Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Taking A Look At Manime



Hokuto no Ken (translated in English as ‘Fist of the North Star’) is a Japanese manga and anime that was published and aired from the early to mid-eighties. It is of the Shonen genre, meaning it is targeted to young boys and men. Chiefly inspired by martial arts films (particularly those starring Bruce Lee) and the Mad Max franchise, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world where only the strong can rule, and strength is determined by physical prowess and mastery over fictional martial arts. Male characters are bulked up with muscles, fight scenes always involve explosions and blood, and female characters differ only in hair color and style. This franchise is credited with inspiring other well-known works in the genre, such as Dragon Balland JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Along with having a poorly made live action American adaptation, it also has a sizable male fan base in the West (WWE star and meme John Cena refers to the animated 1985 film as his favorite film).
Now being an eighteen-year-old girl at the time of watching this, I definitely wasn’t a part of in the target demographic. However in the summer after I graduated from high school, I had a lot of free time and wanting to watch something with a lot of action, I decided to give it a try; sometimes it would be background noise while I drew or wrote, and sometimes it would be something I’d watch to end my day. Either way, I made it through 109 episodes, and while there is a lot to unpack about the series itself in terms of masculinity, the biggest aspect that fascinates me about this series is how the (mostly male) fan base talks about it. It often hailed as ‘one of the manliest animes to exist’ or ‘anime for real men’ (which contrasting with the more popular face of anime, little big eyed pretty girls). 
After I first watched the series, I was put off by how the female characters were treated, often being regulated to being a damsel or a sacrificial lamb; if she was a ‘warrior’, she was put down by the male characters for ‘giving up her womanhood’ and never really given the same amount of spotlight as the male warriors. I decided to look online to see how other people analyzed this issue in the series, and the most common response I found was ‘it’s 30 years old; you can’t hold it to the same standards as today’.  
This is something that springs up commonly in discussions involving older media (as well as some historical figures): something that would be considered sexist/homophobic/transphobic/racist ‘today’ can’t be judged because it was made in a time when these beliefs were socially acceptable and common. Now I agree that there should always be considerations to time period and culture surrounding a work at the time of its creation, but I don’t believe it (and its creators) should be immune to criticism. For one, this is disingenuous to those people that were affected by those attitudes at the time, as well as those who did question them. It’s not as if they didn’t exist until the year 20xx and suddenly we now have to make considerations for them. 
Secondly, many of these male fans still talk about this show and still support the franchise, even as its spinoffs and video games (the latest one being released in October 2018) do many of the same things it did in the eighties when it comes women and how it portrays masculinity. Male fans rave about how it shows what’s like to be a ‘real man’, and how it’s also revolutionarybecause its protagonist Kenshiro sheds tears and ‘fights for love’, but ignore how it’s often at the cost of female characters being used as plot devices or fridged. They say it’s distinct as an action series because of these qualities, however I’d say that whatever emotional qualities it has are undercut by the fact that it is an action series aimed at young boys. There isn’t an episode where Kenshiro doesn’t beat the villain to a pulp in some extravagant way. Yeah, he does it to protect those he cares about, and I personally don’t mind intense bloody action, but for the most part, masculinity in the series is tied to how strong and tough a character is. All male characters are expected to be brave and fight, and all female characters are expected to be soft and loving (as mentioned, the one who initially doesn’t fall into this category is put down by the other characters and eventually, the narrative). Male characters who don’t exhibit the same qualities as Kenshiro (crying, taking care of children, and seeing the importance of love) are still better received by fans than ‘cowardly characters’ who don’t fight. Male characters who see women as possessions are also received better. 
What’s remembered ‘positively’ by fans through nostalgia-tinted glasses is allowed to be talked about, not the negatives, even as those attitudes continue to this day. These attitudes toward characters and media are still seen in many fan communities today, even with media made in current day. It’s important to responsibly consume media and be critical of those made in times where certain beliefs were seen as ‘acceptable’ or ‘common’, not because we want to play a gotcha game with them, but because of the influence they may still have today. 

If the Shoe Fits.


Sometimes I wonder why men get so defensive when women post meme’s or posts about how a man mistreated them and now the have a generalization of men. Often times women have these generalizations because they’ve experience the same thing from multiple men or know people who have experience the same things as them. For example, many women have experienced a guy telling her that she’s an ugly bitch if she doesn’t respond to them the way they want.
I noticed guys will get upset though, when women point out the fact that they have been mistreated. But if they don’t mistreat women, they should be holding their friends and family accountable for the mistreatment of women.
I don't understand why it's so taboo for men to hold each other accountable.

Out of this World


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekNucCcAarw
With the recent movie that came out highlighting this individuals life, I think Freddie Mercury is one of the strongest individuals who stood up against the typical ideas of masculinity.
Mercury didn’t care about anyone’s perception of him. He was a free flowing superstar who expressed himself in whatever way he wanted to. I can only wish that I had half the confidence he did to wear such fabulous outfits. Rami Malek played an amazing Mercury and I feel like he is also very flowy in the way he composes himself. I wonder if people associate his flamboyancy with the idea that he is gay much like I assume people did with Mercury.
Regardless, these two men are amazing and created some fantastic pieces of art.

Aphroditus

I've always been intrigued by the Greek deity Aphroditus/Hermaphroditus, who represents in antiquity both 'male' and 'female' qualities. Looking at the artistic representations often spurs ambivalent feelings for me personally, as I have both positive and negative feelings about these portrayals. My favorites are the representations that blur the line between the states of being masculine and feminine, such as the one pictured below:


Here Aphroditus strikes a pose that seems between the traditional 'masculine' and 'feminine,' standing tall yet also relaxed and welcoming. Biological aspects of both 'male' and 'female' are represented as well, with a phallus as well as breasts and large hips, all indicating fertility.

My positive feelings about artistic representations and history of Aphroditus come from the clear and blatant gender-nonconformity and blurring of the male/female dichotomy. Literature from Greece indicates that men and women would swap clothes in worship of Aphroditus, purposefully switching their traditional roles to worship a deity both male and female.

I worry, however, about the interpretations of certain historians concerning portrayals of this deity. One (Sicilus's Bibliotheca historia) posits that Aphroditus is "beautiful and delicate" like a woman, but with the "masculine quality and vigor" of a man, ignoring that Aphroditus seems to purposefully mix together these types of qualities and redefine their categorization. Additionally, many scholars focus on a phallic masculinity, implying that Aphroditus's power and worship originates from the presence of a phallus, failing to consider the power that results from Aphroditus's purposeful redefinition of sex and gender as indicated by the rituals used to worship them.

What are your thoughts on Aphroditus? Do you think these portrayals are rooted in phallic masculinity and bioessentialism due to the presence of a penis, or is this deity a true mix of qualities that manages to obscure our bifurcation of masculinity and femininity?

The Try Guys Get Photoshopped Like Women



I’ve seen this video a while ago however it was suggested to me recently and realized it fits perfectly under the subject regarding objectification, specifically the objectification men receive but don’t necessarily realize it until they are made aware of it. In a previous module we were asked if we feel as though men are objectified to which I responded yes, however not to the degree in which women are. Also, there is the element of power that men have which women do not possess when the objectification is flipped. Because I am interested in fashion design, I know the importance of a great editorial but I also understand the underlying responsibility with what’s presented and how. I feel what the Try Guys highlight in the video as a whole is the very frightening and harmful message heavy photoshop and editing sends to consumers, specifically the more impressionable children that see the images and use that as the standard by which they judge not only themselves but the people around them.

Gender Representation of Superheroes

Image result for superheroes

It's no secret that there are more male superhero characters than female superheroes depicted in cinema, comic books, and television shows. The reason there are more male superheroes is likely the result of established gender norms and stereotypes. At a young age, males are taught to exude masculinity through toughness and strength. Young males are also often taught that they must play the role of the protector and fighter throughout their entire lifetimes. Should they sway from these roles, males will be seen as "weak" and deemed "useless" by society's standards.
Male superheroes are the epitome of what it means to be a man. From comic books to movies, all male superheroes are depicted as strong, dependable, and visually appealing. They have everything from the washboard abs, to the over-sized muscles, thick jawline, and even have the most badass costumes. While some female superheroes also display strength, there aren't enough of them showcased. This brings me to conclude once again that masculinity is a social construct.
Image result for toxic masculinity
One of the most significant affects toxic masculinity has had on my relationship is the inability to have a levelheaded discussion about emotions without hitting some sort of wall of self defense in which men feel too exposed or vulnerable to express true emotions. They withdraw, becoming defensive, and any progress towards healthy emotional labor is essentially destroyed. I've learned that it takes a long time in my relationships for men to feel comfortable expressing their emotions, which leads them to seem distant or passive, even uncaring in light of any issues I have which in turn makes me feel isolated, or as if my partner does not care about my emotions, when in reality, they may care, but do not feel comfortable expressing that.
Number One Dad
Image result for mom vs dad memes

One thing I've noticed since becoming a mother is the unrelenting disparages between my duties as a mother and the duties of my daughter's father. He is a great father, does everything he should and more, always helps me when I need it, always volunteers for diaper changes, etc. But one thing I notice from friends, family, coworkers, etc. is that it's a lot more common for people to commend dads for duties that moms do with no recognition. When a dad is caught changing a diaper, or even the bare minimum of pushing a stroller or holding a diaper bag, it's as if society collectively "awwwww"s at how great of a dad he is, while moms alongside him get no acknowledgment for doing all the same things and more. The other day, my coworker literally asked me if my husband was "home babysitting". No, he's not babysitting. He's at home taking care of the child he is equally responsible for. I feel like this is intrinsically related to toxic masculinity, and how men being caring and dutiful to their children isn't as normalized as it is or women. That isn't a masculine trait, so when men step up to these roles, they are praised tenfold to their female counterparts. Not that I'm asking for a medal for wiping baby butts all day, but listening to this discourse is maddening. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race



For so long, main stream society has benefited from the cultures and social spheres of the oppressed and marginalized. Drag for me (and I would assume many others) was introduced as something very bad and inappropriate as it was likened to homosexuality. Over time I have been exposed to more and more of it via film, television, as well as in person. For me, drag is most definitely art. Outside looking in one might surmise that its just a man in make up and women's clothes however, drag much like great art takes time to conceptualize but also construct. Oddly enough, drag isn't devoid of masculinity to me. It is a performative art so I often see various "looks" from various queens which tells a different story and carries a different attitude. I've previously mentioned that I believe everyone to have masculine and feminine energies and I believe drag to have a balance of both.

#MeToo

na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com
How can we learn from #MeToo to shape the next generation of men? Join the conversation with Justin Baldoni, Matt McGorry, Tony Porter, Lewis Howes, Scooter Braun, Jamey Heath, Susan Brison, Alma Gonzalez and Yazmin Monet Watkins. Stay tuned after the episode for a special message from our partner, Child Safety Pledge. #ManEnough #Harrys # ...


Justin Baldoni is a male actor who has a channel on YouTube and began a short series of videos presenting other men of varying backgrounds and identities tackling current social issues. What I loved about this video in particular is the dialogue being exchanged amongst men. With regard to the MeToo movement, I tend to consume media through avenues that are heavily if not completely female based with women in mind. I enjoy viewing and listening to women everyday brave the social terrain within our society by speaking on and to sexual harassment and sexual assault as well. More over, I think it's very refreshing to witness a table of men speak about the topic and its many layers from their perspectives. For every cause there is usually an ally and many times it is found in those who benefit from an oppressed or marginalized group. This video and the like that Justin Baldoni has hosted for me proves that there are men who get it and also put forth the effort to make a change for the betterment of a women’s life experience.

Is There a War on Masculinity?


There a was video posted on The Grapevine which is a YouTube channel which posts videos of varying panels discussing current social issues within the country and also globally. I thought back to a chapter within MSO entitled "The Bullying Demands of Masculinity: A Genderqueer Escape". Though a little more specific in terms of Fagan delving into his personal story of discovering his own gender identity, the overarching sentiment I received in that masculinity in an of itself becomes problematic once characterized and personified as being monolithic and concrete as opposed to fluid and mutable across all identities. I don't necessarily believe there is a war on masculinity, rather those negatively impacted (and even those who may benefit) finally making efforts toward bringing attention to the harmful effects masculinity as defined by western society may cause. 
I mentioned during module six that I don't believe most women and men with the best intentions engage in what is deemed to be "male-bashing" but are in fact holding those who perpetuate toxic masculinity accountable for their actions and behaviors. Like those who receive constructive criticisms as male-bashing or misandry, I believe those who view challenging the traditional ideas of masculinity as oppression aren't themselves critically confronting the reality they've grown accustom to yet fighting back at those who only seek to make a more level playing field. I questioned why that may be and came to the conclusion that for many people, they tie masculinity the the entirety of their being and allow it to define the whole of their identity to the point where they may feel personally attacked because who they are and what they do doesn't exceed the bounds of the box they've conditioned themselves to operate within. 
I find it also important to acknowledge that women may also assist in the success of toxic masculinity by treating femininity in men as negative and undesirable. As a whole, it is important that we divorce our assumptions about gender from characteristics and personality. I think we all have both masculine and feminine energies and the "war" on masculinity isn't about attacking men as a whole or even individually yet allowing for people to discover who they are beyond the boundaries of how toxic masculinity tells us we need to navigate life.


Ads Marketed to Men

One of the funny things that I found interesting about this ad is that it is an advertisement for Axe. looking at the picture this probably wouldn't be obvious to some because it wasn't for me. As I looked closer I noticed that the Axe was on the counter. The fact that all you can see is the man surrounded by three beautiful women just shows that this is more than just advertising for the product but the selling of a potential life-style that advertisers know will draw the attention of men looking through a magazine or looking through the internet. This ad I found while looking at advertisements targeted towards men. This further feeds into the stereotype that all men want or should want is sex and not just sex but sex with multiple women.

Male Characters in Television Shows

phil-dunphy.jpg

I was recently watching an episode of one of my favorite television shows, Modern Family. I can't express enough how much I enjoy watching this t.v. series. However, as much as I like watching Modern Family, I can't help but notice and nitpick all the gender stereotypes in this series. Like many American television shows, father characters are usually depicted as incompetent, non-intelligent males and mother characters often assume the role as a responsible, sensible parent figure who always seems to pick up the father's slack. Ty Burrell's character, Phil Dunphy on Modern Family for instance portrays the inept, but "cool" dad on the hit sitcom. On the other hand, Phil Dunphy's significant other, Claire Dunphy (played by actress Julie Bowen) portrays a perfectionist, control-freak mom who in a way, restores order in the family unit.
Modern Family isn't the only American television show that expresses false gender stereotypes. Other hit t.v. shows like Family Guy, Good Luck Charlie, and South Park (among many others) hinges on the giant cliche of the inept father. The issues with television shows that embrace the bumbling dad cliche are:
1. These sitcoms rarely represent what being a parent is actually like.
2. They insult great fathers.
3. They embrace and showcase inaccurate gender norms and stereotypes.
In fact, there is plenty of research that suggests father's are more engaged with their children and are better at raising them than even before. Even though I'm not a father, as a mother I am insulted at the way male and female parents are still portrayed in t.v. shows. Yes, I still watch Modern Family despite its display of unfortunate gender stereotypes because the show also displays great diversity and promotes other good values. Additionally, not all the father characters in Modern Family embody their expected gender roles. Overall, this family centered sitcom more often than not parallels the changes of society, and simultaneously serves as an example for society's slow progression in eliminating gender stereotypes.
MANSPLAINING AND GATEKEEPING
Image result for toxic masculinity meme

In this post, I want to touch on these two topics and also give a little insight from my personal experiences with these issues. Mansplaining, as I'm sure many of you know, is when a man attempts to explain something in his own way, often interrupting you, under the assumption that a) you don't know what you're talking about or b) his explanation is inherently more logical because he is a man and women no understand gud. Gatekeeping often happens in the music industry, gaming industry, or any general hobbies that are dominated by men. A man will not grant you access to a hobby, interest, or general group because he feels you are not a "true fan", because you don't know the entire discography of that one super underground metal band that you CLAIM to know but probably don't, or because you haven't committed eight hours a day to video games and can't truly enjoy Red Dead Redemption, which is a video game you probably don't know about, sweetie :-)

Here is my experience. I was interviewing for a receptionist position at a car dealership, and to ease the tension, the interviewer, a male, began asking me about my interests. I said I liked reading, because, shocker, I'm an english major. Which prompts him to bull doze me in the middle of talking so that he can talk about his much more interesting and refined taste in books, in comparison to me, and english literature major. So I sat there, listening to him go on and on about how his favorite author is George Orwell and how Animal Farm truly changed his life and I should definitely read it if I haven't yet, which is likely, because his taste in books is very edgy, but that's okay because not everyone "gets it". At this point, I interject, speaking softly as if I am interrupting an excited child who won't settle down for nap time, and I offer up one of my favorite authors, information he clearly didn't want or ask for, but sometimes it feels good to act like a man operate on the assumption that everyone around me values my opinions on everything. To make the interaction even more enjoyable, he INCORRECTLY corrects my pronunciation of the author's name, and because I am a woman and have spent my entire life with self doubt, I think for one horrifying moment that maybe I am saying it wrong. But in case you're reading this, interviewer, you were wrong. Google proved me right as I was agonizing over the interaction that night. ANYWAYS. Mansplaining at it's finest, and he continues, but moves on to gatekeeping. He names off some obscure author that he probably discovered off some deep reddit feed, and when I, shockingly, don't recognize it, he says "Wow, you haven't read any of his stuff? How can you even be a literature major? You can't be a true fan of reading." Because yes, my failure to recognize this one author suddenly invalidates the thousands of dollars of debt, time, tears, sweat, and commitment I poured into my major over the last four years. I left the conversation in many ways impressed with the blind confidence men stumble through life with.



Is He On The Island?

image

This tweet and article are both published by Ann Friedman, one of my favorite commentators on workplace harassment and toxic masculinity. In this article, she talks about code phrases her and her fellow female coworkers came up with to expose the inappropriate men around them. She talks about an island in which all the disgusting and creepy men in her office are now stranded, doomed to only harass each other for eternity. Although obviously just a wishful dream of hers, it's a coping mechanism the women of her office use, not only to let off steam, but to warn other women. If a man is lumped in with the group who routinely harass the women of the office, he is deemed "one of those stuck on the island". This is a great example of how women have adapted to this society shaped by toxic masculinity and rape culture, to protect one another in ways that don't threaten their careers or professional relationships but still allow them to look out for problematic behavior.

4 Espresso Shots on the Rocks

Whenever I go to a coffee shop, I always feel self-conscious about my order. While taste changes allow me to now drink coffee with milk only, my introductory cups had more cream and sugar than brew. I am also terrible at handling caffeine: a cup of coffee had me bouncing off the walls and full of anxiety. I remember my freshman year of college, I was hanging out with a guy I had a crush on when my friend walked up with an iced coffee. When my friend said she was sipping four espresso shots over ice, he was blown away. "I can barely handle three!" he exclaimed. I could not handle one. I felt inadequate, left out of this world of coffee drinkers.

This article from Bitch is a great piece on the gendered nature of coffee. How one takes their coffee, and where they go to get it, has social consequences. 



Naming and Shaming the Weinsteins of the Workplace

This link leads to a compelling article of experiences women recount in the post-Harvey Weinstein world, as they navigate sexual harassment in work environments, expose sexual abusers, and spread this information to other women as a means of preservation and protection. The article details how women have formulated more formal channels to out their abusers to fellow women, and also illustrates the challenges in media and music industries to confront the rampant sexual abuse without damaging their careers. Women discuss the accountability needed in order for these information channels of accusations to remain valid, while still keeping these channels accessible and judgment free to encourage other women to use them.

Male Sexuality


In one of my other classes, I was looking into the differences between male and female sexuality, and I came across an interesting study. It was about “precarious sexualities,” which is a sexuality that is rigid and unforgiving. The researchers suggested that male sexuality was a precarious sexuality, while female sexuality is not.

The study is built on the premise that male sexuality, specifically white heterosexuality, is the dominant sexuality in our culture. A quality of hegemonic masculinity is heterosexuality, and other sexualities are subordinate to it. The study wanted to look at how hegemonic masculinity dictated the way men and their sexuality are seen in society.


The researchers created three different scenarios of varying degrees of sexual activity (having casual sex, making out, and. For example: a man, who only had heterosexual dating history, hooked up with another man. Or: a woman with a heterosexual dating history hooking up with another woman. Participants were asked to decide whether or not the individual in question was gay, straight, or bisexual. To almost no one's surprise, the study did prove that male sexuality is definitely rigid and heavily policed. Men were far more likely to be labeled as gay or bi after a single same-sex encounter; whereas, women were not. The fictional men in the study were thought of as their sexuality being repressed, but women were just labeled as "experimental."

In order for men to cash in on the privileges that come with hegemonic masculinity, they need to adhere to its standards. The study showed that men who have one same-sex encounter were seen as anything but heterosexual, thereby disqualifying them from being a part of hegemonic masculinity. I found the study interesting because it really highlighted the norms of masculinity and how they affect how men are perceived by others.