“Massive” Masculinity and the Mainstreaming of the Alt-Right in the West

By Kristen Myers and Kirk Miller

In July, 2016, we collected data about the impact of mass immigration of Syrian refugees on perceptions of safety in Western Europe.  We interviewed five people in Kaiserslautern, Germany, who had been instrumental in integrating Syrians into their community: providing housing, German classes, and family services.  These subjects hoped the refugees would reside permanently, would become Germans.  Our research assistant and interpreter, Sebastian Dodt, thought we should also hear opposing viewpoints.  He arranged for us to meet two members of the right-wing party, Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD).  We met a party candidate and a party member at a remote restaurant.  The table where they sat was covered with pamphlets, stacks of books, and miniature table-top German flags.  A ledge running around the room was filled with taxidermied animals—eagles, foxes, badgers—all poised for attack, teeth bared and claws out.  The men were eager to begin.  The candidate began to speak loudly, reading from prepared comments, gesticulating furiously, pounding on the table.  Although we do not speak German, we understood key words repeated throughout the conversation: “Kriminellen;” “Immigrant;” “Terrorismus;” “Angst;” “Muslim.”  The entire experience was disturbing.  Feeling déjà vu, we asked each other, who do they remind us of? The answer: Donald Trump.

Since then, we have been analyzing the similarities between the Trump campaign and the AfD.  They have many rhetorical parallels.  For example, in commenting about asylum-seekers and refugees in Germany, the party candidate said this:

All in all there has been a lot of changes in Germany. Our democracy is saying goodbye.  The will of the people is being ignored.  Critics are being criminalized.  Criminals are being spared and praised.  Our rights are being limited. Laws are flouted. Women are becoming victims. Continue reading ““Massive” Masculinity and the Mainstreaming of the Alt-Right in the West”

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The Phenomenon of ‘Bud Sex’ Between Straight Rural Men

Tony Silva’s forthcoming article to be published in the February 31 (1) Gender & Society, “Bud-Sex: Constructing Normative Masculinity among Rural Straight Men That Have Sex With Men” was featured in NYmag.com/Science of Us and can be found here. In his qualitative study, Silva explores “normative rural masculinity”.

Congratulations, Tony.

Tona Silva is a doctoral student in the department of sociology at the University of Oregon. His dissertation includes interviews with rural straight men that have sex with men to explore how they understand their identity, practices, and gender. His primary primary interests include sexualities, gender, rurality, and qualitative and quantitative methods.

“If You’re A Good Guy, You Can’t Possibly Be A Rapist”

By C. Brian Smith

rapist
Illustration by Carly Jean Andrews

The University of Oregon dominated Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl. The Ducks’ converted four consecutive turnovers into 27 unanswered points, leading to a 59–20 rout. Afterward, several Oregon players were filmed singing “No means no!” to the tune of the FSU “War Chant.” An act that was presumably directed at star quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who’d recently been accused of raping a female student. Antirape activists heralded the mocking jibe as a victory: Finally, here was a group of normatively masculine men shaming other normatively masculine men for sexually assaulting women.

But two University of Oregon sociology professors, C.J. Pascoe and Jocelyn Hollander, saw it differently. What if the point of the chant wasn’t to make a statement about sexual assault, but rather to position their opponent as a failed man, thereby humiliating him both on and off the field? This question introduces a paper they published in October 2015 entitled “Good Guys Don’t Rape,” which documents how young men distance themselves from identities as rapists while simultaneously exhibiting dominance over women and other men with behavior that “mobilizes rape.”

It’s yet another form of “toxic masculinity,” they argue, which refers to attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional and sexually aggressive. Some refer to this as “classic masculinity” — a rite of passage of sorts. Others, like The Donald, chalk it up to “locker room talk.” Whatever you call it, Pascoe notes that many men who exemplify toxic masculinity actively seek to avoid the label. She points to Brock Turner, the Stanford student convicted of raping an unconscious woman in January 2015 as a perfect example. Continue reading ““If You’re A Good Guy, You Can’t Possibly Be A Rapist””

Goodbye to the barbershop?

By Kristen Barber

Cross-posted with permission from The Conversation on August 7, 2016 here

With their red, white and blue striped poles, dark Naugahyde chairs and straight razor shaves, barbershops hold a special place in American culture.

But numbers show that barbershops are dwindling. According to census data, from 1992 to 2012 we saw a 23 percent decrease in barbershops in the United States (with a slight uptick in 2013).

As a sociologist, I find barbershops fascinating because they’ve also traditionally been places where men spend time with other men, forming close relationships with one another in the absence of women. Many patrons will even stop by daily to simply chat with their barbers, discuss the news or play chess. A real community is created in these places, and community is important to health and well-being.

So how should we interpret the decline of the barbershop? Is it yet another sign that, according to Robert Putnam in “Bowling Alone,” our community ties are crumbling? Or should we really be looking at just what sort of men are no longer getting haircuts at a barbershop – and what sort of men still go there? Continue reading “Goodbye to the barbershop?”

What is a Men’s Salon? And What do Women Have to Do With It?

By Kristen Barber

When I explain my research to people, they often ask: “What is a men’s salon, exactly?”In a fleeting interaction I might sBarber_idea3imply describe it as a salon dedicated to the primping and preening of men. The high-service men’s salons in my study tout stylish haircuts, fine manicures, exfoliating facials, and meticulous waxing services. But to more accurately explain what a men’s salon is involves understanding that gender is actively produced, not a static characteristic of a person or place.

In my article, “Men Wanted”: Heterosexual Aesthetic Labor in the Masculinization of the Hair Salon, I tackle the organizational efforts that make the salon an “appropriate” place for well-to-do, straight, and often white men. This is significant since the salon is historically associated with women and seems an unlikely place in which men can approximate culturally valorized forms masculinity. One way both salons in my study masculinize the space is by demanding what I call heterosexual aesthetic labor from the mostly women workers. Aesthetic labor highlights the importance of workers’ appearances and use of their body in frontline service work, where employees interact face-to-face with customers. Workers are hired because they embody the aesthetic values of a retail brand, with white, middle-class workers, for example, reflecting the identities of white, middle-class consumers. This assures consumers they are in the “right place” for people like them and is a key mechanism in reproducing social differences and inequalities. Continue reading “What is a Men’s Salon? And What do Women Have to Do With It?”

Is the Metrosexual Extinct?

By Erynn Masi de Casanova

Try engaging in a conversation about the meaning of the term “metrosexual” without smiling.  It’s impossible.  The word and the concept just seem a bit silly.  In my interviews with 71 U.S. corporate men on the topic of work dress for my book, Buttoned Up: Clothing, Conformity, and White-Collar Masculinity, mentions of metrosexuality usually involved laughter and joking.  Yet I would argue that the hubbub around the figure of the metrosexual is rooted in something real.  Men’s bodies, grooming, and dress are subject to ever greater scrutiny, as scholars, GQ, and maybe even your dad have noticed and commented on.  Due to the heightened surveillance of their looks, some men are taking greater care in their appearance-related decisions and behavior.  Focusing on men’s work lives allows us to examine an everyday, but high-stakes, setting for self-presentation.

British journalist Mark Simpson coined the term metrosexual in the 1990s, but I am less interested in tracing its genealogy and public use than in ascertaining what it means to men in their daily lives.  How do white-collar guys define this term?  Interviewing corporate men in New York City, Cincinnati, and San Francisco, I uncovered a range of opinions on whether people still use the word “metrosexual” (turns out they do it more in SF), and whether it is a positive, affirming label or an insult.  Dave, a white 24-year-old finance professional in Cincinnati, said that a metrosexual was “always a hundred percent concerned with [his] appearance all the time.”  Other negative definitions of metrosexual included someone who “spends far too much time in front of the mirror,” who takes two hours “putting down [his] hair every morning,” and the gym-tanning-laundry proponents of MTV’s Jersey Shore.  Luke, a white man in his thirties who works in Manhattan, described the negative image memorably: being a metrosexual implied “an obsessive concern with appearance… to the point where it was almost like annoying.  It’s like, come on.  Be a man.”  Some of this resistance to the aesthetic aspects of metrosexuality comes from the idea that part of the privilege of being a man in U.S. society lies in not being judged on appearance in the way that women are.  Voluntarily giving up that privilege can cause a man to be looked down on by other men. Continue reading “Is the Metrosexual Extinct?”

“Cloudy Visibility”: Men’s inner emotional lives are more complicated than you might think

By Joseph R. Schwab, Michael E. Addis, Christopher S. Reigeluth, and Joshua L. Berger

Stereotypes of men tell us that they are stoic, unemotional, and in general not very interested in talking about their feelings. This is what women do, so the stereotype goes, and men are often assumed to be uninterested in engaging with the “feminine” side of life. And as stereotypes go, many of us are guilty of perpetuating this assumption about men’s inner emotional lives. We may not ask men about difficulties they may have recently experienced, or about “softer” emotions like sadness, grief, loneliness, or anxiety. Men themselves also perpetuate this stereotype by not talking to other people about the struggles they may be experiencing in order to appear strong and appropriately masculine.

Man walking

But if you talk to men about their emotional struggles––really sit down with them and ask the tough, introspective questions about what’s going on emotionally for them––you might be surprised by what they say. We recently did this in a study interviewing white adult men in the Northeast United States who were relatively educated and affluent. All of the men we interviewed had recently gone through a difficult life event, such as divorce, job loss, or severe illness, and we asked them questions about what that experience was like and who they talked to about it. What we found was a complicated picture of men both fulfilling the stereotype we have of them by not dealing with and talking about their feelings, while at the same time also counteracting that stereotype by openly expressing emotions about the difficulties they recently faced. What was most interesting about our findings is that every man we spoke with displayed both expression and concealment of emotion within the same interview. Continue reading ““Cloudy Visibility”: Men’s inner emotional lives are more complicated than you might think”