Gender & Society in the Classroom’s Guide for Syllabi on Masculinities

The following Gender & Society articles are the journal’s most recently published pieces that focus on the growing scholarship on masculinities.  As this body of scholarly literature continues to grow, as will this list of articles that may be used as supplements to other readings in the classroom.

Wasserman, Varda, Illan Dayan and Eyal Ben-Ari. 2018. Upgraded Masculinity: A Gendered Analysis of the Debriefing in the Israeli Air Force. Gender & Society 32 (2): 228-251. 

This article examines the importation of new gender ideals into a highly masculine organization through top-down and bottom-up processes. We analyze how a dominant group of men undo and redo gender to reproduce their supremacy and create a new, “improved” form of masculinity. Based on qualitative research on the practice of debriefing in the Israel Air Force, we explore how new practices of masculinity are incorporated into a hegemonic masculinity by introducing so-called “soft” organizational practices and thus constructing a new form of “upgraded” masculinity. We show that pilots are involved in two continual and dialectical processes of performing masculinity. The first includes top-down practices neutralizing opportunities to execute exaggerated masculine performances, including new technologies allowing recording and documenting of all flights, a safety discourse emphasizing the protection of human life, and organizational learning based on self- and group critiques aimed at improved performance. The second, a bottom-up process enacted by pilots, is aimed at restoring and mobilizing masculinity and includes rationalized professionalism, competitiveness, and patronizing. Taken together, these constitute a hybrid, “upgraded” masculinity where “soft” characteristics are appropriated by men to reinforce a privileged status and reproduce their dominance within and outside the military. Our case study focuses on the debriefing, a process in which air teams formally reflect on their performance after a particular task/event to improve it.

Carlson, Jennifer. 2018. Legally Armed but Presumed Dangerous: An Intersectional Analysis of Gun Carry Licensing as a Racial/Gender Degradation Ceremony. Gender & Society 32 (2): 204-247.

This article analyzes gun carry licensing as a disciplinary mechanism that places African American men in a liminal zone where they are legally armed but presumed dangerous, even as African Americans now experience broadened access to concealed pistol licenses (CPLs) amid contemporary U.S. gun laws. Using observational data from now-defunct public gun boards in Metropolitan Detroit, this article systematically explores how CPLs are mobilized by administrators to reflect and reinforce racial/gender hierarchies. This article broadens scholarly understandings of how tropes of criminality shape racialized men’s encounters with the state beyond nonvoluntary, coercive settings and unpacks how race and gender interlock to shape these encounters. I extend insights from intersectionality scholarship to examine gun board meetings as degradation ceremonies whereby African American men are held accountable to controlling images of Black masculinity in exchange for a CPL. This article sharpens the conceptual apparatus that accounts for marginalized men’s subordination vis-à-vis the state by focusing on the provision of legitimate violence and revealing the persistent, if paradoxical, mobilization of legitimate violence in the reproduction of racial/gender hierarchies.

Ide, Michael Enku, Blair Harrington, Yolanda Wiggins, Tanya Rouleau Whitworth and Naomi Gerstel. 2018. Emerging Adult Sons and Their Fathers: Race and the Construction of Masculinity. Gender & Society 32 (1): 5-33.

Challenging the public dichotomy characterizing fathers as “involved” or “absentee,” we investigate racial variation in college men’s perceptions of their paternal relationships and the gendered constructions these promote. The analysis draws on intensive interviews (n = 76) with Asian American, Black, and white sons from one university and survey data (n = 1,576) from 24 institutions. In both data sets, Asian Americans and Blacks describe greater paternal distance than do whites. This conceals variations in sons’ understanding of fathers. Asian Americans often criticize their fathers’ distance, disidentifying with the near-exclusive focus on breadwinning they describe among fathers. In contrast, Blacks and whites normalize and identify with their dads. Blacks emphasize the “laid-back,” “cool” masculinity their dads impart, while whites often emphasize the independent masculinity based on mentorship and friendship their dads offer. Recasting sociological theories, we argue these differences emanate from divergent structural contexts, but more importantly, cultural conceptions of fatherhood, race, and gender as well as public discussions that valorize white models of fatherhood.

Pande, Amrita. 2017.  Mobile Masculinities: Migrant Bangladesh Men in South Africa. Gender & Society 31 (2): 383-406.

In this ethnography of Bangladeshi men living and working in South Africa, I draw on the intersection of three sets of literatures—masculinities studies, mobility studies, and the emerging body of work on migrant masculinities— to argue that migrant mobility shapes and is shaped by relational performances of racialized masculinities. I analyze three particular moments of such “mobile masculinities.” The first is in the home country wherein migration is seen as a mandatory rite of passage into manhood. The second moment is in transit, where the relational masculinity of migrant men and “traffickers” (men who smuggle migrants across borders) is performed and (re)made. The final moment is in South Africa, wherein we observe two contrasting forms of masculinities: hyper masculinity (the idealization of violence and misogyny) and Ummah masculinity (the immersion in God and Islamic Ummah). Both kinds of masculinity in the final moment are attempts by the migrants to recuperate masculinity within a situation of extreme powerlessness. This article invokes the need for mobility research within gender studies, and an attention to a complex, processual construction of identities wherein gender, race, and other differences define the identities of migrants but also the discourses and narratives of masculinities.

McDowell, Amy. 2017. Aggressive and Loving: Religious Hybrid Masculinites in Christian Hardcore Punk. Gender & Society 31 (2): 223-244.

This research uses Christian Hardcore punk to show how evangelical Christian men respond to changes in gender relations that threaten hegemonic masculinity through a music subculture. Drawing on interviews and participant observations of live music shows, I find that Christian Hardcore ministry involves a hybrid mix of aggressive and loving performances of manhood. Christian Hardcore punk men fortify the idea that men and women are essentially opposites through discourse and the segregation of music spaces, even as they deviate from dominant ideas of what makes a man in their strategy of openly expressing the “loving” of secular men. The mechanism for this is the interactions in concert spaces. These findings offer a conceptual move away from studying “godly” masculinity as intrinsically distinct from secular masculinity and illustrate how religious masculinities can be both hegemonic and “soft.”

Pfaffendorf, Jessica. 2017. Sensitive Cowboys: Elite Young Men and the Mobilization of Hybrid Masculinities in a Therapeudic Boarding School. Gender & Society 31 (2): 197-222.

In the past few decades, a multi-billion-dollar “therapeutic boarding school” industry has emerged for America’s troubled upper-class youth. This article examines the therapeutic models prominent in these programs and the ways they conflict with dominant notions of masculinity. Using in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork inside a Western therapeutic boarding school, I show how privileged young men navigate this masculinity dilemma by constructing hybrid masculinities that incorporate qualities associated with femininities and subordinate masculinities. However, these qualities are incorporated strategically and in ways that reproduce and obscure privileges associated with students’ positions as young, upper-class, white men. Using hybrid masculine styles that include humility, commitment to service, and open emotional expression, students re-assert dominant positions as leaders and as “better” men in contrast to various others.

Silva, Tony. 2017. Bud-Sex: Constructing Normative Masculinity Among Rural Straight Men That Have Sex With Men. Gender & Society 31 (1): 51-73.

This study draws on semistructured interviews with 19 white, rural, straight-identified men who have sex with men to understand how they perceive their gender and sexuality. It is among the first to use straight men’s own narratives, and helps address the underrepresentation of rural masculinities research. Through complex interpretive processes, participants reworked non-normative sexual practices—those usually antithetical to rural masculinities—to construct normative masculinity. Most chose other masculine, white, and straight or secretly bisexual men as partners for secretive sex without romantic involvement. By choosing these partners and having this type of sex, the participants normalized and authenticated their sexual encounters as straight and normatively masculine. The participants engaged in bud-sex, a specific type of male–male sex that reinforced their rural masculinity and heterosexuality. The married men framed sex with men as less threatening to marriage than extramarital sex with women, helping to preserve a part of their lives that they described as central to their straightness. The results highlight the flexibility of heterosexuality; the centrality of heterosexuality to normative rural masculinity; how similar sexual practices carry different meanings across contexts and populations; and the social construction of masculinities and sexualities by age, race, gender, time period, and place.



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