sabato 10 novembre 2012

Strong, powerful, tough and respected: stereotypes in defining masculinity

The social construction of femininity is discussed in many studies, but also men are subjected to the pressure of dominant models. Masculinity is clearly defined by media. A “real man” have to be strong, good at sports, brave and absolutely heterosexual. Meanwhile he shouldn't be sensitive and express his feelings. Further, he should distance himself from any behavior considered feminine.

Images of perfect male bodies
The media influence the definition of ourselves and what is ideal. The media, especially advertising, depict perfect male bodies: muscle, defined, perfect in proportions. Men in adverts seem as statues rather than persons. When I looked for an example, I wondered at the easiness to find it. My research lasted about 20 seconds: I thought to a brand of wear and I keyed in YouTube “Calvin Klein man advert” and that's done! A perfect example in my opinion:

These images produce a psychological pressure on men. One consequence is the increase in cases of anorexia nervosa in young men. NHS (National Health Service) in UK found a 66% growth of hospitalized men for eating disorders over the last ten years.
Men difficulty admit to be ill, because anorexia is considered a women's problem and it would be a sign of weakness.

Children indoctrination
Men are exposed to social models of masculinity from childhood. Society and parents often teach them to become “real men”. They are used to hide feelings and weaknesses, to not to cry, because they don't have to be as a “sissy”. The model is the superhero, also in toys and movies. For instance, Disney perpetuates stereotypes of what is masculinity e what is femininity in almost all the movies:

Masculinity, media and violence
A portrayal of men as dominant and powerful in advertising can provoke violent behaviors. There are adverts, such as the Dolce &Gabbana's one, that glamorize violence, group sex and male dominance.
Recently Jackson Katz realized an interesting documentary on the social construction of masculinity and violence. His aim is to enlight and provoke students to consider their own participation in the culture of contemporary masculinity.
Here the full version:

Angela Pulliero

3 commenti:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your article. I found it very interesting and it shows a different point of view of the issue. Everything you said is true... Very often man are obsessed by a perfect body, by their style and the way they dress. In certain case they are obsessed even by their make up.
    I loved the answer you give to this behavior. It’s certainly true that advertising and cartoons instruct child to behave like a super hero, to became a real man. I’m also thinking at films like superman and many others like that. However, fortunately it seems that lately media are upgrading and revaluing the figure of the “geek”. Recently in many movies and tv series man is appreciated for his intellectual skills rather than for his strength or power. I hope that an evolution in this direction will be made also for woman condition. A woman that is not just valuated for his beauty but also for his intelligence.

    1. Hi Cristina, thank you for your comment. I hope the things are changing too! It's important to notice stereotypes to destroy them. Both women and men are subjected to reductive images, which condition all their sphere of life. I think we have to rebel to these kind of interpretations and boycott means, such as tabloids and television shows, that perpetuate them. But we have also to pay attention at our way of thinking, because we often tend to stereotype unconsciously.

  2. Media provides us representation of the reality and on this depiction we conform our behaviour. This is how stereotypes work. However, concerning gender stereotypes, we usually refer to female ones. Often people do not think that also man can be affected by gender stereotypes.I think that the reason why we think that men are not influenced by the representations gave us by media is that since childhood we are taught that men are not easily influenced like women are. This is a stereotype as well, but this is not true. Also men are affected by gender stereotypes: they have to be strong and emotionless and act like hero. I think that most women were able to defeat gender stereotypes claiming for example equal opportunities and driving out from their subordinate situation. Instead, men did not have the necessity to emancipate themselves and as a consequence I think that their behaviour is in fact more influenced by gender stereotypes than the women’s one.

    Susanna Gallini