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Conclusions on Masculine Performance

As discussed at length throughout this blog the idea of masculine performance is a very complex issue. The enforcement of how people of the male gender are shaped into acting is a result of many issues within our society including, films, television, commercials, and narratives. Some examples of each, which were discussed in this blog include, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Quantum Leap, Glee, commercials from Old Spice, and the narratives that come from this course like, Fun Home, Twelfth Night, and Shakespeare and Company.

Through these works, which I have discussed in this blog, the one theme, which seems to come out of all that I have discussed through this blog, is the effect that this pressure of how an individual is expected to perform has on people.

To return to the example of masculine performance which is enforced through society that I discussed in

Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

my first post.The concept of masculinity that is presented to young children very early on is enforced by Disney, with the image of Gaston through Beauty and the Beast. Gaston is presented by Disney as the epitome of masculinity for the young children that are watching those Disney movies. Gaston presents the idea that the ‘correct’ form of performance for a man is to be strong, unintelligent, and brash.

This presentation of masculinity is carried out throughout the other examples that I discussed in this blog, and some of which were discussed in this course. For every different age group of viewers and audience there seems to be a prime example of where a strong sense of what society feels that the correct way to perform as ‘man’ should be. As discussed this can be seen most prominent by looking at the advertisements that were discussed in my previous post, and also in this course.

Due to the lack of an escape that society presents to the male members of society there is a strong impact that these images present for the men. As I discussed in my post on Bechdel’s Fun Home, the pressure that is on men to perform in these specific and stifling ways can have a massive negative effect on them. Furthermore, I feel that this course made one strong conclusion about the enforcement of any gender performance, and that is the negative effect that the pressure of society can have on an individual, or as was said on numerous occasions in this course as ‘spirit killing’.

As mentioned in Sedgwick’s How to Bring Your Kids up Gay, also with regards to men who are homosexual, if they are not performing in a ‘masculine’ way, they are not performing correctly for their gender. As Sedgwick states, “the healthy homosexual is one who (a) is already grown up, and (b) acts masculine” (Sedgwick, 19). I feel like this is also the case for heterosexual men, because of the pressure that society places on men, both homosexual and heterosexual. It seems as though society places these restrictions on males, and if men are not performing to these expectations of gender, then they are perceived as a failure by the majority of society.

I found that there is a strong lack of discussion when it comes to masculine performance, in contrast with the discussion that is happening with the enforcement of feminine performance, which is why I found this topic important to discuss through this blog.

Works Cited

Sedgwick, Eve K. “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay.” Social Text 29 (1991): 18-27. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.

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This blog post sheds more insight onto the presentation of masculine performance that can be found in the advertisements that air during the Superbowl.

Masculinity U

By Eric McGriff

Guest Blogger and member of Syracuse University’s A Men’s Issue

Every year, the Super Bowl commercials we watch are these amazing, over-the-top, extravagant, and sometimes controversial productions that air during what is one of the most popular games of the year. Creators of these advertisements pay millions of dollars to reach out to an audience of over 100 million viewers, hoping that the massive exposure will result in large profits. But, I think there are other costs that have to be considered. These costs are the consequences resulting from a lack of sensitivity toward issues revolving around the objectification of women and the hyper masculinization of men. These are the consequences that come from exposing ourselves to media that blatantly exploits harmful gender stereotypes and gender roles.

The first commercial to catch my eye was the Go Daddy “Perfect Match” advertisement, narrated by Danica Patrick. As an…

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The Enforcement of Masculine Performance Through Advertising

During the March 21st lecture in this class the issue of advertisement issues came up. While looking at the images presented in advertisements, the presentation of the masculine image can have a very strong effect on the viewers of these advertisements. The encoding of the expected performance of any gender can be very influential on society. This is because advertisements are practically around every corner in today’s society. While there are many advertisements that attempt to enforce female performance expectations, the same can also be said for masculine performance.

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Examples of how masculinity is enforced for different age groups in advertisements

By looking at the advertisements above one can see that from infancy all the way up until the elderly that masculine performance is present through all different age groups. When women are present in these advertisements the men are presented as the ones who are in the dominant role as the workers. For example, by looking at the final image of these advertisements the man is the figure who is the level headed hard worker, while the women is the figure who is presented as the more spontaneous and lesser than one. Which again enforces the idea for men to perform in the role that is being presented to them through advertisements. And this also is a way for advertisements to make their way into society, and place those expectations of masculine performance in both male and female minds.

As discussed in my previous post the pressure of gender performance is extremely strong and can have a strong impact of an individual. Again, this can be seen through looking at Bechdel’s Fun Home, because in this narrative the characters Alison and Bruce are presented to be under immense pressure by themselves, family, and society to perform as their expected gender. By looking at these two characters, you can surmise that the advertisements that are almost present within every aspect of society. Which is a way of enforcing the expected performance of any gender.

As discussed in the pressure placed by society on any individual can have a strong negative impact on a person.  The pressure that is placed onto individuals, as discussed previously, in part through the advertisements that is present through movies, television, and radio. One of the most notable events for advertisements would be the Superbowl that takes place annually. One of the most well known commercials from the Superbowl would be the Old Spice ad,

This commercial aired on one of the most watched events on television, thus having a massive viewership. The Old Spice commercial from above is practically telling the men who viewed it how they should act, speak, and even smell. And also is telling the women who watched this commercial what a ‘real man’ is. This commercial really places a strong divide between men and women by stating such lines as, “Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady” or “But if he stopped using lady scented body  wash, and switched to Old Spice he could smell like he’s me”. The impact that advertisements have on the expected performance of gender is immense and can impact people greatly. And this impact can be seen through narratives, particularly from this course, Fun Home.

Works Cited

Bechdel, Allison. Fun Home. New York: Mariner Books, 2006. Print.

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” Old Spice. 4 Feb. 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=owGykVbfgUE&gt;.

Sedgwick, Eve K. “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay.” Social Text 29 (1991): 18-27. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.

The Pressure of Masculine Performance in Bechdel’s Fun Home

The next work from this course that I will be discussing in this blog is Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which was discussed during the March 14th lecture. Bechdel’s work tells the story of the author’s complex relationship with her late father. This work discusses at many instances the concept of masculine performance. Bechdel uses herself and the figure of her father to maintain a discourse of gender performance throughout her narrative. Throughout this narrative Bechdel gives the readers the impression that her father has been repressed in his masculine performance. While the character of herself wishes to perform in a masculine way, she gives the opposite impression of her father. The argument can be made that she wishes to perform in a masculine manner during several points during Fun Home. Most notably in chapter four,

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Fun Home, page 118

During this scene of Fun Home the character of Alison has somewhat of an epiphany, realizing that there are women who perform in a much more masculine manner, and not in the feminine way that her father had been pressuring her into performing like throughout her life. Another instance where it is very clear to the reader that Alison is eager to perform in a masculine way was when she told the character John to call her Albert, rather than Alison (Bechdel, 113). This scene being earlier in the narrative than the scene discussed above shows that Alison believed that the only way she could perform in a masculine way as she wished was to actually be perceived by others as a male.

While Alison is a female who wishes to perform in a masculine manner, her father Bruce is portrayed as the opposite in Fun Home. Throughout this narrative there is a lot of ambiguity in relation to Bruce, yet he is always pressuring Alison into performing how he feels is the ‘right way’ for females to perform, so he seems to have very strong beliefs when it comes to gender performance. Yet, near the end of Fun Home, Bruce seems to have a confession to Alison,

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Fun Home, page 221

Through this you can see that both Bruce and Alison have been repressed through gender performance, yet it opposite ways. While discussing this in class the question was brought up of what does this restraint of the performance that is natural to someone do to them? As discussed in Sedgwick’s How to Bring Your Kids up Gay, it seems that the acceptable homosexuals in society are the people who follow their supposed ‘proper’ gender performances (Sedgwick, 22). This concept seems to be very relevant to Bruce in Fun Home because it is presented by Bechdel that Bruce is not purely heterosexual, and works through his life to keep with the stereotypical masculine performance, even if it goes against who he is.

This issue that Bruce is presented to having dealt with through his life reminded me of an instance in Fox’s Glee with the character Kurt Hummel. Throughout season one of Glee, Kurt Hummel, an extremely effeminate character, is under constant pressure to be accepted by his father, Burt, a character who embodies the stereotypical masculine performance. In two particular episodes, four and eighteen, Kurt attempts through sports, clothing, interests, and the depth of his voice (Preggers, Laryngitis), to perform in a much more masculine way. While he remains a homosexual, he attempts to perform in a much more masculine way, to become accepted. Bruce’s story in Fun Home reminded me a great deal of Kurt Hummel because they both have a great pressure to perform in a strong and masculine way, while it may not be natural to them.

The pressure on people whether it is those expected to perform in a feminine way wishing to preform masculine, as is the case with Alison, or those who are expected to perform in a masculine way, like for Bruce or Kurt, there is great pressure upon them. And it seems to have a very negative effect on those with that pressure. For more on Fun Home check out this blog post.

Works Cited

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home. New York: Mariner Books, 2006. Print.

“Preggers.” Writ. Brad Falchuk. Glee. Fox. 23 September 2009. DVD.

“Laryngitis.” Writ. Ryan Murphy. Glee. Fox. 11 May 2010. DVD.

Sedgwick, Eve K. “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay.” Social Text 29 (1991): 18-27. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.

The Fluctuation of Gender Performance

The second time that masculine performance came up in this course was in relation to a female character from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In this play by Shakespeare the audience is introduced to a female character, Viola, who spends the majority of the play disguised as a male character, Cesario. Through this play the audience is presented with a female character, as she attempts to appear as a man to everyone around her. I believe that this concept fits very well into this blog because Viola, or Cesario, must rely on their performance and appearance for those around them to

Twelfth Night, Scene 5

Twelfth Night, Scene 5

understand their identity. This play allows a female character into the performance realm of a male and masculine identity. Which is a very way for the audience to see how the performance of any gender, be it be male or female, influences the way in which a person is perceived. In the final act of the play while trying to prove to those around her that Viola is in fact a women, she states “If nothing lets to make us happy both / But my masculine usurped attire, / Do not embrace me till each circumstance / Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump / That I am Viola” (1.5.261-265). This quote shows that through Twelfth Night that gender is a flexible thing that people can shift between, so men are not the only ones who can act in a masculine way, and the same goes for women and the feminine way. As Denise Riley states in Bodies, Identities, Feminisms, “it’s not possible to live twenty-four hours a day soaked in the immediate awareness of one’s sex. Gendered self­ consciousness has, mercifully. a flickering nature” (Riley, 96). This quote seems to be very relevant to the gender swapping that takes place during Twelfth Night because it can be seen that through the fluctuating of Viola’s gender that she seems at times to lose that gender, because one is not aware at all times of their gender. So, at times Viola is not concerned with weather or not she is Viola or Cesario, yet once she returns to her female clothes she seems to become a ‘girl’ again, even if at times she does still exhibit masculine performance.

Dr. Beckett’s mirror image as a women

While discussing gender swapping I thought of the television series Quantum Leap, in which there is plenty of gender swapping taking place, but in an opposite way of Viola. The late 1980s television series Quantum Leap came to my mind. In this science fiction series the protagonist Dr. Sam Beckett, who is a male, is stuck in a perpetual loop in which he “leaps” into other people’s bodies in which he is meant to put right something that once went wrong in history. Yet, to those around him while he is in these bodies, he appears as the person he inhabits, but the viewers of the series he always appears the same, as actor Scott Bakula. In one particular episode Dr. Beckett finds himself in the body of a women, and while in this body he must convince someone who sees him as a women, that he is a man. Dr. Beckett does this through masculine performance that is generally associated with men.

This video seems to connect with Twelfth Night because it presents audiences with the opposite to Viola. Yet Dr. Beckett does not use clothing to return to the male gender, but performance. Dr. Beckett is able to present to those around him that he is of the male gender while in a female body, purely through his performance. He puts a lot of weight into his ability through sports, gestures, and even how he walks.

Through looking at both Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as well as the television series Quantum Leap one can see that there are many aspects that inform people of one’s perception of gender. While these two characters are able to present very different ways of interpreting masculine identity, it seems to ultimately return to Riley’s argument that one is not aware all of the times of your gender. Both Viola and Dr. Beckett use different forms of performance to convince those around them of their gender, as they are performing this gender there seems to be times in which these two characters become unaware of their gender, which is very keeping with Riley’s argument.

Works Cited

Riley, Denise. Bodies, Identity, Feminisims. 96-126. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.

Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. New York: Folger Shakespeare Library, 2009. Print.

An Introduction to Masculine Performance

For this first post of this blog, which will be dealing with performing in a masculine way, the first question that must be asked is what is masculinity and how are men expected to perform in such a way?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines masculinity as simply, “possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men” (OED). It is important to question the idea of masculine performance because in a modern society genders, both men and women, seem to be expected to preform in a specific way. Through this blog I will be focusing on the way in which men are expected to preform, in relation to this course, and will be tracking this concept through the course. As I discuss masculine performance through this blog I will be making references to three primary texts, Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. All of these works deal with the issue of masculine performance in very different ways, and depict different aspects of the issue of performing as a man.

The purpose of this first blog entry is to establish two very different representations of masculine performance, to begin my discussion of this issue. While trying to establish how it is perceived by society that a man should perform and act, one example that came to mind was the song Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. 

This song from the Disney film seems to express the very stereotypical way that performance of a man should be. The character Gaston embodies the strong, brawny, brave, and seemingly unintelligent aspects, which are commonly very stereotypically connected with masculinity. This video is really able to establish what the idea of masculinity is. And by singing this song, Gaston is in a way setting the bar for masculinity for many young children watching this Disney movie. This song is able to establish for my blog the idea of masculinity I am speaking of as I discuss the farthest edge of masculinity.

The idea of masculinity in relation to performance first came up in this course while discussing therepresentation of James Joyce in Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare& Company. As Beach discusses Joyce she uses many descriptive phrases that are not commonly associated with men. In Beach’s book while describing Joyce, the author states in reference to Joyce’s performance as a father, “Joyce, with her patriarchal ideas, regretted that he hadn’t ten children. He was devoted to the two he had, and was never too much absorbed in his own work to encourage theirs” (Beach, 43). Through Beach’s representation ofJoyce, he seems to appear much more motherly, and feminine. This depiction of Joyce seems to place Joyce as a ‘motherly figure’. Furthermore, even Beach’s physical description of Joyce presents him into a frail and feminine figure. Joyce’s representation differs greatly from that of Gaston.

This representation of Joyce is extremely relevant to the idea of masculine performance that I am discussing through this blog because Beach is able to present an opposition to the way in which men are expected to perform. And while Joyce through Beach’s words does not perform in the same way that for instance Gaston does, Joyce was very successful in his own right.

This representation of Joyce in Shakespeare & Company can be linked to Diana Fuss’ article, Reading Like a Feminist. This is because through her article Fuss discusses how gender identity is a fluid thing and cannot be nailed down to several particular traits. Fuss states, “ ‘I-slot’ listings can be unsettling if what we wish to emphasize is not the fixed differences between subject-positions but the fluid boundaries and continual commerce between them” (Fuss, 34). This argument by Fuss is very relevant to my purposes because she shows how gender identity is not a static thing; it changes and bends depending on the individual. This connects to Joyce because it can be seen that while he does not inhabit the Gaston image of a man, he is able to warp the performance of masculinity to suit him. Therefore, there seems to be room in the world for both a Joyce-like man  as well as a Gaston-like man. As a whole this blog will be discussing how the performance of masculinity can change and adapt to fit different individuals.

Works Cited

Beach, Sylvia. Shakespeare & Company. United States Of America: First Bison Books, 1991. Print.

Fuss, Diana. Reading Like a Feminist. New York: Routledge, 1989. Web. 5 Mar. 2013.