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Throughout the studies of gender, sexuality, and pop culture, it’s apparent that there are numerous stances that can be taken within these concepts. Due to ever-changing literature dealing with social construct, compelling arguments can be found and analyzed. Throughout three texts, and one film screening, the argument is that of masculinity versus femininity. There seems to be a gap of attention being paid to masculinity and the problems it prevails; femininity is more so in the spotlight which causes a sense of inequality rather than the much strived for, equality.
In the readings, “Masculinity,” “Beyoncé Feminism…” “Night to his Day,” and the film, The Last Jedi, there are certain aspects of each where they can be compared and contrasted between one another. I suggest that there are standards not being met when it comes to masculinity, and the preconceived notions of such. Masculinity and femininity are both problematic discourses in society today, and it’s important to focus on both aspects in the same light.
In the reading “Masculinity,” Kenneth Mackinnon argues masculinity is not talked about as much as femininity. When one compares the movements towards gender equality, they are more geared towards the advancement of women rather than men; this is already a signifier that manliness and masculinity is overlooked in some manner. The fair pay act, the “#MeToo” movement, and an abundance of women’s rights protests all represent acts pushing for women’s rights, without consideration for men’s rights. “Perhaps this is not as surprising as it first appears, in that there is no men’s movement comparable to feminism that does not compartmentalize men or else that achieves comparable intellectual status” (Mackinnon 2003, p.
48). Mackinnon stays true to the fact that masculinity is just as difficult and problematic as femininity; however, it seems to be overlooked because of the increase in feminist literary works in the present day. Masculinity is implicit, meaning it is implied, but never directly stated. It can be challenged through toxic masculinity that men feel there are barriers between being emotional and being strong, causing a masculinity crisis. The crisis at hand is that male dominance is questioned as are the rights admitted to men merely on the basis of sex as a result of the feminist movement. Mackinnon explains the notion that learning ‘to be a man’ doesn’t occur naturally or biologically, “but to be the result of struggle” (Mackinnon, 2003, p. 48). For instance, being the “family breadwinner” is not something that a man is biologically given, but an idea learned through society that makes one more “manly.” Focusing on more contingencies that men face, male anxiety and emotional illiteracy are those which aren’t discussed deeply. Men become anxious because they don’t want to betray the idea of what it means to be masculine, which causes an immense amount of pressure in their identity. This is no ones fault but societies’ itself. We’re raised with the preconceived notion that men are this, and women are that; however, people are vulnerable in believing this will never change. Natural masculinity is brought to Mackinnon’s audience due to “popular cinema links” signifying certain manly characteristics. The author states that in most occasions, being manly is to have “a deep voice, quiet understatement and laconicism, minimal hand gesturing, or even “unfussy normalcy” (Mackinnon, 2003, p. 48). While society focuses on “male weakness” and the norms of what it means to be a man, modern femininity is more so focused on empowerment.
The women’s fight for equality has been a strong factor in society and pop culture. From all over, famous or not, women have stepped up and been adamant about making a change. Unlike men, women have numerous idols to look up to in these acts and beliefs of feminism. This is proven through the reading, “Beyoncé Feminism and the Contestation of the Black Feminist Body,” by Nathalie Weidhase. In today’s media, it is not unheard of to idolize a celebrity and follow their stances on certain issues; when one who possesses fame speaks out, it is natural for their fans to follow them. Someone as publicly admired as Beyoncé, “leading with eight nominations (taking home awards in three categories) and scheduled to receive the MTV’s Lifetime Achievement Award,” according to Weidhase, is just the type of person women want to listen to. Beyoncé has released albums that translate feminism such as, Independent Woman Pt. 1 and B-Day, both inspiring female power and feminism. In this reading, it is arguing the fact that gender equality is not where it should be. In multiple Beyoncé songs, they scream women empowerment. To prove that femininity is more so glamorized than masculinity, Weidhase captures this idea when she brings up “Beyoncé’s body in front of the word ‘feminist’ in bright, capital letters during the song, “***Flawless.” Her MTV Video Music Awards performance in general, and her claiming of the word ‘feminist’ in particular…” (Weidhase, 2015, p. 128). In this case, Beyoncé is sexualizing feminism and making it a mass media phenomena to the point where it’s questioned whether or not she herself, is in fact a feminist. Feminism has more of an impact and of relevance because in society, it is said that, “sex sells” and femininity can come from sexualization and self-empowerment. Men, on the other hand, do not have this conception of sexualization and publicly glamorizing it. To feel sexy is to feel beautiful, a feeling which men do not nearly discuss as much, simply because society associates these characteristics only with women.
In “The Advertising Connection,” by Carolyn Kitch, the text argues the use of female sexuality throughout advertisements once in the media. To sell products and entice people, advertisement companies put women on the covers to create a more sexual appeal. For example, in a hosiery ad, there’s a woman pictured in hose, heels, a scandalous outfit, all while looking down with her dress up in the air. The reason why this woman looked the way that she did in the ad was to attract viewers to the product by gaining attention through sex. Kitch clarifies that the text below the advertisement, “Trim ankles, demurely alluring. How they fascinate, captivate…” (Kitch, 2009, p. 166). was to simply remind the reader of the sexual appeal. Much like Beyoncé’s sexualizing feminism in the media, it has stayed true in the 1990s as well through advertisements. When observing this reading it’s evident that even in the past, women have been the outlet of media and entertain society through sexuality. Though in these advertisements, some do highlight men and their masculine features, they more so focus on women and their feminine features. This suggests that yes, masculinity has been prominent in the media, but not to the extent that femininity has.
Throughout the years, the Star Wars movies have entertained fans with the concept of male heroes and villains fighting to save the universe. Luke Skywalker, a well-known protagonist and heroic figure, and other popular male characters seemed to have been downplayed in the recent prequel, The Last Jedi. With there being controversy dealing with masculinity and femininity, it can be assumed that masculinity within this film is less delivered, while femininity is the new focus. In The Last Jedi, it’s safe to say that the amount of strong female roles overlook the male roles. For example, the character Rey tries to persuade Luke to join the Resistance again. Rey also strives to bring Kylo Ren back from the dark side. In the beginning of the movie, film spectators see a female who sacrifices herself to destroy a weapon that could have potentially caused wide mass destruction. Rose, another strong character becomes a hero by the end of the movie. These female leads embodying strength and power is downplaying the masculinity that once existed in the past Star Wars Films. Femininity is becoming more prevalent in popular culture media.
The idea masculinity is not as widespread and discussed than femininity can be proven throughout the readings and film. Whether masculinity was prominent in the past does not make up for the fact that femininity is the new social construct. Through certain discourses, iconic celebrities, advertisements and admired films, it is concluded that masculinity, being just as problematic as femininity is not as equal in these examples, and in many others in our society today.
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