The Book Gender
In chapter six of the book Gender: Ideas, Interactions and Institutions, Lisa Wade and Myra Marx Ferree discuss inequality involving men and masculinities. The reading talks about the concept of “doing gender”, braking or going by certain gender rules, is performed by everyone in order to fit into society.
The concept that there are two genders, otherwise known as gender binary, is hierarchical and places men above women and values masculinity above femininity. (Wade 113). This has bad outcomes for both genders due to the fact that for women, it reduces their social status. For men, it leads them to believe their interests take more priority than women. The chapter then discusses an example of this with cheerleading where in the mid 1800s, cheerleading was an all male sport and it was “too masculine for women.”
When women showed interest in the sport, it changed how people thought of cheerleading. The focus on the chapter is to show the different ways social inequality occurs and gives different examples of situations in which certain traits of masculinity are glorified, allowing certain men to be glorified.
The chapter continues through talking about hegemony; a sociological concept used to help us understand this social inequality in our society. Men who fail to embody hegemonic masculinity, otherwise known as being the “idealized man” are lower on the scale that establishes the hierarchy of man that ranks them from most to least masculine. The traits of a “higher up man” would include strength, white, athletic and be considered a “real man.”
This is experienced on both the individual and group level, because individual men are viewed as a certain way, but are put into distinct groups because of it. An example of this is men who are physically weak are called “wimps”, but solely based on their individual traits. Men take many risks in their lives and are shown to be more likely to get into a fight than a woman. (Wade 129). Research was done to show the different arrests based on an individual’s sex.
It showed that all crimes were over 50% male with murder, rape and carrying weapons being the greatest percentage over 80%. These rules of masculinity keep men from being able to express certain emotions, even enough to develop intimate friendships. A psychologist named Niobe Way interviewed boys about their friendships, with a 17 year old mind answering that their relationship is mostly “joking around” and “not about serious stuff.”
This proves the argument that men have to follow the gender rules of masculinity, which is unfair because they feel unable to show emotions while women are more likely to seek help. Men become lonely and are more likely to commit suicide. These aspects of doing gender as a man are called toxic masculinity, because they are bad for other men, women and the individual man himself. These include some of the traits explained above, like suppressing emotion and dangerous actions.
The authors were able to prove their argument of certain men being put over others, especially women. Those hegemonic traits allow them to avoid femininity and contribute to the sexist society we are in today. Avoiding acting like a girl is constraining to men, and limit their lives option in order to remain a “manly man.”
There are lots of research involving examples of men giving up all feminine acts or of their masculine traits giving them power over “weaker” men, but especially women. In preforming in strictly manly activities, men tend to miss out of things they may enjoy just because they are considered more “feminine.” Men continue this act of masculinity to preserve the privileges and the gender binary that gives hegemonic masculinity its power (Wade 136).
They choose to follow the rules, or appear as lower in the hierachy. Wherever they fall though, they all have a fear of joining the men who are disadvantaged and in the lower parts of the hiarchy. Some future studies about this idea of men challenging the gender binary. Few men do, while many women are less afraid to do so.
Research could involve what men would be more likely to challenge the gender rules and face falling lower, and how those men would affect our society with them performing more feminine acts. Understanding both men and women’s experiences and perspective can help us better perform gender to where both genders actions aren’t constrained to the binary gender system.