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Masculinity and Racialized Subjectivities

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Aubrey Dvorak

on 29 October 2013

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Transcript of Masculinity and Racialized Subjectivities

Masculinity and Racialized Subjectivities
Making Racialized Masculinities Visible

Race as a key factor in how projections of masculine anxieties are played out onto gendered others
Masculinity more visible and understood in and on racially diverse bodies
People typically do not expect to see masculinity in a certain way when inscribed on racialized male bodies due to preconceived notions and stereotypes
Ex. Asian bodybuilder, effeminate black or Latino male bodies
Masculinity or its absence is noticed more easily on a racialized body than on a white male body (which is typically not coded as racial)
ex. African American men considered more masculine because of their race; Native American men perceived as more effeminate
Gender Visibility
Whiteness either not linked to masculinity or masculinity is inherently defined as white and not racialized
The term “masculinity” might conjure up the image of a white male body (without racial coding attributed to it)
White bodies passing as raceless, colorless
Non-white bodies made into other masculinities
Ex. Bodybuilder image defined as white, even when instances of non-white bodybuilders exist
Muscularity, symmetry, perfect male body implicitly linked with whiteness
Makes it impossible for non-white bodies to achieve that level of perfection
Link between race and perfection invisible if whiteness is not racially coded
white male subjects motivated to efface their subjectivity
Morphologies of masculinity racialized to the point where racial assumptions are not considered
ex. white Southern gentleman; black Southern gentleman does make sense
Martial artist as Asian; Asian men unable to adhere to other forms of masculinity
Some definitions of masculinity allow for racial diversity
Sports - allow for black/white version
Definition might exclude other racial codings (ex. Latino or Native American basketball player)
Unmarked ethnicities kept from being marked
white Anglo-Saxon men
Ethnic categories of masculinity marked or unmarked in terms of gender
effeminate Jew or Southerner; Yankee or Protestant’s masculinity unmarked, but masculinized in opposition to effeminate other
Assumptions of similarity are made because of perceptions of similar physical or non-physical traits” (pg. 147)
Association between races and women, the feminine, or effeminacy
Certain racial groups are like women (feminine) or men that have become woman-like (effeminate)
ex. Asian & Asian American masculinities - perceptions of small size, hairlessness, timidity
Given race imagined by individual or cultural imaginary as effeminate when it is advantageous for that individual or group; offers individual or group greater power
Native Americans viewed as more effeminate; allows for white Europeans to do as they please in the New World
Other links can be automatically made once analogical construct is in place
Analogical constructs predict/predetermine how racial masculinities are imagined
Effeminate man (a man who has become more like a woman) vs. emasculated man (man who has fallen from status as masculine or male)
Emasculated man resembles woman only if men and women are binary opposites
Considered castrated
ex. Asian or Native American men = emasculated, resemble women, or imagined as a man without genitals
Association as a result of “perceived lack of masculine traits or of a true or full male body”
Other forms of masculinity as more like masculinity by implied or expressed opposition
effeminate Native American, corresponding construct of non-effeminate white man (cowboy)
Associations with hegemonic forms of masculinity often with power, control, domination, rule
Unclear if race or masculinity is source of construct
Associations because of nation’s attempt to rule over other nations or races
Hypervirilizing racial groups
African American men, Macho Latino man
Ideal in capitalisic context
Does not suggest white man as less masculine/effeminate other
Excess considered out of control
White male as moderate/in control masculinity - control of black men
Men of color perceived as hypervirile considered lacking in certain ways (intelligence, culture, self control) compared to white men
“Moderate man in the middle as dominant form of racially coded masculinity”
white masculinity afforded privileges
Racial coding + sexuality
Female masculinity
African American female masculinity vs Asian American
Certain racially coded males considered so masculine that it spills over onto women
Freudian schema + the savage
Primitive as undeveloped and lacking a superego; unable to move on to civilized era
European able to control himself, civilized
Freudian sexual development
Oedipal model
“normal” boy able to move on to heterosexuality
adult homosexual unable to move on from oedipal model
Native American men as homosexual because they are not developed or civilized enough
Line between cause and effect in analogies is unclear
ex. Asian men
Constructs as culturally coded and not universal; change over time
Resisting Analogical Constructs

Discourse has created certain constructs in regards to race and gender
These constructs cannot be seen as stable or a reflection of reality
Rather, they should be used to create response and resistance or there is a threat of them being internalized
Stereotypes and Social Constructs

When addressing stereotypes, or social constructs there are two results
the constructs can be juxtaposed with counter-examples to show how it does not hold
resistance to constructs can provoke resistance and allow for examples of those who fit the stereotype

Examples of Resisting Constructs

M. Butterfly (1993) by David Cronenberg:
A French man falls in love with an Asian whom he believes to be a woman, but who is in a transgendered biological woman with a penis
He does not realize that M. Butterfly has a penis and male body
Through connections of race and gender he has reconstructed sex through his own view of Asian culture as submissive
Robert Mapplethorpe (1986):
He takes constructs of black masculinity and emphasizes the stereotypes in his art
He shows a black man with a large penis and a paper bag over his head
the face is erased to show the male body in terms of seeing and being seen
we can see him but he can’t see us
Frantz Fanon

Black Skin, White Masks (1952): a sociological study of the psychology of racism and the dehumanization inherent to colonial domination
He discusses how the black man can take a racial stereotype that he is assumed to perform and over perform it
If he thinks he is being viewed as a criminal, he may act like a criminal
“By performing to excess the stereotype that codes him, the black man reveals how it is a constructed stereotype that over determines others’ attitudes towards black masculinity, hopefully as a step in the process of destabilizing them” (p.162).
Race in the Context of Culture

One approach to this problem is taking racialized masculinities and contextualizing them without imposed cultural norms
Many of these cultural norms or constructs were made by another part of a culture
“This allows for hegemonic analogies to be destabilized, replaced, or even disbanded…” (p.162).
There is a definite gap between hegemonic gender constructs and authentic constructs
Race in the Context of Culture

One approach to this problem is taking racialized masculinities and contextualizing them without imposed cultural norms
Many of these cultural norms or constructs were made by another part of a culture
“This allows for hegemonic analogies to be destabilized, replaced, or even disbanded…” (p.162).
There is a definite gap between hegemonic gender constructs and authentic constructs
Racialized Scopophilia and Masculinity

Scopophilia: a desire to look at sexually stimulating scenes especially as a substitute for actual sexual participation
It is normally considered within gender and sexuality, but race is a factor as well
The white male body may be hidden as the object of gaze
Non-white forms of masculinity are visibly displayed
This suggests whiteness and masculinity are the invisible norms
White masculinity may then want black masculinity to appear naked as to imply that white masculinity is associated with clothing and therefore culture
Racial Fetish

“As the object of erotic gazing, the racially tagged man is seen in a certain way- and only in that way- by the one who desires him” (p. 164).
Racial masculinities shift between being seen and not being seen
The black man is hypervisible as he has a fixed image (rapist, criminal, drug dealer, etc.)
As well, he is invisible as he is not the “invisible norm,” he is the object of desire
The male body is seen as strong
Male visibility reveals they are not always which threatens to weaken white hegemony
Framed Racialized Masculinity
Framed in both senses of the word
Media and art “frame” masculinity which results in it becoming an extension of reality
In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon states “I cannot go to a film without seeing myself. I wait for me. I n the interval, just before the film starts, I watch for me. The people in the theater are watching me, examining me, waiting for me” (p.165)
Non-hegemonic masculinity is predestined to appear in a certain fashion and those represented must only watch it unravel without any hope of changing how it, and therefore they, are viewed
There is resistance to this framing, but the larger question of why framing occurs at all must be addressed
How are Black Male Bodies Viewed
The “Cool Pose”
“Black males… manage the impression they communicate to others through the use of an imposing array of masks, acts, and facades” (p.167)
This is how black masculinity has been framed
The stereotype that black men have a large penis
“The viewer who may be aware of the stereotype but never have in actuality seen a black male penis-or one that conforms to the stereotype-may be forced to respond to the stereotype
“The Full Monty”
contradicts this stereotype
Racialized Binary Oppositions

Binary opposition is a pair of related concepts that are opposite of one another
Masculinity is often defined in opposition to another, favors binarism over “shades of grey”
Definition of masculinity changes based on the current opposition grouping
Ex. masculinity is opposite of femininity, or masculinity is opposite of racialized masculinity

Binary oppositions are unstable
Require that masculinity is defined by “other”
i.e. racialized masculinity is not inherently so, but is defined by comparisons
Hegemonic masculinity definition is in constant danger of becoming “the other”
Some men take on aspects of racialized masculinity in order to appear more masculine himself
ex. Black male today seen as hyper-masculinized, white male incorporates certain aspects of black masculinity to “assuage white men’s anxiety of their own lacking masculinity” (pg. 154)
Creates a problem: when is masculinity in opposition to racialized masculinity, and when should it be appropriated?

However “identification with another racial masculinity may suggest a desire to subvert white masculinity.” (pg 155)
May be trying to construct a less hegemonic definition of masculinity which they can fit into
White male defines Asian males as effeminate because he himself feels effeminate
Wishes to identify with a non-white masculinity

Motives behind appropriation and incorporation of racialized masculinity
May feel anxious racial masculinity contains something they lack
Feel the need to control/possess it to avoid becoming the “other”
ex. Soul Man (1986), man changes race in order to experience the advantages with it, not to experience another racial masculinity
Desire to subvert the hegemonic definition of masculinity
Appropriation of racialized masculinity demonstrates its ability to construct, and deconstruct the hegemony
Binarism allows for certain races to be ignored as possible opposition
ex. Latino and Native American masculinity is not considered oppositional to white masculinity
Allows hegemony discredit their forms of masculinity, and keeps them from becoming the oppositional definition of masculinity
“Serves to maintain one group’s hegemony.” (pg 156)

Oppositions can be internalized by non-hegemonic groups
ex. “double consciousness”
Internalizes different forms of alterity but is aware of his status as the “other”
Becomes the hegemony’s “victim and enabler”
ex. Oppressed black man dealing with white/black oppositions in masculinity defines it by gendered alterity as a response to the oppression
Puts himself on top of another group

Racialized Gender, Racialized Sex
Repetition of gender constructs do not mean that the constructs are natural
“The very repetition signifies that constructs are unstable because they have to be constantly remade in order to affirm themselves” (pg 158)
Apply this thinking to racializing of gender
ex. Asian man seen as feminine due to racialized view of gender, rather than objective perceptions
Not genetically feminine, but perceived as such because of social constructions of what man “should be.”

Preconceived ideas of maleness can reaffirm gendered perceptions
ex. One sees Asian bodies as effeminate, one may see Asian personalities as such also

Masculinity is not universal among cultures, or contexts
“Masculinity may tend to be performed in one way in one racial context, and in another way in other contexts.” (pg 159)
This demonstrates there is no inherent masculinity for any ethnic groups
Rather it is a unified, agreed- upon style
Repetition of this style begins to represent natural racialized masculinity
1.“The effeminate man and the emasculated man are not identical or synonymous,” (pg 148) what does the author mean by this distinction? Are there any ethnicities which could be described as being perceived as emasculated? Why?
2. “On the other hand, identification with another racial masculinity may suggest a desire to subvert white masculinity by including non-white aspects in it,” (pg 155). Are there any contemporary examples of this? What distinguishes it from appropriating racial masculinity in order to reap the perceived benefits of it?
4.On page 158 the author talks about how the repetition of gender constructs creates gender norms, he suggests that we can look at the racializing of gender the same way. What would Judith Butler say about this? Are there any examples to support his theory?
5.“By performing to excess the stereotype that codes him, the black man reveals how it is a constructed stereotype that over determines others’ attitudes towards black masculinity, hopefully as a step in the process of destabilizing them” (p.162). This parallels with Judith Butler's performativity. In what ways is this "performing to excess," helpful in ending social constructions of gender and race, rather than the ways in which performativity perpetuates these constructions?

Anissa, Tori and Aubrey
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