At the end of last year, Robin Thicke took a lot of heat for both the lyrics of his song, Blurred Lines, and the accompanying video. The latter is a transparent instance of a very common strategy for making men look cool: surround them with beautiful and preferably naked women.
It seems especially effective if the men in question act unimpressed and unaffected by, or even disinterested in, the women around them. It’s as if they are trying to say, “I am so accustomed to having access to beautiful, naked women, I don’t even notice that they’re there anymore.” Or, to be more vulgar about it, “I get so much pussy, I’ve become immune.”
This is all to introduce a satirical series of photographs featuring performance artist Nate Hill who, on the mission page of his “trophy scarves” website (NSFW), writes: “I wear white women for status and power.” And, so, he does. Here are some maybe safe-for-work-ish examples:
There are more, definitely NSFW examples, at his site (and thanks to German C. for sending the link).
Hill brilliantly combines a tradition of conspicuous consumption – think mink stoles – with a contemporary matrix of domination in which white women are status symbols for men of all races. It’s not irrelevant that he’s African-American and the women he chooses are white and, yes, it is about power. We know it is because women do it too and, when they do, they use women below them in the racial hierarchy. Remember Gwen Stefani’s harajuku girls? And consider this FHM Philippines cover:
I’m amazed at the ubiquitousness of this type of imagery and our willingness to take it for granted that this is just what our visual landscape looks like. It’s social inequality unapologetically laid bare. We’re used to it.
Somebody — lots of somebodies, I guess — sat around the room and thought, “Yeah, there’s nothing pathetic or problematic about a music video in which absolutely nothing happens except naked women are used to prop up our singer’s masculinity.” The optimist in me wants to think that it’s far too obvious, so much so that the producers and participants would be embarrassed by it. Or, at least, there’d be a modicum of sensitivity to the decades of feminist activism around the sexual objectification of women.
The cynic in me recognizes that white supremacy and the dehumanization of women are alive and well. I’m glad Hill is here to help me laugh about it, even if nervously. Gallows humor, y’all. Sometimes it’s all we got.
by Marci Cottingham PhD, Jun 26, 2014, at 09:00 am
While there has been significant attention to recruiting women into STEM fields, what about the converse – recruiting men to female-dominated fields? My recent article in Gender & Society analyzes the recruitment strategies of key health care players, examining themes of masculinity in text, speech, and images.
Some recruitment items, like this early poster from the Virginia Partnership for Nursing, asked viewers “Are you man enough to be a nurse?” Aspects of hegemonic masculinity — characteristics associated with being the culturally defined “ideal man” — are common themes in the poster, including sports, military service, risk-taking, and an emotionally-reserved demeanor:
Since the “Are You Man Enough?” campaign in the early 2000’s, nurse leaders have tried to make recruitment messages less ostensibly gendered. In discussing the American Assembly for Men in Nursing’s (AAMN) new campaign, Don Anderson notes:
Nursing recruitment efforts needed to evolve from asking men if they were masculine enough to be a nurse to something less gender specific
Despite the effort to “de-genderify” nursing (Anderson’s word), masculinity is still front and center. Though the slogan is different, materials continue to emphasize culturally idealized forms of masculinity. One of the AAMN’s newest posters, “Adrenaline Rush,” avoids the “man enough” rhetoric, but maintains the theme of a stoic, emotionally-detached masculinity through visual cues. Most of the nurse’s face is covered – limiting emotional expression—while risk-taking is emphasized.
But not all recruitment materials employ a macho form of masculinity. Johnson & Johnson’s 30-second clip “Name Game” portrays a caring and emotionally competent nurse:
Key health care players, including an international organization (Johnson & Johnson), urban hospital systems, nursing programs, and organizations like the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) have devoted resources to recruiting men into nursing. Analyzing their recruitment strategies reveals as much about contemporary tensions within masculinity as it does about the profession’s push for gender diversity.
Check out more of the recruitment materials and a more in-depth analysis in the article, “Recruiting Men, Constructing Manhood: How Health Care Organizations Mobilize Masculinities as Nursing Recruitment Strategy.” For a free copy, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marci Cottingham is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Akron. Her research spans issues of gender, emotion, health, and healthcare. For more on her work, visit her site.
Usually, you want to match up with someone at about your level, or a little higher. The trouble is that many people overestimate their own level. Maybe that’s especially true of men.
One summer many years ago at the tennis courts, a guy I didn’t know came over and asked me if I’d like to play. I hadn’t arranged a game with anyone, but I didn’t want to wind up playing some patzer.
“Are you any good?” I asked. He paused.
“Well, I’m not Jimmy Connors,” he said (I told this was many years ago), “but neither are you.”
In chess and other games, serious players have ratings. Give a roomful of possible partners, they can sort through the ratings and find a match with someone at roughly the same level. It’s called assortative mating, though that term usually refers to the other kind of mating, not chess. It’s the basis of the conflict in this poignant scene from “Louie.”
Vanessa is not a ten, neither is Louie. According to principles of assortative mating, the tens will wind up with other tens, the nines with nines, and so on down the attractiveness scale. One problem in the “Louie” scene is that Louie seems to have an inflated view of his own attractiveness. He’s aiming higher than Vanessa. That’s typical. So is the importance that Louie, the man, places on physical attractiveness. This excerpt begins with Louie telling Vanessa that she’s a really beautiful . . . . He can’t bring himself to say “girl”; he’s probably going to say “person.” But he’s obviously not saying what he thinks.
Or as Dan Ariely and colleagues concluded from their study of HotOrNot members:
[Men] were significantly more influenced by the consensus physical attractiveness of their potential dates than females were. [Men also] were less affected by how attractive they themselves were . . . In making date choices, males are less influenced by their own rated attractiveness than females are.
Another dating site, OK Cupid, found a similar pattern when they looked at data about who gets messages. They asked their customers to rate profile photos of the opposite sex on a scale of 0 to 5. They then tracked the number of messages for people at each level of attractiveness. The graph below shows what women thought and what they did – that is, how attractive they found men, and who they sent messages to.
Men who were rated 0 or 1 got fewer messages than their proportion in the population. That figures. But even men who were only moderately attractive got more than their share. Generally, the fewer men at a level of attractiveness, the fewer total messages women sent. The 4s, for example, constituted only 2% of the population, and they got only 4% of all the messages. The Vanessas on OK Cupid are not sending a lot of inquiries to guys who look like George Clooney.
But look at the men.
Men are more generous in their estimates of beauty than are women. But they also ignore the Vanessas of the world (or at least the world of OK Cupid) and flock after the more attractive women. Only 15% of the women were rated as a 4, but they received about 26% of the messages. Women rated 5 received messages triple their proportion in the population.
What about those with so-so looks? Women rated as 2s received only about 10% of the messages sent by men. But men at that same level received 25% of the messages women sent. The women seem more realistic.
Vanessa too has no illusions about her own attractiveness. She refers to herself as “a fat girl,” and when Louie, trying to be kind, says, “You’re not fat,” she says: “You know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? [pause] ‘You’re not fat.’” But it’s only when she challenges Louie’s view of his own attractiveness that their relationship starts to change.
Y’know if you were standing over there looking at us, you know what you’d see?
That we totally match. We’re actually a great couple together.
She doesn’t explain what she means by “totally match.” It could be their interests or ideas or personalities, but the imaginary stranger looking at them from over there couldn’t know about any of that. What that generalized other could see is that they are at roughly the same place on the assortative mating attractiveness scale.
In Hearts of Men, Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the launching of Playboy in 1953 and how it forever changed how we thought about single men.
At that time, a man who stayed single was suspected of homosexuality. The idea of being an unmarried heterosexual adult of sound mind and body was totally foreign. Hugh Hefner changed all of that by inventing a whole new kind of man, the playboy. The playboy stayed single (so as to have lots of ladies), kept his money for himself and his indulgences (booze and ladies), and re-purposed the domestic sphere (enter the snazzy bachelor pad full of booze and ladies).
With this in mind, check out this attempt to attract advertising dollars from a 1969 issue (found at Vintage Ads). It nicely demonstrates Playboy‘s marketing of a new kind of man, one who lives a free and adventurous life that is unburdened by a boring, dead-end job needed to support a wife and kids.
What sort of man reads Playboy? He’s an entertaining young guy happily living the good life. And loving every adventurous minute of it. One recipe for his upbeat life style? Fun friends and fine potables. Facts. PLAYBOY is read by one of out every three men under 50 who drink alcoholic beverages. Small wonder beverage advertisers invest more dollars in PLAYBOY issue per issue than they do in any other magazine. Need your spirit lifted? This must be the place.
Today, we commonly come across the idea that men are naturally averse to being tied down, but Hefner’s project reveals that this was an idea that was invented quite recently and promulgated for profit.
Shock, frustration, and rage. That’s our reaction to the hate-filled video record that Elliot Rodger left behind. The 22-year-old, believed to have killed 6 people in Santa Barbara this week, left behind a terrible internet trail.
I cannot and will not speculate about the “mind of the killer” in such cases, but I can offer a little perspective on the nature and social context of these acts. This sometimes entails showing how mass shootings (or school shootings) remain quite rare, or that crime rates have plummeted in the past 20 years. I won’t repeat those reassurances here, but will instead address the bald-faced misogyny and malice of the videos. It outrages us to see a person look into a camera and clearly state his hatred of women — and then, apparently, to make good on his dark promises. It also raises other awful questions. Are these sentiments generally held? If you scratch the surface, are there legions of others who would and could pursue “retribution” as Mr. Rodger did? Is serious violence against women on the rise?
Probably not. Rates of sexual violence in the United States, whether measured by arrest or victimization, have declined by over 50 percent over the last twenty years. As the figure shows, the rape and sexual assault victimization rate dropped from over 4 per 1000 (age 12 and older) in 1993 to about 1.3 per 1000 in 2012. And, if you add up all the intimate partner violence (including all rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault committed by spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends), the rate has dropped from almost 10 per 1000 in 1994 to 3.2 per 1000 in 2012. The numbers below include male victims, but the story remains quite consistent when the analysis is limited to female victims.
Of course, misogyny and violence against women remain enormous social problems — on our college campuses and in the larger society. Moreover, the data at our disposal are often problematic and the recent trend is far less impressive than the big drop from 1993 to 2000. All that said, “retribution” videos and PUA threads shouldn’t obscure a basic social fact: 22-year-olds today are significantly less violent than 22-year-olds a generation ago.