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How to Be a Real Man. A Manly Man.

kayla's picture
Gender & Sexuality Project: How to Be a Real Boy, Man, Manly Man, Masculine…
Notes and Thought Formations, some of the issues I wish to address:
Songs: “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan, “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast
Masculinity in the Modern West by Christopher Forth:
Defining oneself as “not the other”
Feeling of uncertainty only perpetuate these self-definitions
Exaggerated masculinity. Exaggerated femininity? Because this is indicative of insecurity, I would assume hypermasculinity is far more prevalent. Women and girls who are unsure of their femininity often are tomboys, seem to be less uncomfortable with cross-dressing.
Bodybuilding: archetypal expression of male identity insecurity (not a lot of data supports this)
Constructions of the body, constructions of identity
Stereotypical masculinity and femininity constructed.
Gender scripts just as awful for men as they are for women.
Sherry Ortner’s big man bias, power in masculinity, masculine hierarchy, becoming emasculated…can a woman become efiminated (MSWord doesn’t even accept this term)? Does it mean that much to us?
The example of Jimmy Corrigan: not a story of “maleness,” men as victims of the patriarchy, JC is a “little man” and a failed superhero. Wordlessness throughout the graphic novel, his inability to talk to people. If masculinity is defined as power, he does not fit in.
“Dimensions of masculinity”
Highlights the unattainableness of the ideal; powerlessness of the male experience. No one (not even women) want to be JC).
Page 42: “By the eighteenth century the complexity of definitions of masculinity was such that no one man could hope to embody all the recommended quality under the given conditions of modern civilization, with the greatest tension revolving around the contradictions between physical as opposed to moral or mental attributes…For much of the century the männlich (German, manly) was defined in robustly martial terms and illustrated with adjectives like “brave,” “strong,” “forceful,” “valiant,” “resolute,” and “unyielding.” During the 1780s these ideals were complemented by more “civic” qualities like learnedness, seriousness, wisdom and gravity…By the turn of the nineteenth century, the qualities implied by männlich ranged from the aggressive and martial to the civic and moral…”
*exposes the “gentleman as a paradoxical cultural figure, crafted from the tensions between potentially irreconcilable prescriptions for ideal manhood” (43).
Using these words (and additional words from the OED), I want to have a variety of men fill out a type of survey, circling which words they think apply to themselves; it would also be interesting to include some feminine words to see how many men circle “emotional” or “graceful”…
Words: brave, strong, forceful, valiant, resolute, unyielding, learned, serious, wise, aggressive, civil, moral, cultured, attractive, swift as a coursing river, mysterious, clever, tall, fighter, hunter, buff, resourceful, warrior, heroic, responsible, superior, dominant, respectable, admirable, intimidating, slick as Gaston, courageous, stallion, alone, confident, proud…
…emotional, graceful, beautiful, tender, compassionate, thoughtful…
Ultimately, I want my project to be a self-help styled definition of maleness. Of course, this is supposed to be in some ways ironic. Self-help guides on how to express your gender should not exist by any means. I picked up a book (Masculinity in the Modern West) at the library while I was working a shift, and after reading only a page or two I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to tackle. Throughout history, men have had just as many expectations to uphold as women (even if they were the ones to put them in place to begin with). I want to on one hand kind of playfully and facetiously explore every aspect of masculinity and “manhood” all at once, in order to illustrate the impossibility of it. Oftentimes, it is women who support this impossibility. When women get together and discuss their boyfriends or their male friends or fathers or brothers the same idea generally comes up at least once: boys don’t really have feelings, so it is hard to get through to them; it’s hard for them to deal with yours. Since when do men not have feelings? Are they not human?
 The idea of the short survey is an unillustrated version of what I had thought I wanted to do for awhile, based on this man’s photography project: My hope is that by including a wide range of terms, from hypermasculine words ground deep into our perceptions of masculinity from hundreds of years of use to some more feminine words, I’ll have the capacity to demonstrate where masculinity might actually be. If for some of the surveys I tell people that they have to include their name with the survey, I could also be able to demonstrate how that kind of public pressure might alter the way a man portrays himself. I suspect that especially with a more feminine word like “emotional” the men who are assured of their privacy would be more likely to admit that and then the men who know that I will be able to associate their words with their name would be hesitate to circle that particular word. And it is my assumption that these patterns will reveal themselves due to the societal construction of masculinity—I don’t feel that I am basing these opinions on my own personal expectations of men at all.
There are a variety of figures and characters that could play into my fake self-help process, including Michelangelo’s David, Zeus, The Thinking Man, maybe even (unfortunately) those werewolf natives from the Twlight saga. They all have something to do with the formation of the male identity and the perpetuation of it. By the conclusion of my project, the issues of identity that Kate Bornstein addresses in Gender Outlaw will be used to make it clear why this social construct is doing nothing but holding men (and women and everybody) back.
I've discussed these various texts above, and intend to use all, or most, of them for my project:
Masculinity in the Modern West: Gender, Civilization and the Body by Christopher Forth, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Woman and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein,
Women as Lovers by Elfriede Jelinek and

Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture by Sherry Ortner. 


ebock's picture

class and masculinity

I think it would be worth looking at the ways in which masculinity varies in degree by the cultural, socio-economic context that the male is a part of. Class was a big part of Jimmy Corrigan that I think we didn't get to address as a class, but played an integral part in the story particular as it pertained to Jimmy's grandfather. I'd also be interested to hear what your hypothesis would be for the project. What do you expect to find? It may also be important to ground yourself in your biases or experiences with masculinities so that you can bear in mind what you may already know about masculinities from your first hand-experience and what you may have learned from academic text, etc.

Karina's picture

I'm really intrigued by the

I'm really intrigued by the fact that your project will focus on gathering real data outside the classroom to tackle questions of masculinity. This sounds fantastic. I'm curious about the number of men you're hoping will take this survey/ what are the numbers you're aiming for. Are they all from Haverford? Are the all from the same age group, race, class, religious background, etc.? Do those things make a difference/should they be a factor? This sounds more along the lines of a social science experiment, so now that you've outlined the background and the method/procedure, are you going to make a hypothesis? Also what will your conclusion/analysis of results look like: will it be a written summary/response of is this something that will call for the reader to draw his/her/etc. own conclusions?