Pre-History(of Masculinity Studies and Queer Theory)
- Important contribution of 1960s ‘second wave’ feminism was to open up discussion of
gender and sexuality
- This paved the way for two other key developments in popular culture theory:
1. Studies of masculinity
2. Queer theory
- Also note the influences of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), especially his History of
Sexuality, three volumes, 1976-1984)
- Looks at the notion that sexuality was increasingly repressed in the age of
- We tend to think of the Victorian period where there was huge repression of our
sexual selves (clothing covered all of the body, people would cover up the legs
of their pianos and chairs so that people wouldn’t fantasize)
- Foucault says yes there was a repression of sex, but at the same time, people
were fascinated by it. A time of enormous social control over sexuality
- Foucault says sexuality was not repressed at all, if it was, people wouldn’t be
talking/ thinking about it.
- Foucault argues that if we study the discourses about sex rather than explicit
behaviour, we get a different picture of society’s relationship to sexuality in the
- Masculinity studies (or men’s studies) emerged out of 2nd wave feminism in the 1970s
and 1980s: two waves and a backlash…
1. Largely among middle class white men. Looking at how men respond to
feminism, should men also be challenging traditional masculinist stereotypes?
2. Extended beyond the middle class men and started to try to understand
masculinity from the perspective of working class men, men of colour, and gay
3. This cause the backlash (radical men’s movement) = men feeling that their
traditional patriarchal power has been undermined by feminism and seeking to
reestablish that power.
- Masculinity = “a social construct, a set of norms and values defining what it is to be ‘a
man,’ to be ‘masculine’”
- One part of a binaryopposite: masculine vs feminism, masculinity vs femininity
- Masculinity does not have any intrinsic meaning on its own except in contrast to
femininity - Take a minute to note down some attributes associated with ‘masculine’ vs ‘feminine’
(stereotypes) - like all stereotypes, these are cultural constructs
- Are these attributes stable over time?
Hard features Soft features
Aggressive/ confrontational Consensus-minded
Emotionally distant Nurturing
- Rufus Wainwright “One man Guy”
- What does this song mean? Does it change with who sings it?
- If Springsteen is an icon of masculinity, what does this tell use about constructs of
masculinity in North America in the late 20th/ early 21st centuries?
- See, for example, Gareth Palmer, “Bruce Springsteen and Masculinity” in Shelia
- A lot of his songs are from the perspective of the less privileged, but are still from a
very ‘masculine’ point of view
- He dresses very much as a member of the working class
- He is also very fit
- If Springsteen is an embodiment of masculinity, what does that say about our
perceptions of masculinity ?
- Its a working class masculinity - a masculine guy is one that looks like he works
hard, someone who works the farm, etc.
- When he’s on stage, he always looks like he’s working hard
- Race and class are bound up with our notions of gender and masculinity
Masculinityinthe21stCentury - Contemporary perspectives on masculinity allow for competing conceptions of ‘what it
is to be a man’
- Who are the icons of masculinity (or varieties of masculinity) in the 2010s?
- Keep concept(s) of masculinity in mind for the rest of today’s class
- By way of contrast to Springsteen: Opening to Rise Above
- Tribe 8 were/ are a dyke, punk, queercore band from San Francisco, originally fronted
by lead vocalist Lynn(ee) Breedlove and lead guitarist Leslie Mah
- They combined the politics of the San Francisco gay community with the (punk)
musical aesthetics of “Riot Grrrrrrl” a female and feminist movement/ musical
subculture of the early 1990s.
- Use of the term ‘queer’ is an example of empowerment through reappropriation of a
previously derogatory term
- Transvaluation of language - where words are altered in order to make them more/ less