Tag Archives: Masculinity

Are we what we eat?

Having read the previous post ‘Dining with death’ I thought I’d offer a short gendered perspective on vegetarianism.

It is no accident that in Western cultures the vast majority of vegetarians are women – only about 30% are men. One of the key reasons for this is that there is a strong link between the eating of animal flesh and maleness (Potts and Parry, 2010). So entrenched is this connection that men’s consumption of meat is seen as an exemplar of normative masculinity (Sobal, 2005). Indeed it is widely considered to be an essential sustenance for the healthy male body. Red meat in particular is seen as important for men because it consists of muscle (much like the prototypical image of the male body), which provides for strength, energy and virility. Red meat is frequently eaten in a semi-cooked or near raw state with signs of blood thereby symbolising vitality and strength (Potts and Parry, 2010).

Eating red meat in a more or less raw state also enables a power relationship to be formed between the slaughtered animal and the consumer that links to masculine power and domination over nature (Fiddes, 1991). A refusal to consume meat thereby signals the opposite of red-blooded masculinity – femininity. Such gendered notions are often expressed in the media by ‘hunter-gatherer’ metaphors (Gough, 2007). Not surprisingly then, fewer men than women are vegetarian. Vegetarian men typically come under more scrutiny than women and often bear the brunt of ridicule for their choice of food.

Vegetarianism

Masculinity

Ideological dilemmas and depression


Tim Lott’s recent article ‘Men are suffering a depression epidemic…’ in the Daily Mail argues that one of the causes of men’s depression is the fluidity of the roles they are ‘expected to play in modern life, both professionally and emotionally, and as fathers and husbands’, which ‘can lead to a lot of painful doubt about what the role of a man actually is’. That is, men are ‘expected to be strong yet sensitive, successful but not materialistic, caring yet masculine’. Whether it is fair, as he does, to blame women for this is a moot point. However, the article does provide an interesting example of how ideological dilemmas may affect mental health.

Billig et al (1988) first introduced the concept of ideological dilemmas in a book with the same name. Their aim was to make a contribution to the debate surrounding the nature of ideology by questioning the notion that ideologies are always constituted by integrated and coherent sets of ideas. Although they did not deny that ideologies could conform to this classical Marxist definition, they argued that a different kind of ideology existed. These ‘lived’ ideologies are the beliefs, values and practices of a given society. In other words, these ideologies are a society’s ‘common sense’ ways of doing things. Unlike their Marxist counter-parts, these ideologies are often characterized by inconsistency, fragmentation and contradiction, which do not provide clear and concise ways for people to think and act. Billig et al (1988) provide numerous examples, such as the dilemma between ‘many hands make light work’ and ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, or, ‘look before we leap’ and ‘he who hesitates is lost’.

Edley (2001) argues that the concept of ideological dilemmas can also inform our understanding of gender and gender relations. One such example is the dilemma of work versus family. That is, how do mothers and fathers fulfill their career aspirations as well as their parental obligations, and also find time to develop their own relationship by having quality time together away from the demands of children and work? In addition, men are today, confronted as never before with mediated messages that invite them to openly confront their emotions, be sensitive, caring and feel comfortable seeking help, whilst at the same time they are expected to be appear powerful, strong and self-reliant (Gough, 2009). It is these ideological dilemmas that Lott and MIND identify as often leading to men suffering depression.

Men are suffering a depression epidemic too… and some of it is caused by women

MIND – Men’s mental health

Ideological Dilemmas: A Social Psychology of Everyday Thinking

Gender fatigue: The ideological dilemma of gender neutrality and discrimination in organisations

Christiano Ronaldo, Emporio Armani and homoeroticism

(Images obtained from Emporio Armani website: see link below)

A previous post of mine on Social Psychology Eye (June 22, 2009) about Christiano Ronaldo, argued that he was not just a footballing superstar, but like David Beckham, a commercial ‘brand’ advertising and marketing the likes of Emporio Armani or his own CR7 products. I argued that the Ronaldo ‘brand’ and avant-garde image allowed heterosexual men to engage with ‘metrosexual’ fashion and grooming products. However, one of the problems I signposted with the Ronaldo ‘brand’ (and others) was the open invitation of a homoerotic gaze. That is, men visually enjoying other men’s semi-naked bodies. It is argued this has (Simpson, 2004: 2):

…“queered” all the codes of official masculinity of the last hundred years or so: It’s passive where it should be active, desired where it should be desiring, looked at where it should be always looking.

This so called ‘queering’ of the male gaze unsettles traditional heteronormative hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1995) in opening up a space for questions over gender and sexuality identity to be raised. Marketers are acutely aware of this tension and the imperative of disavowing homosexuality and promoting gender difference in order to allow men to enjoy images of other men (Edwards, 2003).

Ulrich Beck’s (1997) provides a useful framework for understanding how marketers deal with the undermining of traditional heteronormative hegemonic masculine scripts. Where the potential for uncertainty arises (e.g. other men’s semi-naked bodies and advertising feminised products), marketers attempt to construct certainty by dismissing alternative forms of sexuality altogether or by rendering consumption unproblematic. In other words they ‘construct certitude’ in order to ‘attempt to replace questioning and doubt with more certain frames of reference’ (Jackson et al., 2001: 129). One of the more prominent ways in which this is achieved is by photographing men with women in order to signpost heterosexuality. The way this is achieved in the photographs of Ronaldo advertising Emporio Armani’s summer 2010 underwear collection (above) is by reference to a masculine marker e.g. sporting and muscular poses, and by omitting direct eye contact with male viewers.

Emporio Armani’s summer 2010 underwear collection for men

Cristiano Ronaldo: The Brand

Masculinities and consumption

Sporno

Metrosexuality and hegemonic masculinity

Is Santa Claus ‘retrosexual’?

The British columnist Mark Simpson first identified and named a ‘new, narcissistic, media-saturated, self-conscious kind of masculinity’ – the ‘metrosexual’ – in an influential article entitled ‘Here Come the Mirror Men’ in the national newspaper The Independent in 1994. Apparently the ‘metrosexual’, is ‘a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis—because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are’ (Simpson, 2002). The point Simpson was making, was that men are becoming more involved in historically feminised practices, which centre on consumption and self-presentation. Since Simpson first coined the term, ‘metrosexual’ practices have grown exponentially and even seem to have reached more mature men (Mintel, 2006).

It seems then, that ‘metrosexuality’ is here to stay. However in contrast, many men still continue to follow more conventional masculine and gender distinct scripts and these men have been termed ‘retrosexual’ (Simpson, 2003). Retrosexuality aligns itself with more classical or ‘hegemonic’ masculinity (Connell, 1995) and includes typical characteristics such as heroics, strength, drive, ambition and risk-taking, along with a disinterest in health-related practices, body image and grooming.

Given this identity criterion then, Santa is clearly ‘retrosexual’. For example, his beard is long and unkempt and he doesn’t wear the latest fashions. He clearly has a disinterest in health-related practices and body image, evidenced by his large paunch and he is well known to eat numerous mince pies and drink copious amounts of alcohol (at least on Xmas Eve). I should probably not mention too loudly the risk-taking involved in controlling his sleigh under the influence of alcohol or not following HSE lifting guidelines when hauling his sack. And of course we all think of him as heroic since he manages to delivery on time (unlike the Royal Mail) all our presents in just a few short hours, even whilst it’s snowing.

Merry Christmas to all readers!

Analysing Discursive Constructions of ‘Metrosexual’ Masculinity Online: ‘What does it matter, anyway?’

Men’s Grooming Habits – UK – March 2007

The Journal of Popular Culture

A Metrosexual Christmas?

BiothermMetrosexual icons such as David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo have inspired a new generation of men to spruce up their act and embrace the ever-growing range of grooming products designed with men in mind. Many of these products as likely to feature in style magazines, newspapers, on television and billboards, in the run up to Christmas. With retailers expecting sales to be brisker than last year (Centre for Retail Research, 2009), one might also expect the market for men’s grooming products to follow suit. However, although Mintel (2007) estimated the overall market size for men’s grooming products was a good-looking £806m, it still continued to exhibit unfulfilled potential.

The slow uptake of these products seems to be because of the continued identification of grooming and self-presentation practices with women and femininity. Harrison’s (2008) visual semiotic analysis of male cosmetics advertised online by Studio5ive found that the organisation reframed mascara and eyeliner in masculine ways (‘manscara’; ‘guy-liner’) in order to distinguish it from women’s products. Those men who actively engaged with such products, risked being critiqued and rejected as non-masculine (hence accusations of homosexuality, effeminacy and narcissism) and so tended to invoke conventional masculinity signifiers (e.g. heterosexual prowess, self-respect etc.) in order to justify their consumption (Hall, 2009). The apparent difficulty men face in enjoying such hitherto feminine identity products shows how more conventional or ‘hegemonic masculinities’ (see: Connell, 1995; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005) still remain culturally available and are likely to influence men’s (and women’s) consumption patterns this Christmas.

square-eyeAnalysing Discursive Constructions of ‘Metrosexual’ Masculinity Online: ‘What does it matter, anyway?’

square-eyeThe Journal of Popular Culture

square-eyeMen’s Grooming Habits – UK – March 2007

square-eyeUK Christmas retail sales to rise 1.9 pct

The Super Scooby: ‘You have to be a real man to eat one.’

scooby burgerIt is widely regarded that a healthy diet protects against major illness. Men on the whole however, are not given to healthy eating and lifestyle practices, although recent reports from the Department for Health (2009) suggest men’s health awareness is beginning to change.

One reason for men’s slow up-take of a healthy lifestyle and eating practices is the meanings men attach to food and the relationship between diet and health (Gough, 2007). Historically, diet and the concern with healthy eating have been associated with feminised ideals and practices which centre on consumption, health and embodiment (Gill, Henwood & McLean, 2005). These associations put pressure on men to conform to conventional masculine identity projects with their disinterest in health and appearance. The recent launch of the Super Scooby provides an interesting example of how masculine ideals can absolve men from changing their health-defeating ways.

The Metro’s article about the ‘Super Scooby’ with its ‘artery-busting 2,645 calories’ draws on conventional masculine identity markers, which allow men to engage unproblematically in eating the unhealthy meal. For example the ‘Super Scooby’ is offered to ‘real men’ who are willing to take up the challenge to ‘beat the (as yet unbeaten) beast’. Indeed, the ‘Super Scooby’ provides a man-size portion of meat with its eight rashers of bacon and four burgers (Gough 2007). Irony and humour (see Benwell, 2004) are also frequently used to mock health concerns associated with eating the burger ‘health concerns haven’t been completely ignored – the monster burger contains some salad. It boasts two lettuce leaves and six slices of tomato… accounting for all of 29 calories’.

square-eyeSuper Scooby is UK’s ‘biggest burger’

square-eyeThe beer talking: four lads, a carry out and the reproduction of masculinities

square-eye‘Real men don’t diet’: An analysis of contemporary newspaper representations of men, food and health

square-eyeNew stats reveal England’s calorific alcohol intake

square-eyeConcerns about health and looks are driving thousands to cut back on alcohol

Cristiano Ronaldo: The Brand

Cristiano_Ronaldo_-_april09When Real Madrid recently announced Christiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United for £80 million, they were not only bargaining for the footballing skills of the world and European player of the year, but also the whole Ronaldo ‘brand’. Ronaldo is recognized internationally as a household name successfully marketing brands like Nike and Fuji Xerox, but also indirectly marketing the lasted fashions, accessories (many of his own CR7 products) and grooming products along with tanning and waxing his body.

Like David Beckham, the Ronaldo ‘brand’ and avant-garde image allow heterosexual men to engage with ‘metrosexual’ fashion and grooming products. Yet metrosexuality and men’s personal adornment can often be problematic because it openly invites a homoerotic gaze whilst also entering the feminised realm of consumption. In order to avoid anxieties over sexuality, and still allow men to consume these ‘metrosexual’ products without threatening their ‘straight’ masculinity, the Ronaldo ‘brand’ continues to align itself with stereotypical masculine attributes such money, fame and sexual prowess. This provides us then, with an interesting glimpse of the changing face of contemporary men and masculinities and the continued allegiance to more conventional masculine scripts.

Square-eye The Metrosexual

 

Square-eye Masculinity and Consumption

 

Square-eye Ronaldo vs Becks ‘Who is the biggest metrosexual of them all?

 

Square-eye Cristiano Ronaldo is the real deal

Terminator Masculinity

MSOnce again in ‘Terminator Salvation’,  Skynet and its army of Terminators threaten humanity with extinction. Set in post–apocalyptic 2018, the heroes of the film are not surprisingly both men – John Connor and Marcus Wright – who are fighting predominantly male-body inspired Terminators. Hollywood’s use of men as action heroes is nothing new (e.g. Sylvester Stallone, John Wayne), but what is particularly concerning is its continued fascination with idealized forms of men and masculinity. For example, men tend to be depicted as physically and emotionally tough, courageous, unfazed in the face of death and predominantly heterosexual. Such portrayals often serve as reference points for men to construct and regulate appropriate masculine behaviours whilst continuing to sustain conventional notions of gender difference. Unfortunately though, representing men in such narrow terms fails to embrace men’s own lived experiences and helps to sustain the marginalization of other masculinities and women.

Square-eye

Read the Guardian film review

 

Square-eye

Read more about idealised masculinities