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Weeks 10-11: Exploring Masculinities

Anne Dalke's picture

First, with some help from Howard Glasser, we'll be looking @ Michael Kimmel's essay on "Masculinity as Homophobia" and Chris Ware's graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan. What strikes you about this material? Especially when you consider it through the lenses for "transcending gender" that Kate Bornstein provided us, both in text and in person, last week?

Then, we will continue our discussion of masculinity with a visit from artist and publisher Felice Picano, founder of the influential early gay publishing companies SeaHorse Press and The Gay Presses of New York, which both set the tone for gay and lesbian publishing for decades and played an integral role in the development and growth of gay popular culture. What questions do you have for Felice, and/or what are your responses to his visit?

kayla's picture

It's a matter of life and breast...

I'm not sure how I feel about this video/this movement/this idea:

The blog where I saw this video calls this the result of "pink ribbon feminism." One the one hand "Save the Boobs" is eye-catching and funny, but I've seen some other videos with this catch-phrase that are just completely trashy. 

rae's picture

Felice Picano. Gay Marriage. My Thoughts.

I had a lot of thoughts about gay marriage, largely regarding Felice Picano's visit to our class, so I thought I'd finally post them. Then I realized that somehow, my post ended up taking almost four pages, so I decided to add it as a blog post and just post a link from here to there (/exchange/node/5678). It's called "Queer Activism Does Not Mean Gay Marriage." Read it if you like. Or skim it. But if you don't care to read it, please consider checking out "Resist the Gay Marriage Agenda!" which is written by queerkidssaynomarriage ( Frankly, it does a much better job than I can of explicating why gay marriage isn't the perfect solution to all gay problems.


rae's picture

Education and Class

I disagree with a lot of what Felice Picano said, but I think there’s something to the idea that education and class are tied together in this country.

Sometimes it’s just getting a toe in the door--graduating from Harvard versus getting a degree from the local community college--Harvard will make you stand out. The Harvard grad may not be smarter, or a harder worker, or better in any other way, than the community college grad, but it’ll make the Harvard grad stand out at least a little. And sometimes that’s all you need--a little extra something at the beginning.

And getting to college--class contributes to that. It’s easier to get into college--into a good college, especially--if you’re in a rigorous college-prep school that prizes academics than if you’re at a school where the teachers are more concerned with keeping order than teaching anything. One of the things I learned about at a workshop I went to on privilege was how much class and money affects education. From school districts, to AP tests, to quality of schooling, to how much time kids have to study based on whether they need after-school jobs, there are so many ways in which people with money (those from a higher socio-economic class) are advantaged over those with less money.

I’m not saying that there aren’t success stories of people from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum going to great colleges and getting fantastic jobs. I’m not saying that being rich guarantees a good job. Or that going to a good college guarantees a good job. Or that one can’t get a good job (or a great job) without going to an amazing college--or any college. I’m not saying that everyone cares about what school you went to. I’m just saying that it’s an influence. From what I’ve read and heard, education is one of the things that tends to reify socio-economic and class status. People who make more money are able to send their kids to better schools. It becomes a cycle.    

It’s really difficult to find a job without a college degree. I mean, with the current economy, it’s difficult to find a job in general. But it’s particularly difficult to find a job that pays more than minimum wage if you only have a high school degree (if that). And it’s difficult to try to rise to a higher economic class on minimum wage. And money (and career--the prestige of various careers) is really tied up with class. And so education also becomes tied up with class.

Also, the New York Times did a series of articles on class in the United States a while ago; they published them in a book I bought (it’s called Class Matters ). It was really interesting and a relatively quick read. I think one part of it was about how different classes view class. For some, it has to do with how much money one makes; for others, it has to do with the type of career one has; for yet others, it has to do with culture, education, manners, morals, viewpoints, and things like that. All of that is influenced by education. Education can affect how much money a person makes and what sort of job a person can get (example: you can’t be a doctor without a lot of education--you can be an entrepreneur and make a ton of money without ever going to college, but there are some careers that you just can’t legally have). And education affects the last especially--learning about “speaking properly,” or about Kantian ethics, or about the effect of globalization, or all sorts of potentially pretentious intellectual things can happen at college/university. Not that it can’t be learned elsewhere--and whether it’s even important is debatable--but I think that for some people, at least, being able to know who Sartre is and (insert really “elitist” academic something-or-another) is a signifier of class.

I just think that a lot of times, if you can “walk the walk and the talk the talk” of some really educated Ivy leaguer (or equivalent), people will make assumptions about your class (generally that you’re of a higher class). I’m not saying it’s true/correct/morally right, just that it happens. Therefore, education can act like a class system.  

And I had other points, but I’ve now forgotten where I was going with this.


LizJ's picture

Guy Love

I was listening to my musicals playlist (yet, I have a playlist dedicated to musicals) and the music from the musical episode of Scrubs popped up. "Guy Love" is one of the better songs from the episode, but it made me think of the use of the expression "no homo." Why do men have to hide their love for each other? Why do they have to qualify their love for one another as non-sexual? Yes, the video is funny and in some ways is challenging the idea that men can't "love" one another, but the fact that it's all meant to be a joke shows how uncomfortable men can be when challenging mainstream ideas of masculinity.

holsn39's picture

My negative view of masculinity

I have been trying to make a conscious effort to use this unit on masculity to change my perspective on it because I feel like I have a really negative opinion of masculinity. I was hoping that maybe Felice Picano's visit might help, but it didn't really. When I think about male masculinity (male identified people embodying masculinity) I feel really irritated. I've been trying to figure out why I feel this way, and why I think differently about female masculinity or genderqueer masculinity. What I'm starting to think is that I have this bitterness about male priviledge and an attitude that men often carry but I don't want to project this negative view on males, so I associate it with their masculinity, not their being male.  I feel a little uncomfortable with being biased towards female masculinity, because that leads to being biased towards females themselves. Felice picano did not help because I was hoping he would give an example of a male who embodied a male masculinity that I didn't view negatively... but he didn't. I still felt like he had a somewhat condescending attitude and repeatedly was trying to prove his value in a very dominating way.  I think maybe people who are male (not all but many) might often embody this kind of masculinity that I have a poor opinion of just because they are victims of our male priviledged society.  I just wish that men would see themselves as victims in this way, instead of just seeing women as the victims, because that way they could figure out how to embody a kind of masculinity that I might be able to see positively.

Anne Dalke's picture


How is it positive to see ppl. as victims?

rae's picture

people as victims

Maybe it's not so much wanting men to see themselves as victims so much as men realizing that the whole concept of male privilege and favoring men (and masculininty) over women (and femininity) hurts men, too. In order to not be hurt by male privilege and the prizing of masculinity, men must make sure that they are masculine enough.

There's a book I found called Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?: A Debate, by Warren Farrell, Steven Svoboda, and James P. Sterba. From what I can tell, it examines whether there is still a need for feminism and whether feminism hurts men (this would likely be if the need for feminism is over). I didn't get very far into the book because it really frustrated me (I think I disagreed with his views on feminism, or the type of feminism that he decided to argue against--it was a few years ago), but it's an interesting concept. 

I think that it's less that feminism hurts men and more that having rigid ideas about men and women hurts everyone. The type of feminism that makes all men out to be evil oppressors hurts everyone. The idea that women must do certain things, and men must do other certain things, and they can't ever do things set aside for the "opposite" gender, hurts everyone. A feminism (or any other sort of movement, whatever it's called) that would allow people to do whatever they wanted without fear that it is wrong for their gender would be good for everyone. It would be good for girls who want to play football; it would be good for boys who want to watch Gossip Girl or wear nail polish. It would be good for anyone whose actions are currently restricted by society's notions of what men and women should do.

And now I'm totally off topic. I guess my point is that maybe it'd be eaiser with?...masculine cismen who recognize that male privilege/sexism/the patriarchy/gender roles hurts men, too, and not just women. There would be a lack of condescension if it were less "oh, poor women" and more "this hurts all of us." I'm not sure if I'm making sense anymore, or if this at all touches on what holsn39 said.  


Karina's picture

I don't know when this comes out but FIELDTRIP!!!

This looks intriguing. I hope it's out soon so I/we can go see it.

w0m_n's picture

A whole new world

Personally, I'm not sure that Felice Picano's visit did that much for me in but what stuck with me most about Picano's visit was his concept of how individual's different social environments inform their interactions. As I mentioned earlier this semester, my experience with men has been very limited and consequently I don't know much about them. Before this section on masculinity, I had partially dismissed men which is the reason why I very excited about this topic because I wanted my experience to be challenged. Reading Jimmy Corrigan and our discussion after really opened my eyes to the complexities of masculinity. What struck me in particular is Howard's comment that men as individuals, contrary to as a social group, feel a powerlessness. This, I think really explains the character of Jimmy Corrigan. As I was reading the graphic novel several other things grabbed my attention as well specifically was the older, color block style of the pictures themselves, the confusing nature of the plot, and the unresolved lonliness of Jimmy. They all seemed to work together to communicate these complexities in a way that I think words could not.

kjmason's picture

In the now

 I definitely agree with what Felice said about coming out being a process. I liked his stories and I was obvious to me that he was an important influence of the gay movement. My only frustration was even though his stories were very interesting and I believe it is important to know from where we have come, I'm feeling a gap in what I need from this class. I really would like to meet someone on the forefront of some sort of activism right now. Someone working either for equality for open LGBT people in the workplace, someone advocating for gay marriage, etc. Felice talked a lot about threats to his life because of being openly gay that he has experienced, but the reality is that in many (especially pennsyltucky-type) towns that sort of threat is a daily thing for people and I find this much more pressing. It would be empowering to bring these topics more into the now, because then there would be a clearer picture of how people could become involved. I'm not saying the people we have talked to from other generations were of any less educational value or relevance to the class. I'm saying that they are not taking me and the class as a whole where I think it would be best for us to go. I know not everyone wants to be involved in activism, but I think a more modern take on anything is definitely more directly relatable to the students. I hope to go more in this with my final project.

rae's picture

Ignacio Rivera is awesome. The end.

There’s this really awesome person named Ignacio Rivera. Ze was, I believe, the keynote speaker at the 2009 MN Trans Health and Wellness Conference--the talk was called “Why Welfare Reform and Economic Justice are LGBT/Queer issues,” and it was really great. Rivera has a website ( describes him as “a Black Boricua, Trans Multi-gender queer, economic and racial justice activist/performance artist.” Rivera’s facebook group says, “Ignacio Rivera is a Queer, gender-shifting, Trans- Entity, Black Boricua, lecturer, activist, filmmaker performance artist and sexual liberationist. Ignacio has shared their poetry, spoken word and storytelling for over 15 years. As a lecturer/ trainer, Ignacio has spoken on such topics of racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, transgender issues, trans 101, sexual liberation, anti-oppression, anti-violence, multi-issue organizing and more” ( Anyway, Ignacio Rivera = amazing. They’re based in New York, I think. It was really interesting to hear about queer issues other than, you know, gay marriage and ending DADT and adopting kids and stuff like that (not that I’m against mainstream gay goals).

Anyway, Ignacio Rivera is one of the people I've been thinking about when it comes to current queer activists and less mainstream activism and stuff like that.

LizJ's picture

Context is Key

 Context is key. I feel that if Felice Picano left us with one idea it was that "context is key." Understanding the historical context of a group of people is essential to understanding where they are today. When Felice Picano was starting to get active in the gay rights movement, most of the things he did were at that point illegal. By just being an out and open homosexual he had to deal with many hardships including death threats from strangers who wanted him dead just by being who he was. I believe that this is very important to realize and remember, especially as it will hopefully open up opportunities for other minority or marginalized groups in the future.

I think that Felice Picano was a breath of fresh air for the class. It was definitely beneficial to get a frank, straight forward out look on what it was like to be a gay man in the past and present. At some points I felt that he was telling some of his stories (such as being a boy toy & having sex at an early age, etc.) for shock value, but then as I reflected on it, I think that he has just lived a really interesting, exciting life and these stories are what he tells because they are what he knows. It was interesting how he saw himself as revolutionary and pushing boundaries. This is where the historical context comes into play. Yes, historically in the 60s and 70s and even the 80s, he was very ahead of the times. But considering all the other people we've encountered in this class, he doesn't seem more impressive than anyone else we've looked at (which I think he would not like to hear).

I also found it interesting that both Felice and Kate Bornstein agreed that there is still a tremendous amount of problems that women face and still need attention. I really liked this perspective because I think that in the modern world a lot people assume women have gained full equality or almost full equality to men, and that's not the case. Women are still being victimized by many forms of abuse in much larger numbers than men. Also, on the issue of gay marriage, Felice Picano didn't seem too thrilled with the fight like Kate Bornstein. Though he did take a more positive stance on the issue saying "If gay marriage is the issue... then great, cause that's better than nothing. At least it's some issue people are fighting for." I really like his idea of always fighting in some sort of revolution, though it'd be interesting in seeing a well known lgbt(etc.) figure who is in great support of gay marriage, considering most of the people we've gotten to know haven't been avid supporters of that issue.

Lastly, I'd be more interested in seeing where his tri-theory of "sexual fluidity" of social, physical, and psychological levels goes in the future. I think that he's on to something, but hasn't really thought it out well, so it doesn't make a ton of sense as of now.

rae's picture

Picano vs. Bornstein

I can't quite figure out what you meant by "Felice Picano didn't seem too thrilled with the fight like Kate Bornstein"--did you mean that neither Picano, nor Bornstein, seemed "thrilled with the fight" for gay marriage, or did you mean that Bornstein seemed to be a proponent of gay marriage, and Picano wasn't? 

I think Bornstein was not actually against gay marriage (yes, despite having said, "Gay marriage, excuse me, sucks"). From what I can recall (or rather, checking my notes), she said, "I cry at weddings. I love weddings. I don't love the goverment stamp over everything." I think the thing was that she's against gay marriage being the big end-all/be-all for gay rights. Partly because she said that in terms of politics, we need to triage, and violence against women is the most pressing issue (she mentioned believing that all groups should put 15-20% of their energy toward ending violence against women). Gay rights groups only focusing on gay marriage means that other issues are ignored. 

She did believe, however, in people having the rights that go along with marriage; she put them into two categories: civil rights that people need with partners and civil rights that people need to raise children. She thought that both needed to be available to anyone who wants them. The issue with the big push for gay marriage is that there's a lot of people it won't help (for example, single parents).

And as to Picano, maybe I misunderstood him because I remember him as saying that gay marriage was the only issue gay people now have--except for maybe ending DADT. And I disagree really, really strongly with that idea.

meredyd's picture

not sure where else to put this...

 ...but it seemed relevant with regard to what Picano was saying in class about gay marriage and the GLBT community today/the problematic aspects of that we talked about afterward. It's an op-ed from a radical queer perspective. 

(Also, this blog is really great.)

Owl's picture

God, Christ, Lord, Jesus

I really enjoyed Felice Picano's visit to our class. His compelling stories were uncensored and embellished with academic voice, which really attracted me the most. What really caught my attention however, was his idea of "coming out" as a process rather than a one time thing. In my Performance and Self class, we had recently read an article by Judith Butler in which she said that "coming out" was just the act of  coming out into another closet; that you are never really out becuase you always have to prove youself to those you come out to. I think if I had a question to ask Picano, it would be if he agrees with this or not. In other do you or anyone else believe that "coming out" does not give you freedom of expression, but rather it gives the society in which you "come out" to, the freedom to condemn you?

Alice's picture

WARNING: Don't ingest plastic when you're pregnant!

 I came across this link on and thought it was interesting and highly relevant to the discussions we have had in class about masculinity.

In case you don't feel like reading the article, it basically talks about how high-levels of plastic (phthalates) in woman's bodies during pregnancy makes their boy babies "less masculine." What does it mean to be less masculine anyways? The article attempts to clarify by saying that they do not mean that the boys were feminine and played with dolls, but that "they're playing in more gender neutral ways- the sports were quite neutral, for instance- what it does suggest is that (the effects) could manifest in other ways- in verbal ability, in spatial ability and so on, which are also sexually dimorphic."

The whole article is problematic on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin. It is just so sad and ridiculous that women are being told to go to these extreme measures to avoid plastic so that their boys will not become less masculine. And then there is the whole idea that less masculine is equated with playing in "gender neutral ways." What does that even mean? Bleh. I hate articles like this. There really is so much progress to be made in breaking these stereotypes and definitions of masculinity and femininity.  


dshetterly's picture

Like eboch, I felt

Like eboch, I felt uncomfortable with Picano's statements about education and the class system.  He said "in America, the class system is the education system." This is a naive and incomplete perspective, and given the high stakes of the issues, it is a dangerous one.  The education system extends and legitimizes the class system.  The two are highly interconnected but they are nowhere near interchangable.  It is really important to understand the way these systems of oppression work in order to fight against them.  Viewing the education system or the class system as a self contained unit obscures the pervasive ways those systems influence our society. 


This same shortsighted perspective appeared in the documentary "Born Into Brothels."  The protagonist (Zana?) behaved as though gaining access to a boarding school would solve all of the problems that the children were facing; that it would save them.  She doesn't consider how children are processed within the education system.  She wasn't sensitive to how a child might feel after being dropped into a boarding school far from home.  Particularly when that child comes from a section of society that is discriminated against and frowned upon.  Moreover she neglects to consider how those conditions might act as obstacles to the student's success in school.


I just think that the education system can't be looked at as a meritocratic bubble.  So many factors influence a student's performance and class is definitely one of them.  In turn that performance influences economic capital. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, the stakes are very high. 


For the most part, I really enjoyed Felice Picano's visit.  I might have enjoyed what I read of his book a bit more.  He was a little show-offy although I guess that came through in the book as well.  I thought his stories were really interesting though.  I noticed thought that he sometimes didn't seem to be listening to what people were asking.  He would respond about something kind of unrelated.  He also seemed closed off to suggestions.  I don't know if you guys saw that in him.  Maybe I am being hypercritical. 

Anne Dalke's picture

Maculinity as Disability?

I was walking around the city (of Philadelphia) this afternoon, and was surprised to come upon this new statue of Ben Franklin. I thought immediately of "Alison Lapper, Pregnant," the controversial statue in Trafalgar Square which Kristin shared w/ us last month. It makes sense to me to make a statue of someone who is disabled, representing her without the limbs she lacks. But why make a limbless statue of someone who had his arms and legs? This matter of representation is getting very interesting...

Kristin's picture

A bust with a bust

The tradition of the "bust" is indeed a curious one. Bust of Beethoven for the mantel, anyone? Here's a recently discovered bust of Julius Caesar, next to one of . . . Hillary Clinton! A bust with a bust!

julius caesar


skindeep's picture

a reflection

felice picano was interesting, to say in the least. like i said in class today, there were times when he seemed to brag a little, but once you managed to look past that, you could tell that there was a lot he had been through and a lot he had seen - and that information, those stories were what caught my interest.

some of the things he said and ideas he put across intrigued me, so i think im going to list them down here.

- 'i decided to protest against everything - and coming out was a part of that process' ------ is coming out a response to something? like a protest? i feel like it doesnt have to be/shouldnt be a statement you make to prove something to the world. i always imagined it to be more like a personal thing. making a statement for yourself. to give yourself that solidity. that assurance.

- his concept of sexual activity not falling into sexual identificationl. you could do what you wanted, have sex with whoever you wanted and it didnt have to label your sexual orientation. what struck me about this is that it was the way things were before we tried to make them more 'liberal' - before we came in with our banners and boxes and flags. we fought for gay rights, and by doing so, we made apparent that if you have sex with a person of the same gender, youre gay. and that made people stop and think. that brought in the limitations.

- he spoke about gender and sexuality at a 'social level, physical level and psychological level' and how an individual can be 'heterosexual and homosocialble' whilst another can be 'homosexual and psycho - something' and how we can then (by scaling these categories) decide whos compatible with whom. ----- the entire concept seems ridiculous to me. all the categories. and they just seem to complicate things. and define nothing. are we constructing more walls whilst we try to include everything and everyone into every category?

one concept that i loved was his idea that 'coming out' is a process. and people are coming out/chosing to stay hidden everyday. not just from their sexuality but from different identities of theirs - be it the artist in them, the poet etc' we all have multiple closests that we live in and come out of, everyday.

another idea of his that struck me was that you need to identify yourself. you know what you are. identity is meant for other people. im glad i caught the last second of class and asked him whatever i did that promted this answer, because im still thinking about it. im not sure where i stand on it though, so i wont post the random mess in my mind that pops up when i think about it.

oh well/

Alice's picture

Gay Identities and Actions

 I agree with a lot of what you said about Felice Picano, especially with the whole "sexual activity not being related to sexual identification" idea. It has always bothered me when sexual identities become some easily attached to actions. For example, when you say that someone of the same sex is attractive and people automatically say, "oh, so you're gay." I don't think this reaction stems from any anti-gay mentality in that I would be ashamed to be labelled as gay, its just that I don't think that just because I decide to be with a woman, I need to take on this whole identity as a lesbian. The thing is, gay and lesbian are such loaded terms that the minute you identify yourself as one or the other, I feel like you are being a part of this complicated social history. There are assumptions and expectations made of you as a gay/lesbian person, just as there are of a straight person. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think it's great when people identify themselves and obtain that solidarity. I just think it should be an identity that you chose, whether or not it is related to your actions. I hope that makes sense...

cantaloupe's picture

felice picano

I really liked Felice Picano.  I was skeptical (like always) because he seemed very prominantly gay.  When someone devotes their life to gay issues, writing, etc.  I get a little fidgety.  To me being gay is just being gay, not a career.  Anyhow, I was impressed how Felice Picano was able to turn my thinking about him around.  He wasn't academically snobby gay.  He was just a gay man who was part of the revolution.  And he wanted to write about it.  My favorite part was at the very end when he said that labeling himself as gay wasn't for him because he doesn't have to label himself for himself: he just is.  I was happy he said that because it makes me feel less insane.  I think that point is the point I've been trying to make all along with our discussion of gender and transcending gender and the restrictions of being a "woman" or "man."  I kept on saying "do what you feel!  Just be.  Isn't that the easiest thing to do?"  Talking about categories isn't super important because they are just for the world, and really, who cares about everyone else?  You live and are whoever you want.

The only part I didn't enjoy was his views on education and saying that where you go to school will define you later in life.  I think that is probably true in an academic sphere.  But in my mind there are plenty of people who could care less where you went to school.  And I pretty much plan on living around those people.  I think learning is important, but I hate that the institution of education is percieved as important because, to me, it is so inconsequential.

rae's picture


Um, hi, cantaloupe. I just wanted to apologize for my last post. There's another person I'd been talking to who said a lot of really upsetting, frustrating things involving the theme of "just be you--that's the easiest thing to do--that's all you need to do," and your posting was (pardon the cliche) the straw that broke the camel's back. And I shouldn't have taken my frustration out on you. I'm not exactly trying to take back my opinions; I just didn't mean for them to seem like an attack or anything, and after having reread what I wrote, it seems a lot more like yelling at you than I meant for it to be. I actually did just mean for it to be part of a discussion. And I'd send this as a personal message (instead of awkwardly posting it on the forum for all to see), but I can't figure out how to do that.

rae's picture

"do what you feel! Just be. Isn't that the easiest thing to do?"

I am *so tired* of hearing people say to just do what you want, to just be you.” Yes, it’s a great idea. It’s something we should all strive for. I’m all for people just being who they are. However, I believe rather strongly that saying “Just be! Isn’t that the easiest thing to do?” completely dismisses the struggles that a lot of people face trying to “just be.” No, just being is *not* the easiest thing to do--I think it’s probably the most authentic thing to do; I think it’s probably the best and most fulfilling thing to do; I think it’s probably the most likely to make one happy and whole--but for a lot of people, it’s not the *easiest* thing to do. Going against peer pressure, going against societal rules, going against familial expectations and religious commands, and just general socialization--it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s scary and alienating and dangerous. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, just that it’s not always easy.

And to me, saying that just being oneself is the easiest thing to do passes judgment on people who don’t always manage to “just be” or who are trying to figure what it would mean to “just be.” Maybe all this is easy for you. In which case, I’m really happy for you. Truly. I’m glad that being yourself comes so easily to you. But it’s not always so easy for everyone else.

In a post during Week 9, in response to the question of socialization, you wrote, “You aren't you by virtue of just you, you are you because of all the people you've met and places you've gone.” I think you’ve missed the point. I agree with you; the people we’ve met, and the places we’ve gone, and the experiences we’ve had--that all influences us. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s how life goes.

But when I say that people have internalized a lot of society’s messages, and that socialization really affects how people act and think, I’m not just saying that we’re the product of our experiences. I’m not saying that society is bad.

You say that “Society isn't just telling us to be perfect WASPs who are straight and marry perfect men.” And it’s true; that’s not the only message society is telling. But I think that a lot of socialization is so much more insidious than you realize, or at least more insidious than you care to admit. There are so many messages that society sends children that being straight and cis is the way to go. That’s it’s “natural.” There are so many little things that bring people up believing in various gender norms and roles--I don’t have time to list them all here, but I can put together a list of books and articles and whatnot that I’ve read if you actually want it. Mary Osirim’s “The Study of Gender in Society” and Marissa Golden’s “Women, Work, and Family” were two good classes that dealt with gender roles and socialization, by the way.  

Also, in response to what you said about Felice Picano, there’s a big different between not wanting a label and just being, just doing what you feel. I’m not saying that they cannot be the same thing, just that not wanting a label is not necessarily just doing what you feel, and just doing what you feel is not necessarily going to lead to not wanting a label.

I think that saying “talking about categories isn't super important because they are just for the world” is really naïve. We interact with the world; we live in the world. Moving about in the world in an integral part of our lives. Talking about categories--which categories others try to put us in, which categories we like--is important because categories shape who we are, how we view ourselves, how others will treat us. I don’t think the answer to is simply pretend that categories don’t exist or don’t matter. Yes, I’m all for people not being stuck forever in some rigid category that they don’t want. But I don’t think that the only other option is to not have categories. Keep in mind, categories are at least a little important to you - you go to a women’s college. “Women” is a category. Perhaps it’s “just for the world,” but it’s still there. If you didn’t somehow fit into that category, you wouldn’t be here.

Also, in an earlier post (posted in Week 8), you wrote, “I identify as a woman quite happily.  I am proud of my female body.” Again, those are categories--both “woman” and “female.” Are categories “just for the world,” or are they important to you, personally, too?

Anyway, I’m sorry this is long, but I’ve been frustrated by some of the things you’ve said, and I found some time to actually post. Hopefully this will lead to interesting discussion; if not, oh well.


Anne Dalke's picture

On masculinity separable from sexuality

I thought that Felice Picano's story of his life and work formed such an interesting juxtaposition to Kimmel's thinking about "masculinity as homophobia." Some things he said that will stay w/ me (and I record here to be sure that they do!):

  • "I was a victim of the queer studies movement" (which may get the history
    wrong, not recognizing, for instance, the illegality of earlier gay behaviors:
    "content is context").
  • "I decided to be who I was for the rest of my life."
  • "Monogamy never interested me. Heterosexual marriage is a catastrophe"
    (="a failed business partnership, plus all those health costs!")
  • "Since Act Up Went Down, there has been no other issue" (but gay marriage).
  • "W.H. Auden said, 'education is the class system in America.'
    It's how we sort ourselves, and how we recognize class."
    (We had some interesting discussion about this: whether our educational system can operate
    as a means for individuals to rise in class stature, while perpetuating the already existing system.)
  • "Where you went to school comes in strangely handy; it allows people to place you."
  • "I've devoted my life to exposing various lies about how we actually live, as opposed to the way we say we do."
  • "All our lives, we are figuring out what the rules are, and then how to get around them."
  • "Gay sex was more hidden, but more widespread, before the sexual revolution:
    'I have more sex before....doing it on the down-low.'"
  • Before the sexual revolution, sexual behavior did not constitute a sexual identity.
    The behavior was acceptable in part because no identity followed from it.
  • "I have a crackpot theory of sexuality, with three levels: physical, social, and psychological.
    (Some one who is physically homosexual, for example, might also be heterosociable.)
    This will be useful to know when you start dating."
  • "Cultural perceptions of maleness are a track. I want to show you where some of the tracks are. I got off the train."
  • "Coming out is a process: it doesn't happen @ one time; there are different closets. Writer's block is about being in a closet."
  • "We have to limit ourselves in order to live. And we have to learn when to step out" (think of the amoeba's 'pseudopodia').
  • Masculinity is separable from sexuality: "to 'man up' is to follow a code of ethics"; it doesn't have anything to do with who you sleep with.
  • Overheard in conversation: "He was kissing her all day long; that was so gay" (W-H-A-T??)
skindeep's picture

down the spiral ladder

what struck me in class was when someone said that men try to show themselves (their  masculinity) up against other men. and women just get dragged in as bait. like you're more of a man if you can 'get' more girls.

and then i realized that women do the same thing. show their feminity up against each other. and use men as bait. youre more of a woman if guys give you more attention.

and if this is true - and we're just mentally dualing each other - what are we doing?

both genders seem pretty insecure and misreble in their own plight. men worry about being man enough and women seem to always be on guard.

whats the point?

LizJ's picture

"Be a man"

"Grow some balls"

"Grow a pair"

"Don't be such a pussy"

I'm still confused about the definition of masculinity... is it the "homophobia" that Kimmel talks of, is it the loneliness portrayed in Jimmy Corrigan, is it the gender expression of macho, is it the opposite of femeninity, is it all of the above? I'm still stirring it over in my head. What I have gotten out of the discussion of masculinity personally is that it seems to be a performance of what men "ought to be." Then there's the idea of female masculinity and male femeninity, but they don't seem so unreal. I think with Jimmy Corrigan it's not so much about "step up and be a man" but "step up and be a person." Masculinity has been suprisingly more complex than I would have ever imagined.

justouttheasylum's picture

I suppose my question for Mr.

I suppose my question for Mr. Picano is whether he identifies with masculinity and if so, how we can begin to understand that identification since Kimmel defines masculinity as homophobia. In essence, Kimmel believes that to be masculine is to be homophobic which strikes an unusual chord in homosexuals who consider themselves masculine. That would be the equivalent of being a homophobic homosexual. Which I don't doubt is possible, just doubt that is always the case. I wonder if it's possible to be a masculine homosexual or whether the definition of masculinity has to be altered. 


-Asia G.

rae's picture

masculinity as homophobia

i still don't think that Kimmel is trying to say that masculinity is homophobia. i think he's trying to say that sometimes people confuse the two, that sometimes masculinity manifests itself as homophobia, that sometimes men pretend to be masculine by being homophobic. but i don't think that he's saying that they're inextricably linked or that you can't have one without the other.

there's also the fact that there are lots of different definitions of "masculinity," just as there are lots of definitions of "femininity" and even "gender." so, depending on your definition, there could definitely be masculine gay men that aren't homophobic (for example, if your definition of masculine means physically fit, and into sports, and slow to cry). of course, there could also be masculine gay men that aren't homophobic that also like to wear pink and bake cookies--perhaps the definition there involves being brave or good at math or something like that, none of which exclude the possibly of liking pink or liking to bake cookies. it all depends on your definition.

twig's picture


over the weekend i watched 'murderball' a film that we definitely should have watched for a perfect transition and intersection of disability and masculinity. its a documentary that came out not too long ago about wheelchair rugby (great synopsis, i know, so) here's the trailer:

i guess this is about a week too late, but our library has it and it's worth watching and surprisingly relevant considering how we have been questioning our transitions between topics of late, so just thought i'd throw it out there.

Kristin's picture


You're right: viewing Murderball would have been a great way to make this transition! (Though Kate Bornstein, making her own transition, came inbetween). I'll plan to use Murderball the next time 'round. Anyone doing a final project that touches on disability and/or masculinity sound check out the film!

cantaloupe's picture


What strikes me about masculinity is that it seems like a strange thing to study.  It's so super broad that I don't understand how one can write about it "academically."  I understand the kind of man that the article we read is talking about - no doubt those kind of men exist.  But there are so many different kind of men; there are probably more men outside the stereotypical masculine man than in it.  So while I found the article fairly interesting, I got irritated by its overgeneralizations.  But then again, maybe "masculinity" is describing "those kind of men."  I don't know.  Categories and terms are really starting to make me angry.  

This isn't about masculinity or anything, but more just a general wondering.  Do any of you ever wonder about the significance of what we study?  It might be the most interesting thing in the world to you to study masculinity in our society.  Or it might seem like you are meant to be a part of the transgender movement.  We all find those things in our lives that we are passionate about and we follow it.  But what if it all just doesn't matter?  What if we are all just the size of an ant to something far bigger, but we can't even conceptualize something far bigger.  Like an ant probably doesn't conceptualize us as a dominant species that is thousands of time bigger than them.  To them we are just movement.  So what if, say, the sky's movement is actually some species that is far bigger than us moving around above us.  What if we really aren't important.  And we sit in class and we discuss, say, masculinity, but really there is a whole universe of something that is far more significant out there.  Do we just ignore the fact that we are probably insignificant in attempts to just be happy with whatever we are doing or studying? 

Karina's picture

we seem to live in negative space

What was most intersting to me about the Kimmel article is the way that it fleshes out the imaginary/imagined masculine paradigm to be the entity against both the masculine and feminine identities are measured. Also, both identities are negatively defined against one another. The feminine identity is primarily presented as that which is OTHER to male. Thus it's defined negatively. However the masculine identitiy, if you think about it, seems to be negatively defined in an even more complex way. It's defined  by its relationship to the masculine paradigm, but it's also defined by its OTHERNESS to femininity which, as we just pointed out, is itself only negatively defined; granted it's by its otherness to masculinity, but two negatives only indirectly make a positive - the negation of negation is not the same as an asserted positive. So here we have so loosely defined identities, framed by the things that they arent much more so than the things that they are and yet in our society, they are both capable and denied the aspect of (gender identity) fluidity. Is it perhaps because these gender identities are so tenuously (loosely, negatively) structured and kept in place/together that society insists on their regidity? Is it because we know that they are, by our own (unadmitted) definition not the paradigm conventions we want and force them to be? It must be fear of their disintegration, fear of their easy destruction that keeps them in place, rather than the so-called rigidity of their structure.

ebock's picture

class in jimmy corrigan

I couldn't help but notice that in our discussion of Jimmy Corrigan we didn't really discuss the socio-economic implications of Jimmy and his grandfather's lives.

So much of the masculinity presented in the text is linked inextricably to the class of the characters.

I find that the masculinities in general in working and lower-middle class men is much more rigid than that of more affluent classes. I live in a rural, conservative, and predominantly working class part of PA (kjmason can probably also attest to this...) and my sense is that, like in Jimmy Corrigan, there is so much more of a sense of detachment, emotional repression, insensitivity, etc. Not that this is necessarily manifested in a negative way, it's just different than so many of the masculinities we see here in this affluent liberal community we're all a part of.

Men are much less wishy-washy at home. I hope I don't offend anyone by saying that, but that's my opinion. But on the flip side, they're much less emotional and have a lot more trouble communicating and being perceptive about other people's feelings, etc. I'm generally conflicted about which of these two categories of masculinity that I think is more "healthy" (I can't think of a better word...).

In Jimmy Corrigan, we can definitely see especially in Jimmy's grandfather's life, how class is married to the father/son relationship.

This might not be a fully formed or coherent thought, but I felt like it needed to be said...



kayla's picture

men and feelings

 I'm writing in response to this paragraph:

Men are much less wishy-washy at home. I hope I don't offend anyone by saying that, but that's my opinion. But on the flip side, they're much less emotional and have a lot more trouble communicating and being perceptive about other people's feelings, etc. I'm generally conflicted about which of these two categories of masculinity that I think is more "healthy" (I can't think of a better word...).

I don't really think you should be worried about people being offended by this statement. True, it's kind of a generalizing remark, but it's one that isn't far off from the truth. Maybe instead of saying men are less emotional, it would be more accurate to say that they don't have the means to express much emotion beyond anger? It seems like boys and men have been programmed to oppress any other emotional responses because according to the bullies on the elementary school playground, that makes them sissies and wimps. I've been trying to communicate with a lot of men lately, albeit mostly with those who are in reach of me, and I get the sense that this is changing in some ways. I mentioned Ortner's "big man" idea to a friend, and this is how he responded:

"I'm not so sure if we're still completely stuck in a big-man culture. I think there's a small but growing niche of not just acceptance but desire for a different type of man. In a partner, father, brother, homosexual partner, everything. But it's still there. However, not driven by some outright societal injustice."

And I know I shared this website before, but I want to bring it back when it's more appropriate:

These are just images of men. Men standing or sitting, being, in their surroundings, but each one has something to say about his masculinity. Some offer thoughts that reinforce the idea that men don't communicate as easily and have to hide their feelings, while others suggest that something else in going on somewhere. Parker says, "I have been called a SNAG (sensitive new age guy) a renaissance man, a man in touch with his feminine side, etc...I think that I am masculine in the sense of self-reliance." While the first one, Bill, admits that he is "strong emotionally" but has to reinforce that admission with a proof of himself: "[I] have always stood up for myself, and fear nothing. I happen to be physically strong..."

Has anyone else heard of SNAG before? I've never heard of this phrase until now...

Anne Dalke's picture

class and culture

Remember Sherry Ortner's essay on "Reading America: Preliminary Notes on Class and Culture"? she talks so interestingly there about how gender and sexuality, carrying a secret burden of class meanings, give a "surplus" antagonism" to relations between working class-identified men and middle class-identified women. Seems as if Jimmy Corrigan is a great example of the phenomenon Ortner describes.

Anne Dalke's picture

the willies

So here's another way we may all be becoming intersexed....via the large amount of synthetic estrogen now used in plastics, epoxies and our food. In mice it means lower sperm counts for males, early puberty for females, and abnormalities in the cervix, uterus and vagina for the babies. Nicholas Kristof, who writes about this in Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies, says that "endocrine disrupting chemicals" give him "the willies."

No HoMo.

Anne Dalke's picture

"Mad Man," Maddening Times

A report from Judith Warner's "Domestic Disturbances" column, entitled "Mad Man,' Maddening Times"--on the recent passage of the health care bill, containing the toughest restrictions on women’s access to abortion since Roe v. Wade--made me think of our conversation yesterday. (You'll find a fuller report of some of the dimensions underlying the vote @ Trading Women's Rights for Political Power.) Would you describe this decision as an expression of "patriarchy," or "kyriarchy," or something else....? What does it have to do w/ our discussion of the vulnerability of men--and of all human beings? (Have you heard of the work of Feminists for Life, who argue that a feminist stance of protecting the weak extends to the weakest, the unborn....?)

rae's picture

Trans-inclusion distracting to LGB legislation?

i realize that this doesn't actually have a lot to do with this week's topic directly, but i found a link on to something someone wrote, and I thought I'd share it. it's about why "trans-inclusion is distracting to LGB legislation." i find the whole thing really upsetting for a number of reasons, so i'm not going to comment on it right now, but i thought it might be interesting to read.

justouttheasylum's picture

Michael Kimmel hit the nail

Michael Kimmel hit the nail on the head and pummeled it into the wood with this article. I am just not sure of the title. I agree, a lot of masculinity is based on this need to assert your heterosexuality. But what does the need to dominate others, have total control and cause bodily harm have to do with homophobia? It seems more like an internal struggle to be perceived as strong and emotionless. Perhaps homosexuality is weak, soft? In a homosexual male couple, if one was to assume a more aggressive, domineering role, then technically he can't be considered masculine if masculinity is indeed homophobia. Or perhaps he's not really comfortable with his homosexuality. If masculinity is homophobia, is femininity homophilia?

I am confusing myself.

holsn39's picture

Pop Culture

First I wanted to share this video because people said they were interested in looking at pop culture. Here's a cultural representation of gender and gender roles, a lot of body language, and i would say "playing" with gener (as Kate Bornstein might say).
Continuing our conversation about Kimmel's essay, I think the ideas he writes about regarding masculitity are alarmingly applicable today. This song has a interesting commentary on power in gender relations, in mainstream pop culture!
Here's another representation of masculity in pop cluture. And let me point out from a different generation.
Prince was shows here a very heterosexual persona, but not necessarily a very masculine one. The thing I like about Prince is that he doesn't seem to use his sexuality to prove his gender, in other words he's not trying to use his heterosexuality to prove his manliness. Sp here's a pop icon who seems to be pushing the line with gender representation and particularly masculinity. Who is doing this now? I think its i sign that Prince is still such a dynamic and unique character in pop culture. More evidence showing that Kimmel's essay really isn't that outdated. Maybe Prince has transcended the "homophobic" aspect of masculinity.
one of my favorite lyrics from Prince is from the song "Uptown", he says:
"What's up little girl? I ain't got time 2 play"
Baby didn't say 2 much - she said, "Are U gay?"
Kinda took me by surprise, I didn't know what 2 do
I just looked her in her eyes and I said, "No, are U?"
(Said 2 myself, said)
She's just a crazy, crazy, crazy little mixed up dame
She's just a victim of society and all its games

Now where I come from
We don't let society tell us how it's supposed 2 be
Our clothes, our hair, we don't care
It's all about being there
-if you want to listen to it

kjmason's picture

Mankini. What's the verdict?


According to a website called "The Masculine Heart: Secure Masculinity" Jim Carrey is asserting his masculinity and his comfort with his sexuality by dawning this incredibly sexy swimwear that actually belongs to Jenny McCarthy. Part of me celebrates when someone like Carrey does this sort of thing because no one is going to call him a "fag" or a "homo" for doing this. I however find the body language in the picture interesting though. The way his hand is clasped in front of Jenny's signals his feelings of dominance in the relationship. The site aknowledges that "Jim Carrey is secure in his masculinity. That's a little easier when Jenny McCarthy is on your arm." 

Another sort of phenomenon that I think mirrors this sort of tenuous "security" is the "only real men wear pink" shirts that were very popular a couple years ago...

This is just kinda stupid in my opinion. It's like running around with a shirt that says, "HEY HEY Everyone LOOK! I'm a REAL MAN and all these other dudes aren't! YEAHHH!" By further promoting the idea of a "real man" the shirt widens the potential for a man to feel less than masculine, promoting the sort of behavior and mentality that cmorais talks about in "Sexy Bitch". How do men be more manly? Well these guys that have swarms of nearly nude women clamoring for their attention keep referring to these ladies butts and calling them sexy bitched...lets try that!

I think a lot of the things that feminist theory struggle against with some men being degrading to women actually comes from the way these men feel they have to act in order to assert that they are "no homo".  Masculinity and Femininity are intertwined in this ongoing struggle to assert power and distance from the other. They only exist as the other's opposite.

rae's picture

real men wear pink

on one hand, i do see what you're saying about the shirts and how promoting the idea of what "real men" do and don't do is a bad thing.
on the other hand, i had a (guy) friend in high school who had a hot pink shirt that said "real men wear pink," and i think it took a lot of courage to wear it. he went to an all-boys school. this particular school was...really, really big on being hyper-masculine, perhaps because it was a conservative, catholic, military academy. showing the least bit of anything that wasn't uber masculine was not very well accepted.
i think that....sometimes the "real men wear pink" shirts are just trying to show that people who are truly secure and confident in their masculinity can do want they want, without regard to what everyone says a man must do. i'm not saying that i think a person can't be a real man without wearing pink, just that i think if you're really secure in your masculinity, you can just let it be and not be so caught up in always always always flaunting your masculiniity and making sure that everything you do always conforms to society's masculine ideal. also, i'd like to say that, although i recognize i'm using both words, i'm wary of saying things about what makes something/someone a "real" something or "really" something; so, please, take what i'm saying with a grain of salt.
maybe the pink shirts are showing insecurity by saying that other men (who aren't wearing the shirts) aren't "real men." maybe the pink shirts are saying that the men wearing the shirts are comfortable with who they are, regardless what they're wearing. i don't know.

Karina's picture

Another take on No Homo

eshaw's picture   still


still homophobic...but cam'ron makes it sound more like "that's what she said" than "that's so gay"

CCM's picture

Sexy Bitch

Lately I have been interested in examining the ways in which masculinity influences pop culture, especially the music industry. Many of today’s popular songs contain lyrics that promote masculinity while degrading women. Ironically some artists even go as far as to acknowledge the demeaning quality of their lyrics. Consider the following set of lyrics from David Guetta’s song “Sexy Bitch” and the accompanying music video.  
Sexy Bitch by David Guetta (Featuring Akon)
Music video:
Yes i can see her
Cause every girl in here wanna be her
Oh she's a diva, feel the same and i wanna meet her
They say she low down
It's just a rumor and i don't believe em
They say she needs to slow down
The baddest thing around town
She's nothing like a girl you've ever seen before
Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood hoe
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful
The way that booty moving i can't take no more
I have to stop what i'm doing so i can put on my clothes
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful
Damn girl
a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
damn girl
a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
Damn girl yes i can see her
Cause every girl in here wanna be her
Oh she's a diva, feel the same and i wanna meet her
They say she low down
It's just a rumor and i don't believe em'
They say she needs to slow down
The baddest thing around town
She's nothing like a girl you've ever seen before
Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful
The way that booty moving i can't take no more
I have to stop what i'm doing so i can put on my clothes
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful
a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
damn girl
a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
Damn girl
a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
damn girl
a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
Damn girl, a sexy bitch, damn girl


Terrible2s's picture

Performing for the Performers

(I really want to take that course. I hate scheduling. I'm just venting that here, sorry.)

So Tuesday's class really got me thinking. Looking at those pictures and writing down my thoughts was interesting and useless. I reread what I wrote and not one of them was honest. I could barely remember which picture I was talking about because most of my comments were general and untrue to what I really thought. What I was writing down was what I thought I was supposed to say and think. It was all positive : "hero" "strong" "brotherhood" "talented" "wise" "powerful" "smooth."

No! That's not how I really felt or thought. I saw the muscley guy and I thought "sexist" "fake" "jerk" and "horny". I saw the man holding what I thought was a battered woman and I thought "abused" and "abuser" and I saw the army picture and thought "close-minded" "limited" "senseless".

Now I could analyze myself all day here but I think that's between me and myself. My real question for the conversation is with all these other real thoughts it my head, why did I write down the ones that weren't real? We were supposed to let our thoughts stream and our words flow. My thoughts streamed and I like dammed them up and forced my hand into ones I thought I was supposed to. Why??

I've been thinking a lot about gender and gender performance and I think that just might be it. I think in a lot of ways masculinity is a performance. But, like all performances, they are nothing without an appreciative audience. Are we in some way helping the performance? Are we performing our counter-roles to gender performance and letting the show go one? I'm not saying that masculinity is a bad thing, or that gender or the performing of it should be done away with, but I'm wondering if we are hurting ourselves. Are we playing into the stereotypes we try so hard to fight against? I don't know, maybe it's just me.

Howard Glasser's picture

New Spring Course

One last posting for the night: As a reminder, I’ll be teaching a class in the spring that might interest some of you.


Course: Ed280: Gender, Sex, and Education: Intersections and Conflict

Course Catalog Description: This course explores intersections and conflict between gender and education, specifically through focus on science/mathematics education and related academic domains. It investigates how gender complicates disciplinary knowledge (and vice versa), the (de)constructing and reinforcing of genders (via science and schooling), and ways gender troubles negotiation of disciplines. Implications for teaching, society, and social justice, as well as relationships among different cultural categories, will be explored.

Howard Glasser's picture


Are any of you familiar with Men Against Sexual Assault and Rape (MASAR)  ( at Haverford? I'm not sure how active that group is today, but there might some opportunities for collaboration with them.