Category Archives: masculinity

More White Men Behaving Badly: A ‘Brain-On’ Look At The Hangover

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

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For perspective’s sake, let me start with a confession: Tropic Thunder made me laugh aloud several times, even after the misgivings I had about Kirk Lazarus. The Alpa Chino twist in the village was brilliant, even if the villagers were written like something out of an Oliver Stone wet dream. And I regularly laugh as much as I grimace at South Park and Family Guy, neither of which is exactly friendly to … well, anybody. So I’m not opposed to “lowbrow” humor.

What I cannot abide is brainless humor. And so, when I tell you that The Hangover is celluloid excrement, I don’t say it lightly. I refuse to believe that it’s “just me.” But I’m telling you, R readers: this isn’t a comedy, or even a film. I’m now halfway convinced it’s proof those cheeky Hulu “alien plot” commercials are really taunting messages of truth from our secret alien overlords. Sure, you might say, “just turn your brain off, it’s a movie,” but don’t you need a working brain to enjoy any movie?

SPOILERS AHOY!

Ostensibly a Las Vegas travel ad masquerading as a bro-mantic comedy, the root of the problem is one common to a lot of modern comedies: we’re dealing not with characters, but anthropomorphic third-rate comedic tropes – Phil the Player (Bradley Cooper), Alan the Weirdo (Zack Galifanakis) and Stuart the Wuss (Ed Helms). Coding them as such is believable when you start a film, but there’s barely a hint of personal development, let alone the “growing up” moments that usually permeate these types of films. Continue reading

Lil Wayne, Sexual Violation, and The “Acceptable” Black Male Discourse

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

I give mad kudos to Cara for her smartly written analysis about Lil’ Wayne having his rape exploited as talk-show fodder on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. She said a lot of what I was thinking when I saw the clip. She felt her thoughts were “long and wandering”, but she sorted through several pieces of baggage packed in that 2 ½ minute clip and, sometimes, the usual short-n-snappy post writing style just doesn’t cut it. But we can further unpack this conversation around race, men, and sexual violation.

The final consideration in analyzing the reaction to this story is the question of race. Again, Sociological Images asserts that the reason people do not see this as rape is because Lil’ is not only male, but a black male.

It’s certainly true that black men are hyper-sexualized, and that anyone who is hyper-sexualized is instantly construed as unrapeable, all other considerations becoming irrelevant. But at the same time, while Lil’ Wayne’s race surely plays a part not only in the failure to interpret his “virginity loss” as rape but also the prodding by the while males for him to brag about the assault he endured, I’m unsure that this would necessarily be interpreted as rape if a white male was the victim. For an example of why, you can again see above.

Then again, Anthony Kiedis is also interpreted as hyper-sexual both due to the image that he has created for himself and by virtue of being a rock star. Take that away and leave his situation with clearly older predators in tact, and you may have a situation where a white male would be seen as a victim, but a black male (or perhaps other male of color) would not be. It’s not easy to say. While we can say with certainty that racism plays a role in the reactions we see to the story that Lil’ Wayne recounts, we can’t say how exactly the reactions would be different when racism is taken out of the picture.

Unpacking the Kiedis/Wayne Comparison

Though both are famous male musicians whom were raped by older women in their lives (Kiedis’ father’s girlfriend; Wayne’s babysitter), the analysis can’t just rest on “these guys survived sexual violation.” It’s the same mushed notion that all female victims suffer rape and other sexual violence without consideration of other factors, like race. Rock stars, especially white ones, are given more latitude to discuss and display a gamut of emotions and experiences, including physical, emotional and sexual violations, from classic rock to emo and beyond. Lil’ Wayne, being a Black male–and a hip-hop artist at that, in an industry that says Black male voices are profitable and, therefore, listenable only in R&B and hip-hop–simply isn’t allowed that same space to talk about such issues.

Unpacking the Statistical Silence
The National Center for Victims of Crime runs down some of the latest numbers :

  • About 3% of American men – a total of 2.78 million men – have experienced a rape at some point in their lifetime.
  • In 2003, one in every ten rape victims was male. While there are no reliable annual surveys of sexual assaults on children, the Justice Department has estimated that one of six victims are under age 12.
  • 71% of male victims were first raped before their 18th birthday; 16.6% were 18-24 years old, and 12.3% were 25 or older.
  • Males are the least likely to report a sexual assault, though it is estimated that they make up 10% of all victims. Continue reading

When a Man is the Victim: A Second Study in Rape Apology

by Guest Contributor Cara Kulwicki, originally published at The Curvature

I’ve previously done an in depth analysis of victim-blaming and rape denial, and how it varies and how it stays the same, in a case of rape where a man was the victim of a female assailant. After seeing this video at Sociological Images, along with the questions Lisa poses about the attitudes towards sexual violence it reveals, I’m compelled to do a second one. The results are a bit long and wandering.

Below, rapper Lil’ Wayne appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live and (starting at about 2:40) is asked by the host whether or not it’s true that he “lost his virginity” at 11. After looking shocked and attempting to laugh it off, Lil’ Wayne tells his story, and it may be triggering to some of you.

I do not know what Lil’ Wayne would call his own experience, but though he does not use the word, the admittedly few details he provides do indeed portray this quite clearly as rape, for reasons that I hope are obvious to most readers here, and which will be delved into in more detail below. Lil’ Wayne seems to me to be uncomfortable with the line of questioning, and yet Jimmy Kimmel and the other man on the show continue to laugh and joke around about it, even after Lil’ Wayne says very clearly that the experience was harmful to him.

It seems like a reasonable question, to ask what the hell is wrong with Jimmy Kimmel. But the problem is, while not excusing his actions for a single second, that he has a whole culture (and audience) backing him up.

In the majority of sexual assault cases, where a woman is the victim of a man’s violence, rape apology is rooted primarily not in the denial that male violence exists, but in the denial that male violence means something and needs to be stopped. Conversely, in cases where a man is the victim of a woman’s violence, rape apologism is strongly rooted in the denial that women’s actions can count as violence at all — and especially that their actions can count as sexual violence against men, who are routinely construed as incapable of being victims.

In cases of both of these two types of sexual violence (though hardly the only two that exist), the victim is accused of “wanting it.” But while the female victim is also, when that reasoning fails, accused of deserving it, this seems to not be the case with men. No, they just always wanted it. (Again, talking only about male victims of women — gay male victims of other men are routinely portrayed as “deserving” it as well as “wanting” it.) There are no sneers about what he should and shouldn’t have been doing. Just jokes about how awesome the assault must have been for him. Like we see Jimmy Kimmel engaging in above. Continue reading

Understanding the Backlash to the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

On Tuesday Samhita Mukhopadhyay posted the article Understanding the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon on Feministing, discussing the case and response to Lovelle Mixon. A 26 year-old black man and parolee in Oakland, last weekend Mixon died after shooting and killing four Oakland police officers.

Some excerpts from Mukhopadhyay’s article:

I do not deny that Mixon was armed, dangerous, a career criminal and potentially linked to the rape of a young woman. Lovelle Mixon’s actions are deplorable. But if we look at them within the context of police brutality, they sadly start make sense.

The power that resides in the laps of armed police officers is terrifying. Imagine living in these conditions, in the kind of world where you can be gunned down just for being young, black, male and walking down the street. This story is almost impossible to understand given dominant narratives around race, class, gender and black masculinity. It is considered OK to kill young black men, often violently. We may be outraged, but not nearly as outraged as when cops are killed.

Mukhopadhyay also drew from David Muhammad’s article at New American Media, which starts by saying (and I share this sentiment):

Four Oakland Police Department (OPD) officers killed, another shot, and a young assailant dead. This is tragic and unfortunate. Period.

While Mukhodpadhyay was as clear as Muhammad that Mixon’s actions are inexcusable and should not be seen as justice for Oscar Grant, within half an hour of her article going up, some Feministing commenters flipped. Choice reactions:

Turning a multiple cop killer and rapist into the poster child for a conversation about police brutality is apologism at its worst…If you were saying the same basic things to explain awat why he might have been led to rape the woman he’s excused of raping than no one on these boards would accept it. But I feel that since this happened in Oakland, after Oscar Grant, and since he’s black and these were white cops and because of the racial history it’s somewhat okay for you to seemingly excuse his actions.

This next very short comment misses the panoply of stats that Mukhopadhyay provided to illustrate that ex-convicts and poor folks in general sometimes cannot secure their basic needs by following the law:

Actually, that’s not true. Not committing further crimes is the surest way not to end up back in jail.

And this:

His actions were never fueled by police brutality, they appear to be fueled by possibility that he did not want to pay for additional crimes he knew he committed.

You’re conflating the brutal murder of Oscar Grant with a career criminal who knew he was caught and reacted like a wild animal cornered, doing anything and everything to escape being brought to justice.

I also take issue with the point that you make about cops killing young black men, statistically a much larger percentage of young black men are killed by other young black men.

And of course a few commenters who called Mukhopadhyay an apologist for Mixon were also quick to say “But you can’t say I’m racist! I was incensed by what happened to Rodney King!”

Listen: the difference between Rodney King (and Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Jeffrey Reodica and so many other young men of colour slain by the police) and Mixon is that the others were unarmed and innocent. The similarity is that they all lived under a policing system that devalued their lives and assumed them guilty solely because they were darker-skinned.

Now, Mixon actually was guilty. But Mixon’s guilt doesn’t neutralise the rottenness of the system. In other words, just because Mixon was actually a dangerous felon doesn’t mean that we are absolved from the duty to question how justice and innocence is defined and meted out in our culture. Continue reading

Frank Miller’s “300″ and the Persistence of Accepted Racism

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

When Frank Miller’s “300″ film was released, I was absolutely outraged by the racist content of the film and more so at the insensitivity of movie-goers who simply argued “it’s just a movie.” Later on, I would hear these same individuals say, “The movie makes you want to slice up some Persians.” I wrote an article about the film almost immediately after it was released, and now that I’m still noticing people quoting the movie or listing it as their “favorite movies,” I’ve decided to update my original post and discuss some points that will hopefully shed some new light.

“300” not only represents the ever-growing trend of accepted racism towards Middle-Easterners in mainstream media and society, but also the reinforcement of Samuel P. Huntington’s overly clichéd, yet persisting, theory of “The Clash of Civilizations,” which proposes that cultural and religious differences are the primary sources for war and conflict rather than political, ideological, and/or economic differences. The fact that “300” grossed nearly $500 million worldwide in the box office may not be enough to suggest that movie-goers share the film’s racist and jingoistic views, but it is enough to indicate how successful such a film can be without many people noticing its relentless racist content. As Osagie K. Obasogie wrote in a brilliant critique of the film, “300” is “arguably the most racially charged film since D. W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’” – the latter being a 1915 silent film that celebrated the Ku Klux Klan’s rise to defend the South against liberated African-Americans. Oddly enough, both films were immensely successful despite protests and charges of racism.

Media imagery is very important to study. Without analyzing and critiquing images in pop culture, especially controversial and reoccurring images, we are ignoring the most powerful medium in which people receive their information from. A novel, for example, may appeal to a large demographic, but a film appeals to a much wider audience not only because of recent video-sharing websites and other internet advancements, but also because the information is so much easier to process and absorb.

According to the Cultivation Theory, a social theory developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross, television is the most powerful storyteller in culture – it repeats the myths, ideologies, and facts and patterns of standardized roles and behaviors that define social order. Music videos, for example, cultivate a pattern of images that establish socialized norms about gender. In a typical western music video, you may see female singers like Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce wearing the scantiest of clothing and dancing in erotic and provocative ways that merely cater to their heterosexual male audiences. These images of women appear so frequently and repetitively that they develop an expectation for women in the music industry, i.e. in order to be successful, a woman needs to have a certain body type, fit society’s ideal for beauty, and dance half-nakedly. Stereotypical images of men in music videos, on the other hand, include violent-related imagery, “pimping” with multiple women, and showing off luxury. Such images make violence and promiscuous sexual behavior “cool” and more acceptable for males. As we can see from two studies by Greeson & Williams (1986) and Kalof (1999), exposure to stereotypical images of gender and sexual content in music videos increase older adolescents’ acceptance of non-marital sexual behavior and interpersonal violence.

Cognitive Social Learning Theory is another social theory which posits, in respect to media, that television presents us with attractive and relatable models for us to shape our experiences from. In other words, a person may learn particular behaviors and knowledge through observing the images displayed on television. A person may also emulate the behavior of a particular character in a film or television show, especially if a close-identification is established between the viewer and the character. Both theories – Cultivation Theory and Cognitive Social Learning Theory – apply in my following analysis of “300.”

In order to deconstruct “300,” I will start by (1) discussing its distortion of history, then (2) contrast the film’s representation of Persians and Spartans, (3) correlate Frank Miller’s Islamophobic remarks on NPR with the messages conveyed in “300,” and (4) conclude with the importance of confronting stereotypical images in mainstream media and acknowledging the contributions of all societies and civilizations. Continue reading

Judd Apatow and the Art of White Masculinity

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

“That shit is SO fuckin’ homo”

So I finally saw Pineapple Express this weekend and throughout the whole movie the men around me were constantly expressing how “fucking gay” the movie was. I left there thinking about the two very different displays of masculinity I had just witnessed in the movie theater. The men in the audience, who were mostly young men of color in their late-teens/early-twenties, were attempting to (re)affirm their masculinity through homophobic and sexist comments in response to the perceived lack of masculinity they saw on the screen. On the screen however the cast of Pineapple Express (most of whom are white men with the exception of Craig Robinson) were celebrating their homosocial (but not homosexual) affection for each other and their outsider status as members of the informal economy. I thought about the ways that homosociality functions not only in Pineapple Express but in Judd Apatow movies generally as a comment on the state of contemporary white masculinity in American society.

For those of you who might not know who Judd Apatow is, he’s the writer and/or producer of many of the successful “Frat Pack” movies including: Pineapple Express, Step Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Superbad, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He’s was also the Executive Producer of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks on NBC.

Yeah, he’s that guy. Continue reading