The widespread purge of modern artistic expression that occurred upon Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933 was motivated by fear. The Nazi regime was determined to use culture to control the people and they chose to promote a conservative, unadulterated classical Greek and Roman aesthetic within the Reich. Avant garde artistic movements such as impressionism, surrealism and cubism were rejected, and art inspired by these movements was deemed degenerate and was to be purged by the Reich Culture Chamber. For example, Otto Dix was labeled a degenerate artist and had his position at the Kunstakademie in Dresden terminated because of his anti-war advocacy. Perhaps his most famous painting, War Cripples, depicting German World War One veteran amputees, was displayed by the regime at the Degenerate Art Museum in Dresden and was later destroyed by the Nazis. The irony is that Dix actually volunteered for and fought for Germany in the war, and was himself almost fatally wounded in combat. Dix drew deep inspiration from war and the trauma inflicted by war on men’s bodies and minds.
Two days ago I read an interesting post at Crip Confessions. The post was titled “But Won’t You be Ashamed? or Cripping Pasties”. A little background is needed. The author is going to the 2016 AVN Expo and Awards in Las Vegas. Essentially she is attending the “Oscars of Porn”. What struck me as thought provoking was the following paragraph:
Much talk of clothes and the like have provoked side conversations coming up, including one that included the title query. I have been very open about my plan to wear pasties and frolic. I explained this to an acquaintance, and one of their first questions to me was “Won’t you be ashamed?” They were baffled I would have the audacity to wear pasties generally, and especially among porn stars – who include those with medically sculpted bodies toward social beauty, rather than away like my medically enhanced body.
The other day I had a friend over for dinner. Seeing as my 30th birthday is fast approaching (5 more days, what debauchery can I do while still under the guise of my 20s?) he brought over a cheeky birthday card (quite literally, a guy with nice bum cheeks on the front). It’s awesome that all my friends are so accepting of my delicious dirtiness – I am honoured to be THAT friend…HAHAHAHAHAHA! After we had laughed at it, he asked me where he should put it. He wanted to leave it out, but didn’t want me to ‘get in trouble’ with my attendants. We both reasoned that I am an adult, and should be able to do what I want. While this is true, I couldn’t help feeling awkward about it when it came to my attendants.
Finding the ‘Dude’ in My Disability: How being both Queer and Crippled has Re-constructed my Maleness and Masculinity20 Oct
Everybody thinks they know what it means to be a man. We all think we know that being a man means being strong, powerful and having an unforgiving sensuality that just won’t quit. We all know that being a man means you are the provider, the breadwinner, and you are self-reliant and sufficient, right? (I mean, c’mon, hasn’t every action/romantic comedy male lead been written this way for the past 50 years? Also, if I were to see a man like that in real-life, I would automatically fall to my knees. Do with that image what you like.) Imagine that, try as hard as you might, you were unable to meet the male milestones? How then would this shape who you are, and who everyone else thinks you should be?
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.
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.”
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.
We live in visually hegemonic times. Everything about who we are and what we do is poured into an image. A look or a lifestyle is constructed and given a distinct yet recognizable aesthetic language and practice all its own. Gender ideals are heavily produced and circulated through visual imagery. Even though such images pull meaning from a variety of popular (forward thinking?) discourses, gender in the old fashioned sense persists: women are generally constructed as bodies and men constructed as minds, and so the story goes. The presence of women in mainstream visual culture as bodies to be scrutinized and desired has been disproportionate to men, but this is changing. By far the most visible account of masculinity is unemotional, self-determined, willfully independent and, above all, performance-driven. Sound familiar? In theory, the visual realm is a space where identity is more easily contestable and the either/or ties that bind categories of identification are rendered diminishable. Images allow us to challenge and re-imagine the universal logic associated with mainstream norms and beliefs in ways that pure text cannot. At the same time, they make it possible to disseminate this logic in a given form more widely. Mainstream media and culture do tend to favor a very limited view of many things, especially gender. And we, as an audience, tend to be easily persuaded by what we see, especially when it’s all around us. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here, I realize, but what if visual culture is breathing new life into the age-old exemplars of masculinity?
Beer commercials aren’t typically known for their deep and meaningful messages, but a recent Guinness commercial has taken a different approach. In sum, it features a group of fit, happy-looking men in wheelchairs playing basketball. Toward the end of the ad, all but one of them stand up out of their wheelchairs before they all head to the pub to share a pint. This all takes place against the backdrop of sentimental music and inspirational narrative about dedication, loyalty, and friendship, concluding tagline: ‘made of more’. A number of online media outlets have written positive appraisals of the ad describing it as ”a touching sensation’ (MSN Money) that will ‘make your heart melt (HuffPost); ‘give you goosebumps’ (USA Today Sports); and ‘make you tear up’ (IndyStar). One outlet in particular, Business Insider, suggests that Guinness stands out from the competition by promoting a brand of masculinity that ‘breaks the industry stereotype’. Most beer advertising tends to depict men as irresponsible juveniles with only hot chicks and cold beer on the brain or as meat heads jocks with only hot chicks and cold beer on the brain. Guinness, on the other hand, has crafted a message that suggests that beer drinking sports-men can be sensitive and strong at the same time. This advertising approach works for Guinness in-part because of it having a reputation as a drink of the people and one that hails to make you stronger (see early ‘Guinness for Strength’ ads). Continue reading