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Posts tagged Masculinity Studies

Masculinity Studies 102: Let’s ask the experts.

Over at Hit and Run, Kerry Howley, a contributing editor at Reason, explains part of what she finds lacking in a common anti-feminist argument to the effect that large-scale socioeconomic disparities between men and women are the result of inborn differences, rather than pervasive forms of sexism.

The different-preferences-create-different-outcomes argument is ambitiously superficial and question begging. Absent any account of how preferences are shaped, I’m not sure why anti-feminists think they’re saying something intelligent when they boldly assert that men and women want different things. IWF loves to talk about Title IX, and it’s a great example of a cultural shift affecting preferences in young women. Did 14-year-old girls just not like sports before Title IX and the rise of the girl jock? Or did Title IX help create a culture where a broader range of interests could be engendered and cultivated? Does the fact that girls in 1950 did not aspire to captain high school soccer teams say anything interesting about women? I don’t think so.

— Kerry Howley, Hit and Run (2007-11-29): Men Are From North Dakota and Women Are From South Dakota

I’m sure she’s entitled to her opinion. But now let’s see what a real expert has to say about whether or not women experience discrimination in America today: Mr. Brian Sorgatz!

What gender inequality? I ask in earnest. In 2007 in the United States, discrimination based on gender is like highway robbery. Technically, it still exists, but it’s been shrunk to a tiny remnant of the problem it once was.

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 1:55 pm

Well, that’s that. If some dude can’t think of any major examples of inequalities that American women face in 2007, must not be a problem after all. Any woman who thinks she has noticed counterexamples had better get on board with a theory that can make some kind of peace with the realities of human nature.

Like this one, offered by another male expert on discrimination against women:

I think it has much more to do with mate selection criteria — women tend to place more emphasis on men who earn large amounts of money, while men tend to place more emphasis on women who are physically attractive and have the personality traits to make a good mother. This sexual selection pressure would result in men making the tradeoffs and sacrifices that result in higher average salaries, while women would be more likely to pursue other values. Both are rationally pursuing the goals that they perceive benefit them most.

— prolefeed, 29 November 2007, 4:01 pm

Did you know that if you take a series of 1950s sitcom punchlines and slap a sticker with the words mate selection criteria on top of them, that makes it Scientific?

Meanwhile, three minutes later:

Prolefeed, you just raised the I.Q. of the entire thread. Thanks for that.

(Again, it’s not that Prolefeed is necessarily right in every particular. But his thinking is admirably sophisticated.)

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 4:04 pm

The hedge is important. We do have to leave room for other well-researched theories proposed by other men. For example, we must remain open to the possibility that 13,000 years and more of patriarchy turns out to all be the result of the (probably genetic) advantage in upper-body strength that the very strongest men have over the very strongest women. Who knew that so much could turn on a bench-press?

Further reading:

Masculinity Studies 101: Color Coding

Today’s lesson comes to us (thanks to Feminist Law Professors) from a recent trend-story from Ananova on gun stores’ efforts to draw women in as customers:

Firearms shops in the US are stocking pink rifles and shotguns to encourage girls to get into shooting.

A report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the Gander Mountain hunting store in Waukesha stocks several pink guns.

They include a Remington 20-gauge shotgun with a pink and black stock emblazoned with the slogan: Shoot like a girl if you can!

Store manager Chris Hanson said the guns were aimed, so to speak, at girls and women interested in hunting.

He said the shotgun, and a Crickett rifle with a bright pink stock, were both selling well.

In Baraboo, Jim Astle, owner of Jim’s Gun Supply in Baraboo, has been coating guns in pink and other colours for four years. His 12-year-old daughter owns a pink camouflage shotgun.

Females want to shoot guns, but they want them to look pretty, too, he said. Guys could give a rat’s butt what their gun looks like.

Now, if it were true that guys emphatically don’t care what their gun looks like, then you would expect that a guy would be just as happy to carry a gun that looks like this:

an AR-15 assault rifle painted pink

… as he would a gun that looks like this:

an black AR-15 assault rifle

I encourage you to give any gun-loving male that you happen to know the choice between the two, and see whether he is really indifferent to how his gun looks.

Most men actually have very strong preferences respecting fashion, appearance, color, and so on. Male society enforces these preferences as prevailing norms for masculinity, vigorously and often violently. Anyone who pays a few second’s worth of attention to branding in pop culture can find this out, if he or she did not already know it. But because men and their preferences are treated as the default case, especially when it comes to echt-male pursuits such as shooting, these strong preferences are rendered invisible, whereas women’s are marked out for special observation and remark. This has the further effect of allowing men to pose as especially pragmatic, as if they are coolly unconcerned with pursuits and preferences that they characterize as both feminine and frivolous. Even though, in fact, they have similar pursuits and similar preferences with which they are no less concerned.

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