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13 Part I Masculinities Theory and Title VII This page intentionally left blank 15 1 Masculinities’ Relationship to Title VII Understanding Masculinities: Social More Than Biological Society views masculinity as a natural result of male biology. Masculinities research comprises an interdisciplinary field of research and theory that challenges this view. It posits that rather than being a natural biological characteristic, masculinity is constructed from social pressures and individual experiences. Men are not masculine; they perform their masculinity.1 For example, from childhood on, social forces pressure boys and men to act like a “man,” hide their emotions, refrain from crying , and demonstrate their emotional and physical strength to others. As boys and men internalize these admonitions, the resulting behaviors are not biologically driven but socially constructed. Most masculinities theorists accept that gender is socially constructed , but they also understand the importance of reproductive capacity in shaping masculinity. They recognize that society assigns women the caregiving role because of their reproductive roles of carrying babies in their wombs and sees men as the protectors of and providers for their families because of their generally greater strength and body mass (Connell 2005). Expecting women to engage exclusively in caregiving and men to be the financial providers of their families is a societal construction that devolves from women’s and men’s bodily reproductive functions. Masculinity has multiple forms; hence scholars use the term “masculinities ” rather than “masculinity” to refer to many different behavioral variations. Men of different races, classes, sexual orientations, and national origins perform their masculinity in different ways and in relation to one another in varying contexts. For example, at the risk of stereotyping, white, upper-­ middle-­ class, heterosexual men may perform their masculinity by practicing a profession and earning a large salary, dressing in expensive clothing, driving high-­ powered cars, dating models or other high-­ powered women, and playing competitive tennis. In 16 | Masculinities’ Relationship to Title VII contrast, white, lower-­ middle-­ class men may perform their masculinity by working in blue-­ collar positions that require physical strength, driving powerful trucks or SUVs, playing and watching football, and visiting strip clubs. Young black and Latino men in poor or working-­ class neighborhoods may perform their masculinities by wearing “sagging ” pants and their caps sideways, carrying weapons, joining gangs, and listening to hip hop. Some gay men may perform their masculinity by engaging in bodybuilding and aggressive sex with multiple partners. Many of the behaviors performed by men of color and blue-­ collar white men are stances in reaction to the “ideal” version of masculinity—­ the professional hegemonic white male. Of course, these serve merely as examples . I do not suggest that all men of a particular race, class, or sexual orientation act in identical ways. In fact, masculinities theory holds the opposite position—­ that there are multiple variations of masculinity that men perform. The important point is that a social need to perform masculinity often drives men’s behavior. As men age, their performances change. Moreover, depending on the context, the same men might behave differently. For example, a gay male lawyer who performs his masculinity to adhere to professional heterosexual norms in the law firm might perform his masculinity differently among friends in a gay bar. These examples, while incomplete, demonstrate that masculinities are cultural and contextual, performative, and constantly changing, rather than static, natural, and biological. Applications of Masculinities Studies to Title VII Masculinities theory draws much of its analysis from feminist and other theories but also offers explanations that other theories do not. It helps de-­ essentialize men, who, like women, are not all the same (Dowd 2010). Masculinities research explains the importance of recognizing the power differential among men and how it affects male experience and behavior. It demonstrates that although men as a group may have more power than women as a group (the “patriarchal dividend”), individual men may occupy less powerful positions than individual women. Moreover , a focus on men helps explain the complexity of the inequalities that exist because of male gender combined with race, class, national origin, sexual orientation, and other identities. Finally, masculinities research Masculinities’ Relationship to Title VII | 17 shows that even when men are privileged, privilege has costs (ibid.). One example of these costs is that men have less opportunity and community support for a true parenting relationship with their children. Another is the related pressure placed on men to serve as the breadwinner in a family (Carbone and Cahn 2014; Williams 2010). Masculinities researchers consider how societal...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814764329
Related ISBN
9780814796139
MARC Record
OCLC
946606260
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-31
Language
English
Open Access
No
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