been associated with Asians and Asian Americans in American cinema. A quick look at the cast:

Walt Kowalski: The white knight who swoops in to save Sue when she's accosted by the dangerous black men, to teach Thao how to be a "real man," to avenge Thao and Sue from the evil Hmong gang's wrong doings, and to save the entire Hmong community by benevolently sacrificing himself. This guy can whoop ass even in his old age. Within the local context of the film, Walt is the bastion of hegemonic masculinity. A similar blast from the past - Mickey Rourke in Year of the Dragon (1985).

Thao: Good guy, very likeable character, but let's face it, the way Thao is presented follows age-old racist/sexist stereotypes of Asian males. He's occupationally inept, verbally passive, asexual, and physically meek. Even his own family questions his ability to be a male leader. At one point, while role playing on how to be a "real man" with Thao and Martin (Walt's white male barber), Walt says to Thao, "Don't talk about having no job, no car, no girlfriend, no future, no dick, okay, just turn around and go." Of course, Thao does get a job, a car, a girlfriend, and consequently, a dick, courtesy of Walt's meticulous guidance. Couldn't have done it without the white man. A similar blast from the past - Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles (1984).

Sue: Also a very likeable character, Sue has quick wit and a defiant tongue. When the three black males harass her, she retorts, "Oh great, another asshole who has a fetish for Asian girls? God that gets so old!" But in the end, when push comes to shove, Sue needs Walt to pull up in his pick up and save the day. Likewise, Sue confronts the Hmong gang, both physically and verbally. Naturally after Walt assaults one of the gang members, Sue is kidnapped and sexually assaulted by the Hmong gang. Thus, one of her key functions in the film is to increase the tension between white knight Walt and the villainous Hmong gang (which is likewise one of Thao's functions). A similar blast from the past - not sure, but there probably is one.

"Spider" and the Hmong gang: "Spider" (far right, kind of cut out in the picture) is cousin to Thao and Sue, and leader of the Hmong gang that assaults Thao twice, kidnaps and sexually assaults Sue, sprays their house with a machine gun, and generally fulfills the role of the devious and extraordinarily dangerous Asian gang. Research has sensationalized the tendency of Hmong gangs to use guns, kidnap people, and rape women without properly contextualizing why these gangs emerge in the first place (Straka, 2003), which has a history of Hmong adolescents' strain in school, limited occupational opportunities, and general poverty (Wang, 2002), not to mention a structural history of global displacement stemming from Hmong people's exploitation by the CIA during the Cold War (Chan, 1994). In any case, the Hmong gang members, like Walt, exemplify a violent masculinity, but theirs is presented in an excessively criminal form (conversely, Walt's violent masculinity is heroic). Similar blast from the past - Jet Li & company in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) and quite frankly, there are countess examples of this typical Asian male character and/or Asian gangs in American film dating back to World War II (Marchetti, 1993).

Youa: Another likeable Hmong character, but again, one that fulfills a long-standing stereotypical role in American film. She essentially functions as a means for Thao so that he may inch closer towards acheiving hegemonic masculinity. Her character never really develops in the film, except that thanks to Walt's guidance, she and Thao eventually do begin dating. She serves to develop Thao's character as a socially acceptable man. Oh, let's not forget her nick name, "Yum Yum," given to her conveniently by Walt. The only difference between Youa and previous female Asian love interests in American film is that the guy is usually white and she sacrifices her expendable self for him. Similar blast from the past - Suzie Wong in The World of Suzie Wong (1960), and like the Asian gang members, there are tons of similar "Suzie Wong" examples throughout American film history.

Father Janovich: Another benevolent leader in the film, who works with the Hmong community and seeks to counsel Walt. Nothing really wrong with Father Janovich's character, but are we not surprised the other leader in the community is a white male?

African American harassers: Given the racist and sexist stereotypes that abound in Gran Torino, it just seemed all the more fitting to have three black males sexually harass Sue and intimidate away her "Eminem" wanna be white male companion.

The Grumpy Sociologist Conclusion: Audiences are supposed to watch Gran Torino, get all warm and fuzzy, and think, "Oh, that was such an honor to the Hmong community. It really showed how they struggle in America. And what a great guy that Walt was. He really matured throughout the film and did such a great thing to save Thao, Sue and their family from that hideous Hmong gang!"

Well, if that's how audiences interpret the film, THEN THAT'S HEGEMONIC MASCULINITY OPERATING AT ITS FINEST!!! In order to tell its story, Gran Torino relies on the most typically racist and sexist notions of helpless and dangerous Asian immigrants/Asian Americans, juxtaposed against white male saviors that have been presented in American film over and over and over for decades.

[Update 10/8/09: Since almost everyone who comments on here seems to disagree with this post (that's expected since that's precisely what hegemony does), let me ask a subsequent question. If the central minority group profiled in this movie was African American, would people still think the movie wasn't racist/sexist? If Walt was telling a young African American male, he had "no job, no car, no woman, no dick...," honestly, the African American community wouldn't have a problem with the movie? Having a white war vet and a white pastor show African Americans the way wouldn't be a problem? Having white writers, producers, and directors portray African American gangs the way the gangs were shown in Gran Torino wouldn't be a problem? No way, it would have been a political mess. But throw in a bunch of Hmong (a very marginalized Asian/Asian American refugee group), and it's fine and dandy.

Gran Torino reproduces racist and sexist dominant narratives (click on the link if you're not familiar with the concept). It's not just about knowing the writers/directors were aware of Walt's racism and deliberately portrayed that; it's about how he became THE central figure in showing this minority group how to be "appropriately" manly and American; it's about racialized relationships. Again, had the Hmong been replaced with African Americans, this movie would not have gotten a pass. Throw in a less well known and politically disempowered Asian American group, and people love it.


Chan, S. (1994). Hmong means free: life in Laos and America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Marchetti, G. (1993). Romance and the “Yellow Peril”: Race, Sex, and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Straka, R. (2003). Violence of Hmong gangs and the crime of rape. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 72, (2), 12-16.

Wang, J. Z. (2002). Preliminary profile of Laotian/Hmong gangs: a California perspective. Journal of Gang Research, 9 (4), 1-14.

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local Subscribe with Bloglines

Monday, June 8, 2009

More on hegemonic masculinity and popular culture

Media is one of the key institutions that perpetuates hegemony, influencing mass consumers to unconsciously accept notions of inequality. There must be thousands of commercials that illustrate patterns of hegemonic masculinity.

This Heineken commercial draws on notions of hegemonic masculinity by connecting manhood with excessive drinking, while also perpetuating notions of emphasized femininity - that women love to shop and are obsessed with beautifying themselves through the purchase of expensive accessories.

Then the Viagra commercial naturalizes manhood with fighting and sexual prowess. As part of the hegemonic masculine standard, violence and heterosexual sex are frequently connected, particularly so in sporting cultures.

The humorous nature of these commercials (I admit, I laughed) is what makes them all the more effective in perpetuating gendered patterns of behavior. Audiences watch them, laugh, and more easily accept that differences by way of sex (i.e., gender differences) are natural, rather than developed through socialization in the media, family, peers, schools, churches, and so on. In turn, resultant gender disparities are perpetuated and left unscrutinized.

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Revenge of the Nerds!

Hegemonic masculinity argues that being "the man" isn't just about usurping power over women, but also over other men, as seen in this great Intel add. Of course the hegemonic masculine standard encompasses many other power-bases (e.g., physical, political, race, sexuality). Still, Ajay Bhatt in this add exemplifies important dimensions of the concept, in particular the evolving importance of technical expertise.

Subscribe with Bloglines

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Men in Need of Advocacy?

So Michel Martin over on NPR had another interesting piece up today on men’s incessant gender crisis, that quite frankly has evolved in different forms for centuries and has been documented by academicians for decades.

The 13-minute piece is titled “Men Need to Feel Empowered Too.” A student group appears to be arguing that because men recently have fallen behind in test scores, GPAs, are falling victim to depression and don’t know how to cope with it, have higher suicide rates and so forth, college-aged men need support groups.

The student stated that his group only focuses on college-aged males, and therefore, pointing out that women are still heavily under-represented in government and Fortune 500 is less relevant to his group. To the student’s credit, he noted that the ills some men do face due to typical patterns of masculinity could lead to intimate partner violence.

The other guest on the show, Warren Farrell, argued that men need advocacy due to society’s “misguided” definition of power, claiming that power should not be defined in terms of finances when one cannot control his own life.

Farrell claims men in 2009 are where women were in 1959, stuck in confined gender roles, the most dreadful he says is the obligation to earn money. He notes, for instance, that men are more likely to die in the workplace, taking a disproportionate amount of the hazardous jobs, and if men don’t get jobs, women won’t marry them (heaven forbid).

Holy crap! Are you freaking kidding me? Farrell claims males are confined to being “1-option men,” only allowed to be the bread-winners and not hold multiple roles in society (I suppose this would mean family men, community men). Really? You don’t know hard-working, fully employed upper- and working-class men who also volunteer in their communities or kids’ schools and spend tons of quality time with their children? I know quite a few.

Words from Dr. Farrell:

"...94% of the people who die in the workplace and taking all of the hazardous jobs are dominated by men, and taking 24/25 of the worst jobs according to the Jobs Rated Almanac are 85-100% male dominated jobs. We always look at the Fortune 500 and we say 'men in power,' but we don't look at the glass cellar as opposed to the glass ceiling and say men also are the homeless, are most of the ones that are the garbage collectors. Men are also the ones dying in construction sites that aren't properly supervised..."

Well, I suppose then, this also depends on what we define as work. Farrell seems to be hinting at hazardous jobs requiring physical labor in the formal and informal economies where men are over-represented. How about prostitution? True, men are involved in that profession world-wide, I would think most of whom are not heterosexual. And more to the point, the over-whelming number of prostitutes are female. Is that not a hazardous profession? In short, his analysis (at least that expressed on the show) is extremely narrow.

And yes, men are over-represented in criminal/deviant groups, such as drug traffickers and gangs. Guess what, those cultural groups tend to be extremely patriarchal as well.

If you want men’s support groups, fine, but have them target patriarchal issues that were mentioned briefly but ultimately glossed over in the piece, such as how traditional masculinity leads to intimate partner violence, suicide, sexual harassment, male-on-male violence, etc.

There’s no societal need to provide greater networks and training that funnel men as a whole into white-collar professions or other positions of power, especially not men from privileged majority groups. Heck, when you do, as pointed out over on The Global Sociology Blog, too many times, you just end up perpetuating violence and corruption.

(Picture was too priceless not to put in)

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local Subscribe with Bloglines