Making Sense of Changes in Masculinity*

By: C.J. Pascoe and Tristan Bridges

gwptwittericon2Originally posted at Girl W/ Pen

coverWhat it means to be masculine changes over time and from place to place.  After all, men used to wear dresses and high heels, take intimate pictures with one another and wear pink in childhood.  In our scholarship and blog posts we have been grappling with making sense of some of these more recent changes as we’ve watched (and contributed to) a discussion about what it means to be an ally and changing views on gender and sexual inequality—primarily among men (see here and here).  We recently published an article thinking through changes in contemporary definitions of masculinity allegedly occurring among a specific population of young, white, heterosexual men.

We sought to make sense of some complex issues like the contradiction between what seems like an “epidemic” of homophobic bullying alongside rising levels of support for gay marriage.  Or the seeming contradiction between young white men’s adoration and emulation of hip hop culture side by side with deeply entrenched racism toward African-American men.  Or the way in which contemporary men speak of desiring equal partnerships and marriages, yet women still earn less  in the workplace and do more of the housework and childcare.

In our article, we collect a body of research illustrating that, often, what is going on in contradictions like this, is that systems of power and inequality are symbolically upheld even as their material bases are (partially) challenged (e.g., here). We show how these seemingly disparate issues might be better understood as small pieces of a larger phenomenon—something we refer to as “hybrid masculinity” (drawing on other scholars—see here, here, and here).

Hybrid masculinity refers to the way in which contemporary men draw on “bits and pieces” of feminized or marginalized masculine identities and incorporate them into their own gender identities.  Simply put, men are behaving differently, taking on politics and perspectives that might have been understood as emasculating a generation ago that seem to bolster (some) men’s masculinities today.  Importantly, however, we argue that research shows that this is most often happening in ways that don’t actually fundamentally alter gender and sexual inequality or masculine dominance. In other words, what recognizing hybrid masculinity allows us to do is to think through these changes in masculinity carefully.  While these changes may  appear to challenge gender and sexual inequality, we argue that most research reveals that hybrid masculinities are better understood as obscuring than as challenging inequality.

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On “Boxing In”–Pictures, Children, and Identity

HNA7078r1+ToyStories_Jacket_edit1203.inddPhotographer Gabriele Galimberti’s project on children around the world depicted with their most prized possessions was recently published. It’s an adorable set of photos of children with odd collections of items they feel define them. The photos are collected in a volume—Toy Stories: Photos of Children From Around the World and Their Favorite Things.

Initially, I was reminded of JeungMee Yoon’s “The Pink and Blue Project” (here), where she took pictures of girls surrounded by all of the pink things they owned and boys surrounded by their blue clothes, toys, and décor. Some of what struck me was the global uniformity in the objects surrounding children. It’s a powerful statement of globalization to see that children are growing up all around the world with some of the same cultural influences: from characters, to colors, to cars and weapons, and more.

Enea, 3, Boulder, Colorado.But, at a larger level, I think this project reflects one way we like to think about identity: that each of us has one of them and that it is established early on and that it (or elements of “it”) stick, such that we can recognize vestiges of our childhood identities in our adult selves. Indeed, when I’m explaining Freud to students, I often start by summarizing what I take as Freud’s central insight—“Life history matters.” It matters for who we are, who we might become, and more.  But, “life history” is rarely captured in snap-shots.  We think of it this way–but out identities are projects that unfold in time.  Some things make larger marks than others, but identifying exactly what is important and why is often more difficult than we like to think.

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Colorism, Gender, and School Suspension

By Tristan Bridges and C.J. Pascoe

gwptwittericon2Originally posted at Girl W/ Pen

Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple, coined the “colorism” term to define: “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on the color of their skin” (here: 290). Colorism occurs when groups of people are discriminated against in systematic ways on the basis of skin color alone.  The differential treatment results not simply from being recognized as belonging to a specific racial category, but from the values associated with the actual color of someone’s skin.  And it is one way that social scientists have looked at inequalities within as well as between racial groups.

Some of the social scientific findings that provoked more research on colorism uncovered skin color-based disparities within the criminal justice system. Research has shown, for example, that skin color affects the length of time people are sentenced to serve in prison, the proportion of their sentences that they do serve, and the likelihood of receiving the death penalty.  This research has less often focused explicitly on intersections with gender inequality.

A recent article in Race and Social Problems by Lance Hannon, Robert DeFina, and Sarah Bruch—“The Relationship Between Skin Tone and School Suspension for African Americans”—addresses these intersections centrally. They analyze the relationship between race, skin color, gender, and the school suspension.  Similar to what research on criminal sentencing has shown, Hannon, DeFina, and Bruch found that darker skin tone was significantly related to the likelihood of being suspended in school.  African American students with darker skin had a higher probability of being suspended than those with lighter skin.  But, upon closer investigation, they discovered that that finding was primarily driven by the fact that skin tone has a much larger impact on African American girls than on African American boys.

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On the Significance of Man Cave Signs

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 9.39.15 AMThe market for man cave paraphernalia is probably a small niche.  But, many people I’ve talked to spend an inordinate amount of money on an odd array of trinkets and tchotchkes that help them symbolically authenticate these spaces.  Most of the people I contact to ask about their man caves, man dens, or whatever they call them talk with me or write with me first about the sign outside of the room.  Literally hundreds of these signs are for sale.  Some can be customized with names, but most are not.  And some men produce their own signs or have signs produced for them by others.  Not every man cave has a sign.  In fact, the ones with signs often feel a lot less authentic than those without.  But, signs are a feature of a “type” of cave, to be sure.

berenstain-bears-No-Girls-AllowedThe signs remind me of images we culturally associate with boys’ bedroom doors.  The “Keep Out!” sign with a skull and cross bones.  Indeed, this is where the signs are placed.  They’re not in the man cave, they are a designation of the space that stands just outside.  They symbolically welcome some and exclude others—similar to the “no girls allowed” signs we think of as characteristic of boys’ clubhouses (or Calvin and Hobbes’ tree house).  When I started this man cave project, I wasn’t initially all that interested in what exactly was in the caves.  calvingrossI’m collecting photographs of some, documenting the objects and considering room setup, décor, and the placement of different kinds of objects within the rooms.  But, I was and am much more interested in the ways these spaces fit into the relationships of the people in whose homes the caves reside.  But, now that the project is underway, the stuff has captured my attention as well.  And these signs are just one very small piece.

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What to do with a Problem like Juan Pablo?

By C.J. Pascoe and Tristan Bridges

gwptwittericon2Originally posted at Girl W/ Pen

BACHELORY18GAL043pre-1387324698Last week Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis broke my queer little heart (CJ’s heart to be exact. JP has yet to win Tristan over).  I—and judging from the interwebs, many others—had fallen for Juan Pablo Galavis.  Attractive, sensitive, a dedicated single father, not to mention a talented dancer, Juan Pablo had charmed his way into many of our hearts, gay and straight alike. While he may not have been right for last season’s bachelorette Desiree Hartsock, he certainly seduced the rest of us. That is, until his comments last week.

For those of you who missed it, Galavis had a thing or two to say about whether or not a season featuring a “gay bachelor” would or should ever happen.* As The Huffington Post reported, after claiming to have a gay friend, Galavis said, “No… I respect [gay people] but, honestly, I don’t think it’s a good example for kids… Two parents sleeping in the same bed and the kid going into bed… It is confusing in a sense” and that gay people are “more ‘pervert’ in a sense. And to me the show would be too strong… too hard to watch.” He later attempted to clarify these remarks apologizing to those he “may have offended” stating that he has “nothing but respect for gay people and their families.”

Gay blogs quickly denounced his comments, as did those at ABC. Even Bachelor host Chris Harrison said that he was “disappointed” and that Galavis’ views “obviously don’t reflect my feelings or my thoughts on the subject.” ABC released a statement saying, “Juan Pablo’s comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio.” Apart from some GLBT commentators calling for a stronger statement or some “make-up” activist work, the event seems to have passed relatively quietly.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 2.17.12 PMThese reactions seem quite tame when compared to responses to Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s recent comments on same sex behavior in an interview with GQ magazine.   Robertson said, among other things:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right. (here)

The outcry was tremendous – condemnation from multiple corners. Robertson was even suspended from his own show (though it was reversed under pressure from conservative groups accusing the network—A&E—of attacking free speech and Christian values).

Now, setting aside the question about the logistics of suspending the bachelor from the show of which he is THE star, the differing responses seem to have a lot to do with intersections of class, region, religion and masculine styles.  Certainly, Robertson’s sexual prejudice was more vehement, violent, graphic, and distasteful. Galavis—in fewer words and with a bit more caution—made some similar claims. But, Galavis failed to garner the backlash Robertson received (with a notable exception or two).

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52 works that inspired sociologists this year… well, one sociologist, anyway

Neal Caren’s list of the 52 most cited works in sociology journals in 2013 on Scatterplot was a little disappointing… to me, anyway.  This isn’t a critique of Caren; I love reading his analyses of the field.  But, it made me think about how to properly measure what work inspires sociologists?  Caren uses citation counts as a measure of inspiration, though he jokingly comments on his own post that “we are unable to identify the mechanism by which works are cited.”  And when we do that, a few things quickly become apparent: (1) of the 75 authors present on the list, 13 are women (made increasingly frustrating by recent research documenting a gender citation gap), (2) most are getting a bit dated (are we no longer producing important work?), (3) certain research topics are more heavily represented, while others seem virtually ignored.

Measuring the impact of a given piece of research is difficult to do.  Citation counts are a sort of quick and dirty method, but as some have pointed out, many of these citations are better described as gratuitous than engaged.  It’s more difficult to measure the quality of a citation.  It’s the sort of thing that passes a “I know it when I see it” test, but is harder to imagine systematically studying. I know that on the rare occasion that my own work is cited, I’m much more interested in how it was cited than simply that it was cited.  Some of those that made the list seem likely candidates for tangential citations—superficial references made to a work without any significant discussion of precisely how the present research utilizes, builds on, critiques, makes use of, etc. the work in question.  And, certainly, I’d love to write something worthy of gratuitous citation.  But is this what inspires?  Some of Caren’s list is work that inspires me—but some of it misses the mark… or my mark, at any rate.

I was considering coming up with some other method of measuring how “inspirational” different publications were and decided that I’d simply make my own list.  Following are 52 of the books, articles, and more that have inspired me in the past year.  The citations are organized haphazardly, neglecting some, avoiding others, and with more than a bit of haste.  I did endeavor to include some older works on the list, but the list is decidedly biased toward my own areas of interest and expertise, and my methodological, theoretical, and interdisciplinary leanings.  I also included many that are (or probably will be) well cited, but others have avoided as many citations as they deserve (in my humble opinion).  Others deal with topics that might make them unlikely to be cited a great deal, but deal centrally with challenges many sociologists face (methodological, research, analytical, theoretical, and in answer to the ever-present “who cares?” question).  And others are simply fascinating studies that come up with clever sources of data, are beautifully written, and help us to question many of our most deeply-held assumptions.

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Happy Birthday, Inequality by (Interior) Design!—The Year in Review

happy-2nd-birthdayInequality by (Interior) Design just turned 2!  My initial goal was to try to post four times a month, and I’m sorry to say that I did a bit worse toward that end this year than my first.  In terms of traffic, however, there were a lot more people reading than my first year.  Year 1 saw about 30,000 visits.  This year, I received just over 150,000 visits.  On the busiest day this year, 12,387 people came to the site.  This is far beyond what I’d imagined when I started this project.  But, it’s been immensely rewarding.

I also started a few other blog and bloggish projects while I’ve been continuing to work on my own research.  I recently joined the Girl W/ Pen! team—C.J. Pascoe and I now have a monthly column, “Manly Musings.”  Warwick-BoysThat’s been enormously rewarding and a great deal of fun.  After the success of our initial post (which received an “award” this year from The Society Pages), it was re-posted at the Huffington Post, and we were invited to write a separate piece at on how white, cis-gender, straight, male allies benefit in under-appreciated ways from their support.

The amazing teams at Sociological Images and Social (In)Queery have continued to be incredibly supportive and shared a few of my posts over the year as well.  Thank you!  I’ve also posted once on the new Gender & Society blog (check it out if you haven’t yet) and have another piece forthcoming there.

My blog now officially has more friends on Facebook than I do.  If that’s not the mark of success, I’m not sure what is.  And, while the U.S. is still where most visitors come from, Inequality by (Interior) Design has a significant following now in Canada, the U.K., Australia, India, France, Germany, Ireland, and Spain.

Below is a list of the top two posts this year and a list of some of the most popular by topic (along with some of my personal favorites that didn’t receive much of an audience, but were a lot of fun to write).

Top 2 Posts for 2013

  1. calvin3The biggest post this year, by far, was a short piece I wrote on using Calvin and Hobbes cartoons on my syllabi to teach sociology—“About a Boy: On the Sociological Relevance of Calvin (and Hobbes).”
  2. A close second was my post on baby cages and urbanization—“On the Social Construction of Childhood: Making Space for Babies.”  article-2178140-1430fdd0000005dc-972_634x768This is a post that a few people have shared with me that they’re using in courses, which was an incredible honor.  It’s not my area of expertise, but the social construction of childhood is a literature I love to read.

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