Thursday, January 26, 2012

the sex-gender system and representing masculinity

The representation of men in the media is an interesting topic we have not discussed in detail yet.  Gill begins to discuss it, but I think it needs to be unfolded a bit more.  I was particularly interested in her discussion of how masculinity is portrayed and the effect it has on society along with Van Zoonen's outline of the sex-gender system theory.  Gill briefly discusses hegemonic masculinity and the idea that masculinity does not have a single meaning and some forms of masculinity are more powerful than others.    Men strive to be, "young, married, white, urban, heterosexual, Protestant (. . .)" and feel unworthy if  they do not live up to these expectations.  But regardless of whether or not men fit into this desirable masculinity they still "benefit from the 'patriarchal dividend' (Gill, 31).  I thought of particular tv shows that show a man that may not live up to the desired masculinity and questioned whether or not his status in society still put him at an advantage.
Phil from Modern Family immediately came to mind.  He is portrayed as this sort of clueless guy who can never really do the 'manly' things around the house.  His wife and family always role their eyes at him and do not really respect him as a leader in the household.  Yet he is the breadwinner of the household.  He is apparently really good at selling real estate, a very social job, but seems to show nothing but socially awkward qualities around his family.
There are many other male characters on tv now that display the 'unmanly' man.  Like Chris from Up All Night, the successful lawyer who chooses to stay at home.  Or the clueless Andy on Parks and Recreation.  I appreciate the media opening society's eyes to a new form of man and masculinity, but the portrayal is unreal in many ways.  These men are still successful in their professions and somehow manage to accomplish out of the ordinary things.  When we see the equivalent portrayal of a woman, such as Cerie from 30 Rock, she does not have any other dynamics to her character besides, quite frankly being dumb.  She would not be good at her job, she would never surprise anyone with successful qualities.
I then thought of Van Zoonen's explanation of Gail Rubin's 'sex-gender system'.  Feminine and masculine qualities are assigned to individuals based on their sex, and no matter what other qualities they posses, they will still always be viewed as masculine or feminine.  These qualities are also a "constant" and "consistent" part of "human identity" (Van Zoonen, 32).
No matter what portrayals of masculinity and femininity we see portrayed on tv, even if they are out of the ordinary, men are still benefitting and women are still suffering.

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