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Race, Disability and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

11 Aug

It should not need to take the death of yet another unarmed African American man at the hands of law enforcement to remind us that looking at the intersections of race and masculinity is crucially important. Here at Masculinities 101, we have talked about the challenges face by young men of color and the flaws with policies supposedly designed for them.

Photo by Julianne Hing/Colorlines

The great folks at Colorlines are currently running an extensive, brilliant and insightful series on Black Men: Life Cycles of Inequity. Today’s post addresses the issue of implicit biases in schools. By Julianne Hing, first published at Colorlines May 13 2014.

Enikia Ford-Morthel speaks of Amo (a pseudonym) with the fondness of an auntie talking about a beloved nephew. She recalls watching Amo at his fifth-grade graduation from Cox Academy in Oakland two years ago. The memory of him walking across the stage still fills her with emotion. “He looked so cute in his little white suit, with his jewelry on,” Ford-Morthel says of his graduation. “I just cried.”

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Crafting heroes and villains: the making and ‘unbreaking’ of men in popular culture

23 Jun
'Superman Dies'

‘Superman Dies’

Sometime last week I got to thinking about Superman. It was actually a Facebook post of the image included here that peaked my interest (it’s been tweaked courtesy of a friend). I thought to myself, here you have this comic book character who’s not only superhuman he’s super(hetero)masculine. He possesses otherworldly strength and mental abilities but, just to keep things in perspective, he has that one weakness; he’s a he who happens to be white, straight, good looking and dashing (even in tights); he’s iconic; and he’s all-American. I‘d say that Superman is the superhero of all superheroes and, technically, he’s physically disabled. Think about it, he was this non-normative ‘super other’ forced to conceal his identity behind an unassuming, awkward and, let’s face it, emasculated figure of a man. Yes, his identity had to be hidden so that he could get on with his job of protecting the planet but also because of the haters and naysayers, the people so committed to the status quo that their own discomfort with the unfamiliar and unknown is perceived as a threat to the livelihood of all humankind. A little dramatic, yes, but not so far off. In real life people tend to shy away from difference and change because it’s often beyond control. It doesn’t help that doomsday imagery of dystopic futures floods the news media and gets into our heads. Enter the superhero/villain narrative, it’s good versus evil at it’s best and it helps us cope. An interesting interpretation of this narrative, according to my husband, is M. Night Shyamalan’s film Unbreakable. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen the film so I had no idea it was written as a superhero/villain story. It also came as a surprise to find out it was an ‘origin’ story with more of an interest in the mundane, human aspects of its characters.

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Desiring an Exotic June Cleaver: Race in the Commercialized Romance Tour Industry

4 Apr

The commercialized romance tour industry provides American men interested in meeting a foreign bride with the network and connections to make this ‘dream’ a reality. American men involved in this industry desire a foreign woman who possesses traits associated with white femininity from the 1950’s. The image of this femininity is captured in the television character of June Cleaver, as she exemplifies the stereotype of 1950’s suburban, middle-class femininity. Her work is the work of the home, and she is always dressed in a feminine manner, cooking dinner in her pearls and high heels. White, middle class women are no longer at the top of the desire hierarchy for a certain section of American men, since they are no longer feminine enough and have become too ‘masculinized’ by feminist ideas of gender equality. These men are seeking women that still possess the stereotypical 1950’s idealized ‘traditional’ white, middle class femininity, and the emotional labor ‘good’ wives provided men back then (beyond just housework). These American men construct foreign women from certain geographic regions (Eastern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia) as ‘exotic’ women that still possess this nostalgic vision of 1950’s femininity that they desire. Latin American, as well Eastern European and Southeast Asian women, are naturalized in the romance tour market as having the proper cultural grooming that has made them more traditional, feminine, docile and better mothers (Schaeffer-Grabiel 2006).

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Obama’s Initiative for Young Men of Color & the Rhetoric of Individual Responsibility

26 Mar

[By Pete Souza (White House Flickr Account) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

A few weeks ago, President Obama announced a new initiative designed to increase opportunities for young Black and Latino men. Acknowledging that Black and Latino men lag behind other groups in educational achievement and employment, while outnumbering white men in jails and prisons, at first glance, the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper” campaign seems like a much needed and timely project. However, when examining Obama’s rhetoric more closely, the initiative falls short of addressing the root causes and structural reasons for racial disparities in the US and instead perpetuates a neoliberal language of individual responsibility.

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Accountability and Men’s Role in Preventing Violence against Women

10 Mar
Source: Author's personal photo

Source: Author’s personal photo

BY NATASCHA YOGACHANDRA

On February 8th, I had the privilege of attending an event at the Brooklyn Museum entitled Mother Tongue: Monologues for Truth Bearing Women, For Emerging Songs and Other Keepers of the Flame. The three-hour-long performance brought together artists, activists and writers to engage in a conversation about violence against women in black communities. Nearly a dozen speakers shared stories of rape and abuse to an audience of a few hundred. They called out to their brothers in the room—those men who work to engage other men in eliminating gender violence. They didn’t wipe their tears but let them fall. The wrinkles in their palms deepened and darkened as they clenched their fists. They smiled wildly after each story of survival. Continue reading

Stereotypically ‘American’ Masculinities in the Commercial Romance Tour Industry

3 Mar

Source: Paul Bird Uploaded by MyCanon (Brad Pitt) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The ‘mail order bride’ industry serves American men who are interested in finding foreign wives. International introduction agencies combine internet dating with romantic tours to foreign locales that introduce men to a number of women at a time. Many women in Ukraine, Colombia and the Philippines define desirable masculinities in terms of whiteness, transnational mobility and financial stability. Jessie, a romance tour interpreter in Colombia, explains this desire, “Most of them want a white man. Like I would say all the girls want a Brad Pitt. That’s not going to happen.” Jessie argues that most women in Colombia desire ‘Brad Pitt’, which is essentially code for a tall, white man with blue eyes and blonde hair. Brad Pitt is also relatively young, considered to be good looking and is obviously a member of the transnationally mobile elite (this is not the case for most of the American male tour participants, who tend to be older, etc.).

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