To what extent can it be claimed there is a 'crisis of masculinity'
In my essay my aim is to explore possibilities as to why there is a “crisis of masculinity”. I will be taking the views, from a black feminist perspective, similarly looking at the effects it has on black boys and men. My feelings and personal experiences, what has evolved for patriarchal society to feel that there is a “crisis”? I will be using John Maclnnes theory of The crisis of masculinity and Politics of Identity, Patricia Hill-Collins Sexual Politics and Black Women’s Relationship and Richard Majors Cool Pose; Black masculinity and sports, Angela Davis Women Race and Class, Bell Hooks Black Looks Race and Representation. This topic is interesting yet complex with so many branches, I hope that I will be able to explore this crisis without going to deep as I am very passionate about the word ‘masculinity’, is it just a change with feminism being part of this crisis I would sincerely like to believe that. ‘This is a mans world but it would be nothing, nothing without a woman’.
After reading Maclnnes, a ‘bad time to be a man’ I realised that there are a lot of issues in regards to men and how they are portrayed in the public sphere, for example media representations and that unlike females, we do not represent media representations that is so many men get it wrong when judging women, judging through representations of what they think. I have now realised that as women we a very much individualistic as we thrive to be different, but share a common ground weather we are black or white, where as men thrive to be there same to live up to the title as if they were heavy weight boxers, there can be only one champ the rest emulate whiles allowing the champ to become king.
Media and social construction has put men and boys in a tight and very ridged position ‘masculinity’ within this framework there is no room for flexibility, this is also true within ‘femininity’ we are also trapped, but as women we are able to brake free from this word that bonds our mouths and ties are hands, for example my father taught me from an early age stand up for yourself don’t let any body put you down for being female, never be afraid of men, never allow a man to verbally or physically disrespect you. But yet on the flip side, I wasn’t allowed outside to play my brother who was two years older was allowed to do whatever he wanted. I was told girls don’t do this and don’t do that. I felt angry and full of frustration to the point of questioning myself until the age of seventeen and became a feminist and set myself free of the bonds that tied my mouth and gave myself a voice, making me realise that a man can only see himself as a man if he has power and control over woman.
Men have not got the capacity or the know how, to re-evaluate their feelings and thoughts for example as boys they are told boys don’t cry, stop acting like a girl, be a soldier, mummy’s boy but yet it is okay to be a daddy’s girl. Boys grow up without ever learning self expression these are tools which you acquire as a child it is a part our development. Maclnnes states “it is true that there is now a small but vociferous men’s movement ready to argue that men are now the oppressed sex, it is also true that if it is a bad time to be a man, it is still, in almost every area of life, a worse time to be a women”. (pg 314 2005) Men will never be the oppressed sex if this is the case then they are oppressing themselves, men are the oppressors and always will be. He also claims that it is a worse time for women it cannot get any worse than it is already for black women Hill-Collins states “for black women the historical relationship with white men has been rejection, white men have exploited, objectified, and rejected African-American women” (pg 189 1991)
As black women we have never been seen as women in relation to how white women are viewed, it is only in the last eight years with singers such as Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and documentaries documenting “when black became beautiful” things are slowly changing in terms of media representations still having sexual connotations with stereotypes. Hooks states “representations of black female bodies in contemporary popular culture rarely subvert or critique images of black female sexuality which were part of the cultural apparatus of 19th century racism and which still shape perceptions today” (pg 62 1992) I feel that Maclnnes is refereeing to white women when he says ‘a worse time to be a women’ for white hegemonic society to survive you have to keep the white woman subordinate give her something to make her feel like she is in control and she wont cause a fuss. Better positions within the work force senior management, chief executive , associate directors, if you look closely at the jobs itself it is deemed female, Early Years and Education, organisations such as Charities, Childminding Associations, Sure Start etc. Hill-Collins states “sometimes I really feel more sorrier for the white women than I feel for ourselves because she has been caught up in this thing caught up in feeling very special, white women as a group, are subordinated through seduction, women of colour, as group through rejection” (pg 189 1991)
However this crisis maybe seen within black masculinity, in society he is not given any forms of power, his masculinity is seen through the big sporting companies for example Nike, Addidas, seeing the black man having physical strength which is then exploited. In the music industry in America there are some who reach the top Jay-Z who owns Roc-a-Fella Records, Dr Dre Death Row records Russell Simmons (Run MC) who use to own Deff Jam records, sold his company Phat Farm clothing, for $140 million with black music comes the gangster lifestyle which the British black man tries to emulate because of the glamour that is portrayed through media representation.
To obtain this glamorous lifestyle they become dealers selling crack, cocaine and heroine fast money fast life. They drive cars they see their black male superstars driving and boast amongst themselves of what they have, but yet they still living at home with their mothers, total dependence on her for food and shelter no place to call home, having four or more children by various women. On the streets he is a thug and proud of it; with all the money and designer clothes and diamonds (bling) brings hatred and jealousy amongst the syndicate. They steal from each other and cheat, in order to protect their drugs (food) they use the gun the ultimate masculine weapon, kill or be killed which the black man with no identity of who he is, understands it as power and control over the pussy holes who robbed him this is what the media describes as black on black crime. Maclnnes states “it is common to encounter the argument that because of their detachment from (what we imagine ought to be) their true feelings, men are a danger to others, the planet and ultimately themselves” (pg 323 2005)
The majority of black men living in England have never known their fathers. The fathers that are around are either drug dealers or weren’t bothered in the up bringing of their sons. White patriarchy allows the black man to destroy himself and his family by allowing him to disengage with draw all forms of responsibility. Davis states “men often do not have real homes; they move about from one household where they kinship or sexual ties to another They live in flop houses and rooming houses; and spend their time in institutions. They are not household members in the only “homes” they have – the homes of their mothers and their girlfriends” (pg 14 1986) Many black men are still living in mental slavery today. It is a form of oppression which has been ingrained through generations of oppression. Black men will never be truly accepted by white patriarchal society; they don’t realise this yet black women do, for example there are more black women dating white men than ever before.
There is huge crisis amongst black masculinity; black men have taken it to the level of destruction within their own group. .They form groups such as The Nation of Islam undermining black woman, rejecting anything positive about the black woman, because in society she is heard and he is just seen, through violence and hatred against society (white patriarchy) and himself. Just like the failure of the Black Panther movement, as it failed to address the hidden reasons as to why instead they used the ultimate weapon the gun. Hooks states “since the 1960s black power movement had worked overtime to let sisters know that they should assume a subordinate role to lay the ground work for an emergent black patriarchy that would elevate the status of black males, women’s liberation movement has been seen as a threat” (pg 101 1992)
Ultimately it is about society and how they are depicted, masculinity thrives off the views of society if it is negative you will get a negative response (black men Muslim men) if it positive then it can only be good in the eyes of white patriarchy. Negative images have long lasting affect on the young up and coming black man. At school he is not represented teachers not understanding his culture and behaviour, Major states “faced with lack of resources, facilities, services, goods, information and jobs, black males who live in poor black communities have taken a previously white-dominated activity and constructed it as an arena in which they find accessible recreation, entertainment, stimulation, and opportunities for self expression and creativity”. (pg 213 2005)
For the European black man his sport is football this is where he feels acceptance where he is paid in full, for example Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, Sole Campbell, Ledley King Samuel Eto and the greatest of all Pele fortunate for me I was able to see Pele play once in my life time seventies world cup. Majors states “In basketball, Julius ‘Dr J’ Erving, Darryl Dawkins, Michael Jordan, and other black players have been known for their expressiveness as well as considerable skills”. (pg 212 2005) this can be also said for black footballers they have flare finesse power and control of the ball. When the ball connects with the back of the net the euphoria that engulfs them is expressed through dance move or a summersault, African players are very expressive and like to entertain the crowd, Majors goes on to say “Moreover, the demonstration of cool pose in sports enables black males to accentuate or display themselves (i.e., ‘here I am, world, watch me, see me, hear me, I’m alive’) (pg 215 2005) For the few black men that are able to brake out of poverty into an arena where they have ambition and status, showing young black boys that they too can achieve if they stay in school work hard and stay away from crime. A sport where they can succeed unlike America it is very difficult almost impossible for British black men to be acknowledged in the corporate world of football, they never even make it to management they just play the game. Most of the football players come from communities were there is poverty and deprivation.
Similarly I feel within hegemonic society not so much a crisis but rather I view it as change, within gender roles which is not being accepted by white-middle class males but rather white-middle class women. Entering the board rooms and taking control making decisions and implementing at an executive level. White patriarchy fears the equality of homosexuals, black men and ethnic minority men, so they choose who to accept and who to oppress. It is easier to oppress the black man than it is to reject a white homosexual, after all he still a white man. He still represents male masculinity in a different form, through media representation you see this change adverts are more accepting for example the new D&G advert shows to men kissing at the end of the ad which is advertising the latest watch the message is TIME My personal believe is that we all have a male and female within, tapping into your feminine side or masculine side can at times be problematic within society because of the social constrains that some cannot break from, restricted in their gender roles feeling frustrated with themselves and society
In conclusion to my essay I have highlighted some of the reasons as to the extent of this crisis, as I explained previously I feel it is more of a change within white patriarchal society, on the other hand there is a crisis within black masculinity. With rejection of a race, lack of identity and education, dysfunction and cultural challenges can only bring destruction from within. How long can white patriarchy dominate and control? By allowing the oppressed groups just enough, to make them believe that they are ‘special’. In addition black women are disheartened, with the situations that black men put themselves in, black women are looking for a more secure relationship. Black men have perpetuated hegemonic masculinity in the ways in which they treat black women and their black sons, a crisis which has led to self destruction. Hooks states “Most black men remain in a state of denial, refusing to acknowledge the pain in their live state is caused by sexist thinking and patriarchal, phallocentric violence that is only expressed by male domination over women but also by internecine conflict amongst black men.” (Pg 102 1992) Through feminism black and white women have been able to break the norms of what is ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ through empowerment and historical knowledge, black women have always been feminists from the since the days of Sojourner Truth this is what masculinity fears feminism. The change is and crisis is within masculinity. It needs to be redefined and not just given to men, accepting that masculinity does not make a man, but rather the qualities of an individual.
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