I am a 20 year old, white male from a middle class family. Honestly, I do not necessarily regard what I consume, wear or interact with as being part of gendered norms on a given day. I go about my daily activities the same way for the most part. But recently I did something different. I took a day to specifically analyze aspects of my life, whether it was the media I consumed or the places where I interacted with, that I felt were a part of how the culture I live in teaches me and other men what masculinity looks like.
The first time that I noticed something in regards to culture and masculinity came as I was watching Silicon Valley, a show that revolves around Richard Hendricks and his friends as they attempt to build a company called Pied Piper. This company was a tech savvy one that focused on a compression algorithm that would shrink peoples video and audio files among other things. I realized that each main character in the show, other than two women, was male. Not only were they male, but also they were all skilled with technology. There are only a few women throughout the entire three seasons that were as skilled as these men with Silicon Valley’s incredible tech. I believe this points towards a culture that heavily implies that to understand technology is to be manly.
In her article “Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear For Girls,” Mary Celeste Kearney discusses gender and technology. While the article focuses on girl’s interaction with technology, she said something that connected with my earlier statement. She said, “children have long been socialized to believe that ‘femininity is incompatible with technological competence’ and that ‘to feel technically competent is to feel manly.” Now, the show doesn’t seem to make arguments that to understand technology is to be manly, but it does reemphasize that idea with its casting and plot decisions. The fact that the show focuses on a group of men who come up with the technological innovation backs up Kearney’s claim on technologies role in masculinity.
The second instance that I interacted with that connected with culture and masculinity was when I watched a Chicago Cub’s game. It’s obvious that baseball is a field in which only men are present. It’s an occupation that reinforces gender roles in the work force. In his article “Hegemonic Masculinity on the Mound: Media Representations of Nolan Ryan and American Sports Culture,” Nick Trujillo says, “masculinity is hegemonic when it is defined through occupational achievement in an industrial capitalistic society.” Society tells us baseball is a manly sport because only men play it professionally. I know that I have often times been asked to go play softball with a group and my gut reaction is that that is a girl’s sport. I know very well that my playing either sport does not define my gender, but I grew up seeing boys playing baseball, and girls playing softball. This reinforces what culture teaches me about how to be masculine.
While I was watching this Cubs game I saw a Coors beer commercial that reminded me of what Michael A. Messner talked about in his article “The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events.” In this commercial you see two guys hanging out near a small body of water out in nature. They have a cooler with Coors beer in it and you can sense the emphasis on the beer bringing these two men together in friendship. Messner’s article ties into this commercial when it talks about “buddies” in these types of ads. He says, “the precariousness of individual men’s masculine status is offset by the safety of the male group. The solidity and primacy-and emotional safety-of male friendships are the emotional center of many of these ads.” This rings true because the main theme of this commercial is the relationship between these two men as they are away from all the stresses of life out in nature. The commercial creates this idea that there is something manly about being out in nature drinking beer with other men.
The final thing that I noticed during my daily routine was the clothes that I was wearing. You can see in the picture that I am wearing a flannel, jeans, boots, and a leather jacket. When I see myself I think of societies idea of a classic lumberjack. In my opinion a lumberjack is incredibly masculine and I feel that men with beards, like myself, are often compared to them. I think that there is a subconscious desire on my part to appear masculine, and I gratify that desire when I present myself in this fashion. I can remember watching X-Men Origins, and seeing a scene in which the main character Logan is wearing the same kind of clothes and hearing people talk about how masculine he looked. Situations like this pour into the idea of hegemonic masculinity and influence men to strive for standards set my Hugh Jackman.
I feel that I am a lot more aware nowadays of how society pushes ideals of masculinity on men. Media plays a big part in developing ideals that men should strive for and areas that men can find their masculinity in. I know that I am in some way influenced by these things, and I also know that I will be keeping a keen eye on my daily interactions with masculinity.