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Performing Masculinity

Adolescent African American Boys' Response to Gender Scripting

Lionel C. Howard

This article focuses on the ways in which a select group of adolescent African American males respond to gender scripts. Drawing on interview and focus group data, the article describes four different responses to messages they receive from peers and significant adults about socio-culturally appropriate behaviors and characteristics of masculinity: 1) adapting or modifying their presentations of self, 2) internalizing ascribed gender scripts, 3) resisting, and 4) remaining conflicted about an appropriate response. Narratives highlight the complexity of gender identity development and active participation of African American boys in the construction of a masculine identity that feels most authentic, as well as the role of agents of socialization on identity.

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Heather Ellis

This introductory article explains the aims of the interdisciplinary conference “Masculinity and the Other” held at Balliol College, Oxford, August 29-30, 2007, at which all of the papers comprising this special issue of Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies were first presented. It points out the prominence which the notions of the “boy” and boyhood and the life-cycle enjoyed at the conference and seeks more generally to suggest the benefits a more fully integrated discussion of these topics might bring to the fields of masculinity and gender studies.

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Boys, Inclusive Masculinities and Injury

Some Research Perspectives

Adam White and Stefan Robinson

The social function of sport has traditionally been to develop an economically efficient workforce and to prevent young men from becoming effeminate, and by extension homosexual. However, since the 1980s both the social positioning of homosexuality has changed, as has the economic requirements of the Anglo-American workforce. As such, the social function of contemporary sport is negated. With modern athletes now opting for softer masculine presentations, we start the debate on the intersection of sport, health, and inclusive masculinities, an area lacking scholarly attention so far. Through exploring masculinity-challenging discourses, participation rates and athletes’ self-withdrawal from sport when injured, we begin to theorize how modern athletes may view potentially risky and injurious sporting activities, showing that boys today are less inclined to engage in injurious activities, and, when they do, opting for softer and safer strategies.

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Masculinity and Autonomous Vehicles

A Degendered or Resegregated Future System of Automobility?

Dag Balkmar and Ulf Mellström

This article addresses the anthropomorphization and interpellative experience of cars and trucks, in order to meet future mobility challenges. Autonomous vehicles offer an emancipatory opportunity within a wider movement of degendering and regendering motor vehicles. We argue that autonomous vehicles can challenge the foundations of a gendered economy founded on masculinity, speed, pleasure, and embodiment. Rather than thinking in terms of a process of demasculinization, this article anticipates a regendering and resegregation through which certain forms of masculine gendered economies of pleasure will lose ground and others will gain. A core question in this article asks who will be in the driver’s seat of future systems of automobility as the control of the vehicle is gradually being transferred from the driver to digital control systems and intelligent roads.

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Young Masculinity and “The Other”

Representations of Ideal Manliness in Twentieth-Century English Boys’ Annuals

Pauline Farley

Twentieth-century English boys’ annuals often defined masculinity against notions of the “otherness” of gender, race and class. The children’s annual, which developed as a popular literary form during the Victorian period, was designed to instruct and entertain. Dominant ideologies about gender, race and class were reproduced and reinforced for an uncritical readership. High production values meant that annuals became a form of “hard copy,” re-read by several generations. In boys’ annuals, mid-Victorian styles of masculinity were reiterated during the twentieth century. In these narratives, boy heroes demonstrated superiority to various groups of “others,” thereby modelling and inscribing an increasingly old-fashioned masculinity and preserving older ideologies. Exploring a neglected area of ideological history of gender, this article shows how boys’ annuals presented readers with notions of “masculinity” defined by comparison with “the other,” who might be indigenous, feminine or lower-class.

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Masculinity on Stage

Dueling in the Greek Capital, 1870–1918

Dimitra Vassiliadou

Based on some forty duels that took place in Athens between 1870 and 1918, this article examines the different connotations middle-class dueling assumed in the political culture of the period. Drawing on newspaper articles, monographs, domestic codes of honor, legal texts, and published memoirs of duelists, it reveals the diversified character of male honor as value and emotion. Approaching dueling both as symbol and practice, the article argues that this ritualistic battle was imported to Greece against a background of fin de siècle political instability and passionate calls for territorial expansion and national integration. The duel gradually became a powerful way of influencing public opinion and the field of honor evolved into a theatrical stage for masculinity, emanating a distinct glamor: the glamor of a public figure who was prepared to lay down his life for his principles, his party, the proclamations he endorsed, and his “name.”

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Eric Anderson

Adolescent masculinity in the 1980s was marked by the need to distance oneself from the specter of “the fag.” In this homohysteric culture, compulsory heterosexuality and high rates of anti-gay sentiment necessitated that adolescent boys distance themselves from anything associated with femininity. It was this zeitgeist that brought Connell’s hegemonic masculinity theory to the vanguard of masculine studies. However, homohysteria has diminished among adolescents today. Accordingly, in this article, I foreground research extracts from multiple ethnographies on groups of 16-year-old adolescent boys in order to contextualize the repeated and consistent data I find throughout both the United States and the United Kingdom. In explaining how the diminishment of homohysteria promotes a “One-Direction” culture of inclusive and highly feminized masculinities, I suggest that new social theories are required.

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Mofeyisara Oluwatoyin Omobowale, Offiong Esop Akpabio and Olukemi Kehinde Amodu

Masculinity, as an identity signifier along gender lines, varies from one society to another. The nature, definition, and expression of masculinity (dominance, oppression, violence, and aggression) through social interactions may breed bullying, as found in the Agbowo community of Ibadan, Nigeria. The data for the study were collected through mixed methods and revealed that patriarchal constructed masculinity allows for hegemonic dominance, aggression, oppression, and violent acts that foster bullying among adolescent males in Agbowo. Hence, to address bullying-related problems among adolescents, an understanding of the societal context in which it is carried out is required.

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Erica L. Fraser

With the onset of the Cold War and a new nuclear world order, Soviet physicists found themselves at the nexus of scientific research and weapons development. This article investigates the subjectivity of these physicists as an issue of masculinity. Influenced by Connell's models of subordinated, complicit, and hegemonic masculinity, the article finds that the stories nuclear physicists tell about their research in the 1950s are inconsistent and shifting, with the narrators simultaneously remembering unfreedom and privilege. They tell of being conscripted to military work against their will but then enjoying (and deserving) the resulting power, all while maintaining strong homosocial networks in the laboratory predicated on excluding women. Evidence from personal narratives provides unique insight into these multiple masculinities and the way the authors position themselves as (masculinized) Cold War subjects.