Lecture 5 – 10/4/2000
Gender roles are not natural - they are historically and culturally based.
1.Masculinity is not a fixed, biological essence of men or femininity a biological
essence of women, but, rather, a social construction that shifts and changes over time
as well as between and among various national and cultural contexts.
2.Power is central to understanding gender as a relational construct, and the dominant
definition of masculinity is largely about expressing difference from - and superiority
over - anything considered "feminine."
3.There is no singular male gender role or singular female gender role; rather, at any
given time there are various masculinities and femininities. Who gets to play what
type of male gender or female gender role will be influenced by where they are
positioned in the stratification system.
The articles and the film "Rosie the Riveter" provide examples to support the above
E. Anthony Rotundo’s History of American Manhood. He points out that what is
considered masculine has changed through the years. Northern, white, middle-class males
have defined manhood.
Communal Manhood - Colonial New England. There a man's identity was inseparable from
the duties he owed to his community. He fulfilled himself through public usefulness more
than his economic success, and the social status of the family into which he was born gave
him his place in the community (ascribed status) than his individual achievements did.
Through his role as the head of the household, a man expressed his value to his community
and provided his wife and children with their social identity.
A man's failure in his family were a matter of deep concern to those beyond his household.
People understood manhood not only in terms of its social setting but also in terms of its
contrast with womanhood. The fundamental belief about men and women before 1800 was
that men were superior. In particular, men were seen as the more virtuous sex. They were
credited with greater reason, which enabled them to moderate passions like ambition,
defiance, and envy more effectively than women could. This belief in male superiority
provided the foundation for other forms of inequality before the law and in the household.
Self-made Manhood - This communal form of manhood lingered on through the first
decades of the nineteenth century, but it was eclipsed by a self-made manhood, which had
begun to grow in the late 18th century. The new manhood emerged as part of a broader
series of changes: the birth of republican government, the spread of a market economy, the
concomitant growth of the middle class itself. At the root of these changes was an economic
and a political life based on the free play of individual interests. In this New World, a man
took his identity and his social status from his own achievements (achieved status), not
from the accident of his birth. Thus, a man's work role, not his place at the head of the
household, formed the essence of his identity. And men fulfilled themselves through
personal success in business and the professions, while the notion of public service
"Male" passions were now given freer rein. Ambition, rivalry, and aggression drove the
new system of individual interests, and a man defined his manhood not by his ability to
moderate the passions but by his ability to channel them effectively. Reason, still viewed
as a male trait, played a vital role in the process of governing passion, but important new
virtues were attributed to men.
In the new era of individualism, the old male passion of defiance was transformed into the
modern virtue of independence. Now a man was expected to be jealous of his autonomy
and free reliance on external authority. In this world where a man was supposed to prove
his superiority, the urge for dominance was seen as a virtue.
Women took their social identities from their husband. "The chief end of women is to make
others happy." Woman’s nature was sharply redefined; she was now viewed as the source
of virtue. Since women’s moral sense was considered stronger than man’s was, females
took on the tasks of controlling male passion and educating men in the arts of self-denial.
Passionate Manhood - arising in the late 19th century- was in some respects an elaboration
of existing beliefs about self-made manhood, but it stretched those beliefs in directions that
would have shocked the old individualists of the early 1800s. The most dramatic change
was in the positive value put on male passions. In the closing years of the century, ambition
and combativeness became virtues for men: competitiveness and aggression were exalted
as ends in themselves. Toughness was now admired, while tenderness was a cause for
scorn. Even sexual desire, an especially worrisome male passion in the 19th century, slowly
gathered legitimacy. Indeed, the body itself became a vital component of manhood:
strength, appearance, and athletic skill mattered more than in previous centuries.
A new emphasis on the self was essential to these changes. In middle-class culture, "the
self" came to mean that unique core of personal identity that lay beneath all the layers of
social convention. Whereas 19th century view had regarded the self and its passion
suspiciously as objects of manipulation (self-control and self-denial) 20th century opinion
considered them as the source of identity and personal worth (self-expression,
self-enjoyment). Play and leisured entertainment - once consider marks of effeminacy -
became approved activities for men as the 19th century ended, and consumer choice
became a form of male self-expression. A man defined his identity not just in the workplace
but through modes of enhancement and self-fulfillment outside of it. Examples: the
Carnegies, the Mellons, the Rockefellers.
The contrast between men and women - sharp in the 1800s - blurred from "opposite" to
merely "different" and the goal of marriage began to change from a union of opposites to a
union of unique selves. With the passing of the 20th century, even the sense of difference
between the sexes has been replaced in some circles by a new emphasis on their
underlying similarity. Under these circumstance the subordination of a woman's identity to
that of her husband has grown more difficult to justify.
So many of our institutions have men's needs and values built into their foundations, so
many of our habits of though were formed by male views a specific points in historical time,
that we must understand gender in its historical dimension to understand our ideas and
institutions. Rotundo gives the example of law and medicine being two institutions that are
based on this ideal of masculinity.
Manhood in the 20th century - According to Rotundo men are still perceived as more
aggressive, more primitive, more lustful, more dominating and more independent than
women. What outlets are there for the "male passions in the 20th century."?
The team player - Based on an ethic of sublimation, this ideal takes competitive athletics
as a model for fitting aggression and rivalry into the new bureaucratic work settings of the
20th century. While a man struggles to reach the top within his own organization through
fierce competition with his teammates, he also cooperate with them in the contest between
his organization and others. In this way, the old investment of aggressive, selfish passions
in economic competition has gained new life in the modern world.
Existential Hero - this ideal grows out of a belief that there is, in fact, no proper place for
true masculine impulse within modern society. If he would be true to the purity of his males
passions and principles he must and can only live at the margins of society - example, Clint
Pleasure seeker - this is a man who works hard at his job so that he can afford as much
satisfaction of his passions after work as possible. Example - the playboy, the player.
Spiritual warrior - the spiritual warrior believes he has lost touch with those passion sand
lost his ability to connect directly with other men. Examples - Robert Bly’s mythopoetic
movement, the Million Man March, the Promise Keepers. This ideal was born of
dissatisfaction with the other ideals and images of men that have recently dominated
American culture. It grows from a direct conscious focus on the passions that its advocates
assume are naturally male. They express anxiety about the dangers of a boy learning his
vision of manhood through the eyes of mothers and other women.
There is one important trait that all four ideals share, however: each of them signifies a
turning away from women. The ideal of the spiritual warrior represents a ritual guest for
manhood in an all-male setting. The ideal of the pleasure seeker may treat women as
objects of pleasure or as accessory companions in his pursuit of enjoyment, but considers
them largely irrelevant to the fulfillment of his yearnings. The ideal of the existential hero
endorses separation from the confinement of civilization and the halter of permanent,
personal commitment - and, given our cultural associations between women and the bonds
of civilization, it is no surprise that adherents of this ideal view women’s world with
suspicion. The world of the team player is less intrinsically exclusive of women than that of
the other ideals.
Rotundo feels that men are harmed by their gender role- they lose access to stigmatized
parts of themselves – tenderness, nurturance, the desire for connections, skills of
cooperation which are helpful in personal situations and needed for the social good.
Second article: R. W. Connell "Masculinities and Globalization."
This article examines how local masculinities have been shaped by historical and current
influences such as imperialism and globalization. It discusses how globalization has created
multiple local masculinities while simultaneously providing resources for dominance by
particular groups of men.
Masculinities are shaped by : geopolitical struggles, labor migration, global markets and
transnational media. There is a transnational business masculinity – the hegemonic form of
masculinity associated with those who control its dominant institutions: the business
executives who operate in global markets, and the political executives who interact (and in
many contexts merge) with them. This masculinity is increasing egocentric, has conditional
loyalties even to the corporation and certainly no personal commitments except to the idea
of accumulation itself.
The transnational business masculinity has had only one major competitor for hegemony –
the rigid, control-oriented masculinity of the military and military-style bureaucratic
Six elements in looking at masculinity.
1.Plural masculinities – in multicultural societies, there are varying definitions and
enactments of masculinity. Different cultures and different periods of history
construct gender differently. More than one kind of masculinity can be found within a
given cultural setting or institution
2.Hierarchy and Hegemony – These plural masculinities exist in definite social
relations, often relations of hierarchy and exclusion. There is a generally a
hegemonic form of masculinity, the most honored or desired in a particular context.
Hegemonic masculinity refers to: a white, middle class, heterosexual and physically
dominating form of masculinity. The most valued form of masculinity, and a masculinity
that subordinates other masculinities.
The hegemonic form need not be the most common form of masculinity. Many men live in
as state of some tension with or distanced from, hegemonic masculinity and are required to
live up to it strenuously. The dominance of hegemonic masculinity over other forms may be
quiet and implicit, but it may also be vehement and violent, as in the important case of
Bodies as Arenas – Men’s bodies are addressed, defined and disciplined (as in sport) and
given outlets and pleasures by the gender order of society.
Active Construction - Masculinities do not exist prior to social interaction, but come into
existence as people act." They are actively produced, using the resources and strategies
available in a given milieu.
Contradiction – Masculinities are not homogeneous. There are contradictory desires and
conduct. The bodybuilder who engages in homosexual prostitution to support his
bodybuilding is an example.
Dynamics – Masculinities created in specific historical circumstances are liable to
reconstruct and any pattern of hegemony is subject to contestation, in which a dominant
masculinity may be displaced.
Film "Rosie the Riveter"
WWII - Women have consistently taken on expanded role in wartime, by choice as well as
Office of War Information (1941) monitored public opinion to determine the degree of
commitment and willingness to sacrifice for the war - women were less enthusiastic about
the war. So, there was a coordinated effort to convince women that the war effort was
necessary and that women should actively participate in war production.
The War Production Board and the War Manpower Commission were set up to convert to
a wartime economy, coordinate labor for the various sectors of the economy, and allocate
workers both war and civilian production.
At first defense employers were reluctant to hire women, but the production needs were so
great and the propaganda so convincing that by July 1944 19 million women were
employed, an increase of over 5 million at the start of the war.
The war allowed African-American women access to employment in defense plants that
paid much more than the jobs like domestic work or food services jobs that they had held
prior to the war.
Near the end of the war married women outnumbered single women in the labor force. By
the close of the war 32% of women who worked in the major defense center had children
under the age of 14. Day-care centers, foster home programs, and other variations of
childcare were developed throughout the country. The Federal Works agency administered
a program that enrolled 13,000 children in over 3,000 centers.
Rather than viewing such options as a menace to children and indictment for their mothers,
such provisions were praised for allowing mothers of young children to enter the work force
where they were needed.
However, the goal was to win the war and to return to the previous gender arrangements.
Propaganda campaigns promoted the idea that women were in it only "for the duration"
and they would reassume their domestic duties after the war, gladly giving up their jobs to
the returning men. As we saw from the film, many women were not interested in giving up
their jobs; they were in fact, fired from them. Because they were working-class women
before the war, they continued to work after the war. Unfortunately, the jobs then that were
available to them were low paying, unskilled labor. They could not play the dominant
post-war female gender role.
The propaganda now portrayed women who wanted to work as selfish, egotistical women
and "bad" mothers.
When you view the film, look for the justifications that encourage women to work and the
justifications that discouraged women from staying in the work force after the war. Look at
the images that promoted war production. Contrast the music, posters, and professionals
against the words of the women interviewed.
3rd Article Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins "The Color of Sex: Postwar Photographic
Histories of Race and Gender in National Geographic Magazine."
"This article provide an opportunity to gaze upon the bodies and lives of non-Western
women in a particular way that articulates white middle-class women’s ambivalence about
motherhood, sexuality and wage labor."
This article looks at how National Geographic photographs of non-Western women of color
reflect 1950s ideals of femininity, the "naturalness" of women as feminine objects and as
mothers, as women in the workforce.
At times – the women of the world are portrayed in sometimes parallel to popular images of
American womanhood – as mothers and beautiful objects. At certain times, with certain
races of women the Geographic ‘s other women provide a contrast to stereotypes of White
American women – they are presented as hard-working breadwinners in their communities.
1.The motherhood of man – women photographed with their children. This images fits
well with the messages American women were receiving in the 1950s. Women were
told through both science and popular culture that biology, morality and the
psychological health of the next generation required their commitment to full-time
2.As objects of beauty - There was ambivalence to women of color as objects of
beauty. There were seen as exotic and therefore erotic. Earthiness but also not
modest. These photos somehow place women of color closer to nature (which at times
is considered good), but also lower on the scale of civilization.
3.As breadwinners. Cultural ambivalence toward women working outside the home has
been profound during the postwar period. This ambivalence occasionally shows up in
the Geographic, when the laboring woman is presented as a drudge or when her
femininity, despite her working, is emphasized. She is presented as the vanguard of
press in part through the feminizing of the developing nation itself.