Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gender Roles Final

When most people think of a 'man's man,' they picture Clint Eastwood, or James Bond. "Real men don't cry," Clint Eastwood would say, guns smoking, standing over the body of his opponent. Or the infamous line, "Name's Bond. James Bond." Is this idyllic image a myth or a reality? My question to the reader is this: how could such a man exist? All men cry at some point in their lives; to not do so would be inhuman. Also, not all 'real men' can constantly prowl the west, shooting out all 'bad guys' in sight. If this was true there wouldn't be any men left at all. The underlying question here is, simply, what does it mean to be a man? Biologically, this question is easy to answer. However, after delving deeper into the question, a person realizes that it is not so simple. I hope to show the reader, through popular culture, that what we commonly take for manliness is often the opposite.
We all have hear the song, "Macho Man." As I kid, I remember hearing the song over the radio and singing the chorus, not realizing its meaning. Before we delve into the song itself, let's take a moment to examine disco, the musical movement during which the song was created. Disco is know for its homosexual undertones, and this song is no exception. The band who sings the song, Village People, gained a reputation for wearing outfits that mocked the 'macho man' mentioned in the song. At the time of my childhood, less than twenty years later, the song had become an anthem for the nacho-eating football-watcher, its origins forgotten. However, the songs lyrics usually remain omitted in the current versions
of the song; if you look at its original form, its meaning is clear.
Jogging in the mornings, go man go
works out in the health spa, muscles glow
You can best believe that, he's a macho man
ready to get down with, anyone he can.
To me, one quote from Self Made Man become clear, "I guess maybe that's one of the secrets of manhood that no man tells if he can help it. Every man's armor is borrowed and ten sizes too big, and beneath it, he's naked and insecure and hoping you won't see," (pg. 130). Like the Village People, Norah points out that the idea of a 'macho man' is ridiculous-that the macho man is merely a myth, a concept produced by western society designed to confine manhood to a narrow viewpoint. Now, years later, we are proving the Village People right by taking their song for face value-we have shown that manhood is whatever we want it to be.
If you have watched the movie 'Mulan' you probably remember the song, 'I'll Make a Man Out of You." The first time you hear the song, you take it for face value, getting caught up in the tale of the comical soldiers harsh introductions to manhood.
Did they send me daughters
When I asked for sons?
You're the saddest bunch
I ever met
But you can bet
Before we're through
Mister, I'll make a man
out of you.
The meaning behind the man's words is clear: he equates physical strength with manliness, and these men are clearly lacking. However, the obvious irony is that the 'man' who improves the most is really a women: Mulan. In Raising Cane, the authors have this to say about male physical activity, "Size and sports are dominant themes in the males psychology. Men are impressed by big football players, tall basketball players, and heavy-weight boxers. Size and the power it connotes fascinates us," (pg. 145). However, even without big muscles or a tall frame, Mulan captures the respects of her peers. Once a listener realizes this, the once simple Disney story takes on more humorous undertones. Much like the previous example, the viewing public has once again proven that a 'man's man' is merely an ideal fabricated by our society. If you ask most people about Mulan, they will usually start to sing this song, smiling; they do not think of the gender roles behind the picture.
The last two songs have been mockeries of traditional manhood because of who was singing the song, or who the song was about. We can tell this because both songs are not obviously satire-at first, anyways. However, this song, composed and preformed by the only 'man's man' out of the three, is the only one that blatantly makes fun of the 'Tuff Man' stereotype.
I'd lay in a pile of burning money that I've earned
and not even worry about getting burned.
I'd climb the Empire State Building, fight Muhammad Ali
Just to have you baby close to me.
I believe that this songs purpose is a little self-mocking. Every man needs to make
fun of himself at some point in our lives. After acting too 'macho,' I know that I feel ridiculous. "You worry throughout your childhood about whether or not you are going to be a man. Then, once you are a man, you spend the rest of your life wondering whether they think you made it," (pg. 238). Men need to stop worrying about their masculinity so much. It is easy to get caught up in the idea of a 'macho man,' but, like The Thunderbirds show, it is easier to just poke fun at masculinity.
By now I hope the reader has a good idea of the 'Macho Man.' I believe he is a figment of our imagination, more ethereal than physical. Some people would argue that he is still out there, somewhere, deep in the Maine woods. However, do amount of deet, songs, or books can ever truly materialize Chuck Norris from the shadows.

The Boss and The Streets?

The media and popular culture are large vehicles in building masculine identities in men. Music specifically, makes assumptions and puts ideas into heads of boys and men alike that are trying to figure out what it means to be a man. There are hundreds of social “norms” that are made by popular music because the artists are who we look up to and what they say in their songs we, as men, can take as advice. When the writer Norah Vincent went undercover as a man in all male environments, she encountered many of the social norms and tendencies that are prominent in popular music.
When Norah Vincent went undercover as Ned into an intense sales job, she encountered men who would do anything to make money and work their way up the ladder. Like in any primarily male environments, there was a hierarchy of the employees at the workplace. At the top, there was a seeming powerful man named Dano that had worked his way to be the leader of the high-octane group of men called Clutch Advertising. An excerpt from his morning meeting script says enough about the macho vibe on the job. “Everybody wants my job, and if they say they don’t they’re full of shit. Who wouldn’t? I make a lot of money, I wear a $20,000 dollar watch. The business is what gave me my net worth, my house with a pool, my cars, my vacations, my family. I’ve got a better-looking wife than I ever thought I’d get, and I got her because I’ve got a lot of money.” (Vincent, 205-206) Dano is the ultimate power tripping alpha male that was often present at the all male environments she experienced as Ned. Along with the alpha-male, there were the low end guys that were trying their best to make their way up to eventually be at the top.
Bruce Springsteen, a brilliant songwriter, wrote about this same male phenomenon in his song, “Man at the Top”.

“Everybody wants to be the man at the top
Everybody wants to be the man at the top
Aim your gun, son, and shoot your shot
Everybody wants to be the man at the top

Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief
One thing in common they all got Everybody wants to be the man at the top”

Ironically Bruce Springsteen’s nickname is “The Boss”, but his words in this song represent exactly what Dano spoke about. Every man wants power and everyone wants to make the most money, and his examples of people in his lyrics are all primarily men’s jobs. Doctors, lawyers, and especially an Indian Chief, they are all men and they all want to be at the top of their workplace.

When Norah entered the world of sex as Ned, she found that at times, men looked at women as objects that were used and then forgotten as soon as possible. While not all men act this way, it is a common theme when it comes to an all male environment. When she met a guy named Phil in a bar as Ned, he told her about the advice he received from his dad when he was twelve years old.
“ ‘The four F’s. That’s all you need to know about women. Find ‘em. Feel ‘em. Fuck ‘em and Forget ‘em.’ ” (Vincent, 62) The fact that his father taught him to objectify women shows that it is an impulse that men come to terms with at one point in their life.
The white rapper The Streets, writes about using women and forgetting them the next day in his song “Don’t Mug Yourself”.

“get my phone out
'bout to give this girl a shout
see if she had a nice time last night up town
ask if she fancies a tryin it again sometime
then Calv grabs the phone like oi oi oi

hold it down boy
your heads getting blurred
I know you can't stop thinking of her
By all means you can vibe with this girl
but just don't mug yourself that's all
don't mug yourself”
The song, filled with British slang, is essentially about not getting tangled with a girl that isn’t worth it. He tries to call her, but his friends tell him not to so he doesn’t “mug himself”, or screw himself over. The Streets make it a social norm to not call her after some late night relations. These young men are who other young men look up to, and it will instinctively make us have an impulse to do the same.
When Norah Vincent went undercover as a man she did find what it takes to be a man and what defines us. The media is the biggest motive in making us into men, and it is up to the specific boy to decide how the songs we love affect us. From The Boss to a white rapper from the UK, every artist encounters these masculine roles at one point in their career.

Bruce Springsteen- Man at the Top


The Streets- Don't Mug Yourself


Monday, May 26, 2008


She's a Rejecter-Of Montreal

Boy-Our Lady Peace

A Man Needs a Maid-Neil Young

Gender Themes that Shape Boys and Young Men

To grow up from a boy to a men is long process with rules along gender themes. Many gender themes are portrayed in popular music are seen in both the books Raising Cain and Self-made Man. These gender themes describe how boys should act and develop into men. Music from the artists Our Lady Peace, Neil Young, and Of Montréal display these important gender roles of boys and men in their lyrics.
One major gender theme is how conforming to masculinity affects boys and men. Boys want to be strong and big. Boys been taught that these qualities define you as a man. Boys and men do not want to be seen as weak, and want to maintain the figure that society as granted as manly. In Raising Cain, boys learn this at a young age and do not want to be seen weak or as a wimp. “Most boys don’t want to risk being seen as a wimp-a ‘punk’. And many boys don’t know when to walk away” (223). This leads to violence that is natural for boys. To show emotion about an issue, or to not resolve something by violence can be seen as un-masculine. In the song Boy by Our Lady Peace the lyrics resemble the relationship between father and son like in Raising Cain, and the emotional strain the son is enduring. “I’ll be there to pick you up, and dust you off, and bring you home, and make you feel loved”. It can refer to the boy’s emotional frustration, with the lyrics ‘dust you off’ showing that he could have been fighting. Also showing no matter how anger his son due to the constraints of masculinity, he will be there to pick him up from school and care for him.
The rules of masculinity are another major gender theme throughout the whole novel Self-Made Man. Ned discovers that to keep his guise up, she must learn the boundaries and masculinity and how men act. When she is a woman, she is always stared down the street by watching men, showing their dominance. Yet when she becomes a man, they only look at her quickly, acknowledging her dominance too. “Only this time they didn’t stare. On the contrary, when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back” (Vincent, 2). This shows how Ned gains dominance over women in this situation. This is common and can be compared to A Man Need a Maid by Neil Young. I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid, find a place nearby for her to stay. Just someone to keep my house clean, fix my meals and go away. This shows how man have a dominant figure over females and that the woman caters to fit the man’s needs. It is hard for Ned to believe that being a male gains you that dominance with others. Neil Young is singing that he needs someone to help him, but not to be in a relationship with him. Also Ned learns to rid her woman qualities when she laughs in a high pitch laugh or almost asked another guy if he’s read a book by a certain women. Her experience and this song show similarities of the guidelines of masculinity.
Another gender theme is the roles that each gender takes on and put up. This can be seen with Ned when he is at bars and when he is dating. “When I’d approached as Ned they had been sitting facing the bar. They had only bothered to turn halfway around to talk to me, their faces always in profile” (Vincent, 98). This shows the front the women that women put up but also shows that women are always on the defensive when confronted by men. They are quiet, and after looking you over, ignore you or turn you down. This is the opposite for men, who are constantly on the offensive was dating. This gender theme is constant in the world today. The band Of Montreal has a song called She’s a Rejecter that displays this gender theme. “My, my, you busted me like a Robocop, Strike me with your riding crop, I'm forever going celibate tomorrow, But tonight, like success, knows no shame.” This line from the song describes this confrontation between men and women. ‘My, my, you busted me like a Robocop’ describes how the woman stared him down, and turned him down with ‘strike me with you riding crop’. This shows the typical situation then young men face in their lives. ‘But tonight, like success, knows no shame” shows how he is going to keep trying. In Raising Cain, the issue of shame comes up, and boys and young men are sensitive to disrespect. This happens when young men get turned down, and need to learn to feel no shame and to try again. “Because they are caught in the trap of trying to satisfy the impossible requirements of the traditional masculine self-image, boys are sensitive to any perceived disrespect.” (223). In the song, he is going to try, and try again, even if he keeps getting turned down. This fits the gender theme of the role and fronts that men and women follow. This song describes was happened with Ned in Self-Made Man in her dating experience and how it affects boys and young men emotionally in Raising Cain.
The gender themes described in Raising Cain and Self-Made Man has many similarities with songs by Our Lady Peace, Neil Young, and Of Montreal. Even with these similarities, there are many more themes in other songs and books in the world. These themes help shape boys to men, and set the rules for how young men should act. Masculinity is the major factor and theme that creates these guidelines, and sets the standards for men and boys alike today. These books and songs help describe some of the gender themes that boys and young men are experiencing through their development.

Links to lyrics:

She's A Rejecter-Of Montreal

Boy-Our Lady Peace

A Man Needs A Maid-Neil Young

Tough Guys, Mommy's Boys and the Male Sex Drive

Growing up as a boy to become a man and being a man are both very difficult things that are usually not acknowledged by the society. Many struggle to be emotionless and tough and, to compensate this, some start to act violent and rude. Over the years several songwriters have paid some attention to these issues and wrote songs about them. The two books Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, written by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, and Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent both deal with this theme as well.
One of the hardest things for males in most parts of the world is the expectation from the society that they are strong, tough and do not show emotions. Kindlon and Thompson notice that “every troubled boy has a different story, but their stories share a disturbing theme of emotional ignorance and isolation” (Raising Cain, p. 3) and that “stereotypical notions of masculine toughness deny a boy his emotions” (p. 4). What they are saying is that our society influences the upbringing of boys so heavily that they are denied their natural need to show emotions. Boston address this very same issue in their song To be a Man say “A gentle hand/So easy to want and so hard to give” by saying that it is easy for a man to want emotional attention, it is hard for them to get, because they are not supposed to. John Lennon sings about this in even two of his songs. In Jealous Guy he sings “I was swallowing my pain” and in My Mummy's Dead he goes “So much pain/I could never show it.” Both of these quotes from John Lennon show that he wants to show his pain and emotions, but can't, because he is supposed to be tough and strong and cannot cry. Not even monks can talk about their emotions and the need for physical proximity from other humans. When Ned says: “I could really use some cuddling right about now” (Self-Made Man, p. 156) he gets weird looks and knows that the monks think he is gay and weak, even though it was a normal thing to say for Norah Vincent when she was looking like a woman.
One of the main reasons for troubled boys and men is their upbringing in their families. Often boys are socially miseducated, grow up too close to their mothers and become too weak for the life outside their homes, not enough attention from their parents, or too much of it. It seems like anything parents do must go wrong with such a small chance for success. Kindlon and Thompson write: “When a grown man cries in therapy, it is almost always about his father, the man be hated or revered, alive or dead. The story may be one of a father's absences, his painful presence, or his limitations of spirit and feeling” (Raising Cain, p. 94). This proves how important fathers are to their sons and that they can leave deep pain that does not even go away when they sons are grown up men. In Mother John Lennon sings about his father: “Father, you left me, but I never left you/I needed you, you didn't need me/So I, I just got to tell you/Goodbye Goodbye.” John Lennon is singing about how his father never had time for him and did not contribute to his upbringing, even though John Lennon needed him to. Now as a grown up man he finally is over this pain and can say goodbye to his father who actually was never there in the first place. For boys in general it is usually more or less the opposite from his for the relationships with their mothers. At some point most boys start to pull away from their mothers to act tougher and manlier just as society expects them to (in this case society is mostly other boys and men). Most mothers give them their freedom, too, though “a boy never loses his need to be understood and loved by his mother” (Raising Cain, p. 117). This can lead to very complicated situations when son and mother realize that they need to get away from each other more often and yet they both feel that the son needs love and attention from his mother, even though he shouldn't. John Lennon addresses this topic in his song Mother, too, by singing: “Mother, you had me, but I never had you/I wanted you, you didn't want me/So I, I just got to tell you/Goodbye, goodbye.” This shows how John Lennon needed his mother, but she was not supportive. She probably did not want to be to close to her son, so he would grow up tough and strong like sons are supposed to. These examples are sad and full of misunderstanding, which mostly harms the young boys that have not yet figured out how to get along in their young lives.
Their relation women and girls defines a big part of men and boys in society and there could not be less stereotypes about this topic. Men are strong and tough, the protector, the moneymaker and the smart one in the family. Women are beautiful, but weak, they need protection and work only in the household. These stereotypes are proof for the often felt dominance of men over women. Norah Vincent describes the differences between a man and a woman walking down a street in New York City like this: “As a woman, you couldn't walk down those streets invisibly. [...] Their eyes followed you all the way up and down the street, never wavering, asserting their dominance as a matter of course. [As a man] on the contrary, when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back. It was astounding, the difference, the respect they showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring” (Self-Made Man, p. 2-3). Every woman on the street was stared at by men no matter if she was attractive or not, but when a man walked up the street, the other men looked away. Staring at a woman shows the men's dominance over her and makes him feel stronger about himself, while on the other hand he pays respect to any man by not staring at him. The Beastie Boys made this theme the topic of her song Song for the Man, where they say: “Like you got the right/To look her up and down/What makes this world/So sick and evil.” The Beastie Boys realized how most men look at women and think it is wrong just like Norah Vincent does. Norah Vincent though sees the reason behind it and blames the society for it, while the Beastie Boys ask the men directly why they do this and expect them to change their behavior, because they know most women find these looks offensive and feel uncomfortable.
These are only some of the parallels between the books Raising Cain and Self-Made Man and music by John Lennon, Boston and the Beastie Boys. The fact that everything connects well with each other shows that these issues have been around for a while and also are not hidden to everyone, but have been discussed in public several times. This makes it even worse, that the society still lives by the very same values even though the weaknesses are well known.

Boston – To be a Man
Lyrics and the Video:
John Lennon – Jealous Guy
Lyrics and the Video:
John Lennon – My Mummy's Dead
Lyrics and the Video:
John Lennon – Mother
Lyrics and the Video:
Beastie Boys – Song for the Man
Lyrics and the Video:

Friday, May 16, 2008

My personality test came back negative...just kidding

After taking my personality test online, I found out that I was an INFP, or introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving. The analysis seem to be accurate-it describes INFP's as 'never seeming to lose their sense of wonder,' yet 'absent minded' and prone to a sense of 'failed competence.' I couldn't begin to describe how many times I have stared out my window at a beautiful spring scene, only to realize twenty minutes later that I am late for something. Usually, tests like this make me laugh. How can you group large amounts of people into a handful of archetypes with a mere seventy questions? This test, however, was different. The category in which I was grouped actually fit me, and the comments seemed to be fairly educated. It cannot fully escape the shortcoming of the 'online test,' but, all in all, I was impressed.

Jung Typology Test

I scored: Extraverted 11% Intuitive 25% Thinking 1% Judging 78%
This means I am:
- slightly expressed extravert
- moderately expressed intuitive personality
- slightly expressed thinking personality
- very expressed judging personality

I am surprised that it says I am extroverted, because I just think I am a rather quite person and I usually have a harder time going up to new people and start conversations with them. At least it says it is only slightly expressed, so I guess that works.
Which impresses me is that the first job that shows up in Management in Business and Education. Management in Business is more or less what I am thinking about doing right now, but I can also see myself working in a Management of Education later in life.
I like that Al Gore is the same type as me, because I admire his work to reduce global warming and that he came back after he lost so unluckily.