Katrin sent in an interesting example of an effort to (re)masculinize an occupation. Often when we see these efforts, they’re aimed at attracting men to traditionally-female jobs such as nursing by asserting that only “real men” would be able to handle the demands of the job, or emphasizing compatibility with masculinity.

In this case, the occupation that is being framed as highly masculine isn’t one dominated by women; it is, in fact, open only to men: the Catholic priesthood. The image, originally posted at NYPriest, is taken from Fishers of Men, a video released as part of the Archdiocese of New York’s Office of Vocations “The World Needs Heroes” campaign, meant to attract men to the priesthood:

Usually, a male-dominated occupation wouldn’t be in need of having its masculinized character stressed so openly. However, the child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in the U.S. and elsewhere have damaged the image of the priesthood. Not only did many priests sexually abuse children, but many of the abused children where boys. Had the abuse involved primarily girls girls in late childhood or their teens, the public may very well have expressed revulsion and disgust, but we also have cultural narratives available, such as the idea of the sexually precocious Lolita who entices men against their better judgement, that are often used to at least partially justify or explain adult men’s sexual attraction to or abuse of even young girls (such as the judge who, in 1982, called a 5-year-old rape victim “unusually sexually promiscuous” and gave the adult man who assaulted her only 90 days in a work-release program).

But the fact that so many victims were boys meant those cultural narratives, which implicitly reinforce assumptions about adult masculine sexuality (men can’t quite control themselves; they’re easily led astray by female temptresses, even inappropriately young ones) didn’t apply. Abusing boys undermines the assumption of heterosexuality that is essential to hegemonic masculinity.

Given this social context, it’s not surprising that the NY Archdiocese felt the need to reassert the priesthood as masculine as one element of their image rehabilitation campaign.

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