Friday Link Post

kd lang

A small round up of media and masculinity links from around the web to end out the week:

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Black Nationalism and Hip-Hop Music

When it comes to power and influence, it’s pretty safe to say that the white male reigns over all. However, when it comes to Hip-hop music, this concept gets flipped on its head.

Hip-hop and Rap music was created by African Americans living in the suburbs of New York as a way to express themselves musically as distinct from other races. As the subculture seeped into the mainstream, while Hip-hop started to be run by corporations run by the dominant male, Hip-hop still heavily relied on marketing it as African-American music. What I find interesting is how Hip-hop is one of the few things right now where another race other than the white male is dominant. Black nationalism is dominant while whiteness is considered as “the other”.

Consider this as a response to Deborah’s post on “How to Be a Man” when she asks if white men are the natural authority on all things male. In Hip-hop music, Black males are the natural authority in two major ways: authenticity and lyrics.

Authenticity. In order to be considered a legitimate Hip-hop/Rap artist, one needs to appear as authentic. To be authentic means to live the lifestyle that created the subculture in the first place.

Lyrics. Through the expression of misogyny and the use of the word nigger, Black male artists are able to be the natural authority. Black MCs are able to refer to each other as niggers, but someone that is another race is not able to do the same. Furthermore, When MCs and artists of different races refer to African-Americans, they must do so in a way that is indirect, otherwise it comes off as racist against Black people. Black MCs and artists can get away with directly referring to other races in derogatory ways, and while it is controversial, they can get away with it.

Does anyone know if Eminem ever uses the word nigger in his lyrics?? If he has, this would be an interesting topic for further exploring, how Eminem’s success has managed to be a notable exception in Hip-hop and popular culture.

Does anyone have anything to add to the list? It could go on forever.

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Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq’s ‘Good Man’

featuring everyone’s favourite “good man” from The Wire,  Chad Coleman, and ‘The Kids Are All Right’ actress Yaya DaCosta.

This song paints a familiar picture of masculinity, wherein a “good man” plays the role of the provider and bread winner. The narrative in the song implies that the “good man” is entitled to his partners affection. Certainly there is a lot to unpack from this version of black masculinity in America, and the related structural inequality that black families face. However, what concerns me the most is the video that accompanies this lyrical narrative of a “good man.”

I’m concerned for the picture of domestic violence that is painted by the director. In North America existing research finds that most allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings are made in good faith and with support and evidence for their claims.

It very rarely “pays” for a woman to falsely accuse a man of domestic violence. Convictions are low; family members are less likely than other people convicted of violent crimes to get a prison term in most cases of violence. Furthermore, a study in San Fransisco found that men, rather than women, were more likely to make unsubstantiated claims of domestic violence in divorce proceedings. It’s an odd narrative to construct, (in which there is monetary benefits for a woman to concoct false accusations) and one that plays into many of the myths about domestic violence.

I believe that a patriarchal society has an invested interest in perpetuating myths about domestic violence. Authority in the family is part of the masculine ideal, and acknowledging the prevalence of domestic violence in the nuclear family could undermine the legitimacy men enjoy as the accepted default patriarch of this family. With violence, control, and authority being central to the masculine ideal it is certainly worth discussing masculinity when looking at the root causes of domestic violence in society. Instead, when this video engages with the topic it maintains this masculine ideal and shifts the focus to false allegations of domestic violence and an untrustworthy (and apparently ungrateful) woman.

It is a disappointing artistic effort from an artist I am fond of. I am going to his show here in Vancouver next week, perhaps I’ll bring it up if I get the chance to meet him after the show.

More info on domestic violence here and here.

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Samantha from Sex and the City – “masculine” sexuality

Samantha from SATC, from the get-go talks about fucking like a man. Sex with no strings attached. Pure physical enjoyment with no regrets or shame. Perhaps this type of masculinity is something we all can learn from? To some degree, at least?

Sex, for women in particular, is often stained with shame. But Samantha says fuck that and gets on with it (literally). She creates her own sexual opportunities instead of only taking what comes her way, and does not feel sorry about it. She is confident and assertive sexually, traditionally male qualities, walking up to attractive men and boldly introducing herself and propositioning what she wants. Sexual confidence is definately positive, but is this a realistic portrayal of masculine sexuality?

Here are some questions to critically think about: is this what “men” are really like sexually in the first place? Does framing “masculine” sexuality this way (and portraying this as a desirable sexuality for women) sell us short and fit men into stereotypical boxes? Although I love to see a sexually empowered woman, is this empowerment or just sexual capitalism, where the focus in on the goods but we lose the human connection? Or is this empowerment? What should we take from Samatha’s viewpoint and what should we leave? What do you think?

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The Old Spice Guy

Someone had to do it!

He is the epitome of everything a woman supposedly should want in a man – a beautiful chiselled body, athletic and tough like a man, but at the same time, he is a ladies man, romantic and chivalrous. He does these things so well that he’s on a whole other level in an almost divine way. The message that he sends to his ladies here is that their average men could also build up to be as manly as he by wearing the Old Spice scents. That way, the men will now smell like the Old Spice guy and be like “the man your man could smell like”.

It’s interesting how these commercials target the men initially through the ladies. It basically taps into men’s insecurities through women’s expectations on what a real man should be like which has been socially constructed over time.

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“Men should act like men, and light beer should taste like beer. “

Milwaukee created these brilliant ads to illustrate their beer (and even their light beer) as a real man’s drink. These ads depict masculinity most importantly in contrast to what is considered feminine. The ad features men engaging in manly activities with the buddies, such as poker night, fixing the car, watching the game. One guy, however, takes part in something on the side that is clearly not considered masculine, like freaking out about a bee, ‘checking-in’ with his significant other, and wiping off the excess oil off his pizza. Once he takes part in this activity, it is confirmed to the audience that he is taking part in something clearly not what a real man would do when a giant Milwaukee’s beer can smashes over top of him, almost to shame him for doing something not masculine enough.

I think humour works in miraculous ways by making light of serious issues. Beyond the laughs this funny commercial creates, it confirms an even greater binary gap between what it means to be masculine and what it means to be feminine.

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Patti Smith’s female masculinity

This lady is fantastic. She is the godmother of punk, raw and real. She broke through a male dominated music scene in the 70’s with her unique fusion of spoken word and punk. Her attitude and image is unflinching and unapologetic with a definate masculine edge.

Patti Smith talks about issues like labour and factory work, both seen as masculine types of work, but she talks about these from the perspective of a woman being exploited – who sees the exploitation but who’s going to get the hell out of there and make something of herself.  It seems she senses freedom in masculinity.

“…i would rather smell the way boys smell…But no I gotta, I gotta put clammy lady in my nostril…” (patti smith – piss factory)

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How bromanic!

The “bro-mance” is a new genre that has gained popularity in the last few years. The genre has been made popular by director Judd Apatow of Freaks and Greeks, Superbad and Pineapple Express fame. The bromance explores homosociality and male bonding through the medium of comedy. The film genre takes a look at masculine ways of bonding while using the trope of heterosexual romcoms, poking fun as masculine conventions all the while praising them.

I Love You, Man, a great example of the bromance ( and one of my personal favorites), is a story about a man, Peter Klaven, a guy who is not stereotypically masculine, who becomes engaged to his girlfriend, Zooey. She has a gaggle of girlfriends to be her bridesmaids, but Peter is virtually friendless. The film centers on Peter’s search for males friends, going on “man-dates,” and eventually finding a best friend, Sydney. I Love You, Man follows the plot line of the typical romantic comedy, portraying the development of Peter and Sydney’s friendship similarly to the unfolding of a hetero-romantic relationship: the unexpected meeting, the awkward first “date,” the montage of fun times which eventually leads to the inevitable falling out, and finally the emotional reunion and happy ending.

Continue reading

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Christian Domestic Discipline (Trigger warning)

This isn’t going to be easy. It flies in the face of all modern democracy, but many fundamentalist groups don’t actually believe in democracy. But hey, if you think the person who sold you that album this afternoon, or your last bra-and-panty set actually believes in democracy, you may be in for a stun if you actually ask about it. Most people don’t even know what democracy is, let alone how to believe in it. It’s not like God that way. You can misunderstand God, and still believe.

I was looking for information on the branks, or scold’s bridal, and I came across this video. It has nothing to do with the three-hundred-year-old torture device I was researching. It’s about a man — notably white — who felt he had to discipline his wife — notably Japanese — for … well, you can watch the video. Or not.

What was striking to me was the contrast between how he starts off and how he finishes. Some people in the comment section think it’s a joke, or a parody, but a little tangential learning reveals that whether this video is a parody, there are in fact, doctrines that fly surprisingly close to this practice.

A quick browse around the above site leads to some very interesting gender signifiers — archaic is putting it mildly. You can see the heroic masculinity at work. No wonder the young man in the video is so emotional. Think of the inner strength you would need to put into practice your belief that God has given you the necessary task of calling to order over half the population!

Amidst all the anguish and anger I feel at the iniquity this site puts upon women and men as opposing forces, I have to feel a certain sense of sadness that men would deliberately harm themselves in this way.

Then, of course, there’s this to consider.

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Tender Masculinity in Fifty Dead Men Walking

Fifty Dead Men Walking is based on the true story of Martin McGarland, who was recruited to spy on the IRA during the Troubles in Ireland.  Just as the film shows that the conflict was not black and white, it also shows a masculinity that is far from black and white.  Martin, played by Jim Sturgess, exhibits a lot of typical male-action-hero behaviours – he can be cocky, he’s shown as a mischevious trouble-maker from the start (pardon the pun!), and he does a lot of running and fighting in the film, showing a masculinity that is brave, determined and strong.  However, he has his sensitivity as well. We see his emotional pain at the deaths of those from “the other side.” We see his reluctance to kill.  We see his devotion to his girlfriend and family, and his respect for the strong women in his life.

Physically, he has a certain look about him that suggests sexy mystery combined with tenderness.  The way he positions his face slightly outward can be interpreted as a challenge to a fight from a violent male, but more so it seems to deliver a more “feminine” sense of vulnerability, as if he’s about to get hit. I remember reading an interview with the director of Fifty Dead Men Walking, Kari Skogland, and she said that it was that quality of vulnerability about Sturgess that drew her to him for the role. Sturgess has eye-candy status in Hollywood, and I wonder if this is in spite of or because of this vulnerability? Does pop culture value male tenderness?

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