This sample essay on Masculinity In Popular Culture provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Andrew Ettinghausen is familiar Australian-wide not only through his performance on the rugby field but also through his appearances in the media as a model for advertisements for a variety of products, like men’s clothing. According to Buchbinder, he therefore runs the risk of becoming that anathematised thing, the male object of the gaze.
Many of his appearances in television commercials evade the simple objectification of his body, and hence of his discursive position, by some of the strategies mentioned. However, a nude photograph of the famous Ettinghausen body invites his transformation into an eroticised object of the gaze.
By allowing his body to be viewed as an object Ettinghausen was deemed, apparently, to have forfeited his claim to subjectivity, and hence control over his body.
It became, as it were, public property. The Ettinghausen case throws suggestively into relief a number of the anxieties and concerns that beset men trying to live in accordance to the dominant model of masculinity, not the least of which is the positioning of the male as the object of the gaze which on one hand disciplines and supervises and on the other, may also articulate that of desire.
8 Moreover, Ettinghausen’s story also suggests that, according to Buchbinder, “… for all masculinity’s pervasive tyranny over both men and women in the culture, its superiority and power rest on fragile, even treacherous, foundations.
“9 In contrast, not all agree on the desirability of women looking at men. While some argue that this change represents a genuine advance, others suggest that to turn men into sex objects is a setback for the debate surrounding equal opportunity.
Consensus is impossible in this debate, but Creed says that at least the debate has made one definite gain, being that “… it has forced general recognition that women do, and should be allowed to, derive pleasure from looking, an activity that for too long has been the preserve of men”10. Creed continues by saying that the concept of ‘masculinities’ also reinforces the view that gender is a constructed category rather than a pre – given category. Sean Dixon also argues, like Creed, that, “… masculinity is not a fixed and unitary category…..
Rather, like all identities masculinities are invented categories”11. The re – emergence of women’s movements, men’s movements and the gay liberation movement has raised questions regarding dominant forms of masculinity and defined masculinity as a ‘problem’ in recent times, as mentioned previously. Economic changes within society have also been a major contributor in regards to destabilising and re – defining masculinity. Shifts within dominant forms of masculinity have also occurred due to these economic changes.
The question may now be raised as to; has hegemonic masculinity changed? In response, it may be argued that yes, hegemonic masculinity has in fact changed, especially in terms of ideals. The development of new consumer markets, for example the expanding ‘dare to care’ market, has had a massive impact upon the changing representations of men and masculinity in popular culture. The ‘new’ men’s magazines provide a good place to start looking at these new consumer markets and changing representations.
According to Tony Schirato and Susan Yell, there are several reasons for the appearance of these ‘new’ men’s magazines on the stands. Firstly, the increasing public profile and acceptance of the men’s movement, indicates that there is a discursive space in which ‘men talking about men’ can take place. Secondly, the expanding market recognises the demand by advertisers for a print media vehicle for marketing to men more broadly. Thirdly, men’s increasing exposure to and wider acceptance of feminism has therefore challenged polarised notions surrounding gender identity.
12 These magazines provide a discursive site for the production and circulation of ‘new’ forms of masculine subjectivity says Schirato and Yell. Some critics argue that while film, lifestyle magazines and popular culture are prepared to examine masculinity, they are not prepared to question male power itself. Creed suggests that this seems as true today as it was 70 years ago, judging by the surrealists discussions. The mainstream press and television programs hardly ever articulate awareness of the existence of a range of masculinities, instead promoting masculinity as a unitary category.
13 It is important to acknowledge that a range of masculinities exist within society when assessing the question as to whether representations of men and masculinity are changing in popular culture. The media rarely question the nature surrounding the masculinity displayed by male sporting heroes and politicians to name a few. “Masculinity is a transparent, singular, obvious quality”. 14 This view was confirmed in the late 1990’s by cultural theorist Jackie Cook in her study associated with the representations depicted of male bodies in men’s magazines, for instance, in Flex Magazine, Musclemag and Ralph.
She concluded that although more attention was given to health issues and the body, there appeared that there was no particular change in images of masculinity itself, “especially in relation to its ongoing social and cultural dominance. “15 Cook argues that although men may adopt provocative poses that were once the territory of the female model, women continue to be depicted as ornaments. Therefore it may be argued that yes, changes are associated with the representations of men and masculinity in popular culture, but these changes are perhaps not ‘real’ changes.
Creed suggests that, “… unless men are prepared to question the nature of male power – its alignment with aggression and its subordination of women and children – it is difficult to envisage any lasting or worthwhile changes taking place”. 16 It can be concluded that representations of men and masculinity in popular culture are changing due to the ‘new man’ phenomenon which may be described as a true creation of the media, although changes addressing the inner workings of the male are yet to be seen.
Robert Bly believes that, “…men are still encouraged to look upwards and out rather than inwards and down, into themselves”. 17 It may also be seen that new relations exist in terms of looking that challenge the conventional dynamics where men own the gaze and ‘others’ are the object of the gaze. Cultural theorist L. H. M Ling warns of the problems which surface when the issue of masculine identity continues to be defined as ‘hyper – masculinity’. 18 “It is crucial that masculinity be re – thought particularly in relation to the new global media”. 19.
References B.Creed, Media Matrix: Sexing the New Reality, North Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2003, ch. 5, ‘The Full Monty: Postmodern Men and the Media D. Buchbinder, Masculinities and Identities, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1994 J. Hearn, The Gender Oppression: Men, masculinity and the critique of Marxism, Great Britain: Wheatsheaf Books Limited,1987 J. Cook, ‘Men’s Magazines at the Millennium’ Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, vol. 14, 2000 L. H. M Ling, ‘Sex Machine: Global Hyper – masculinity and Images of the Asian Woman in Modernity’ Positions, vol. 7, no.
2, 1999 R. Bly, Iron John, New York: Addison – Wesley, 1990 S. Nixon, ‘Exhibiting Masculinity’ in Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, ed. Stuart Hall, London: Sage, 1997 T. Schirato & S. Yell, ‘The ‘new’ men’s magazines and the performance of masculinity’, Media International Australia, no. 92, 1999 Bibliography C. W. Franklin, The Changing Definition of Masculinity, New York: Plenum Press, 1984 D. Coad, Gender Trouble Down Under: Australian Masculinities, Paris, Presses Universitaires de Valenciennes, ch. 6 ‘The Queer Nineties’, 1992
D. Savran, Taking It Like A Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998 H. Franks, Goodbye Tarzan: Men After Feminism, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1984 M. Dyson, ‘Re – negotiating the Australian Legend’: Khe Sanh and the Jimmy Barnes Stage Persona, Limina, vol. 4, 1998 R. W. Connell, Masculinities, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1995 1 J. Hearn, The Gender Oppression: Men, masculinity and the critique of Marxism, Great Britain: Wheatsheaf Books Limited,1987, p. 5 2 Note 1, p. 6 : Kimmel, 1987.
3 Note 1, p. 8 4 D. Buchbinder, Masculinities and Identities, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1994, p. 2 5 Note 4, p. 3 6 B. Creed, Media Matrix: Sexing the New Reality, North Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2003, ch. 5, ‘The Full Monty: Postmodern Men and the Media’ pp. 78 – 96 7 Note 6 8 The notion of the supervising and disciplining gaze is developed by Michael Foucault in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1977) in D. Buchbinder, Masculinities and Identities, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1994 9 Note 4, p. 83 10 Note 6, p. 84 11 S.
Nixon, ‘Exhibiting Masculinity’ in Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, ed. Stuart Hall, London: Sage, p. 301 12 T. Schirato & S. Yell, ‘The ‘new’ men’s magazines and the performance of masculinity’, Media International Australia, no. 92, p. 81 – 90 13 Note 6 14 Note 6 15 J. Cook, ‘Men’s Magazines at the Millennium’ Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, vol. 14. p. 171 – 86 16 Note 6 17 R. Bly, Iron John, New York: Addison – Wesley, 1990 18 L. H. M Ling, ‘Sex Machine: Global Hyper – masculinity and Images of the Asian Woman in Modernity’ Positions, vol. 7, no. 2, p. 277 – 306.