Tag Archives: rape culture

Masculinity and Mass Shootings in the US

24 Jul

Originally posted at Feminist Reflections

By Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh

Following the recent mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th, 2015–a racially motivated act of domestic terrorism–President Barack Obama delivered a sobering address to the American people. With a heavy heart, President Obama spoke the day following the attack, stating:

At some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing that politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge. (here)

President Obama was primarily referring to gun control in the portion of his speech addressing the cause of attacks like this. Not all mass shootings are racially motivated, and not all qualify as “terrorist” attacks—though Charleston certainly qualifies.  And the mass shooting that occurred a just a month later in Chattanooga, Tennessee by a Kuwati-born American citizen was quickly labeled an act of domestic terrorism. But, President Obama makes an important point here: mass shootings are a distinctly American problem. This type of rampage violence happens more in the United States of America than anywhere else (see here for a thorough analysis of international comparisons). And gun control is a significant part of the problem. But, gun control is only a partial explanation for mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are also almost universally committed by men.  So, this is not just an American problem; it’s a problem related to American masculinity and to the ways American men use guns.  But asking whether “guns” or “masculinity” is more of the problem misses the central point that separating the two might not be as simple as it sounds.  And, as Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan note in the Mother Jones Guide to Mass Shootings in America, the problem is getting worse. Continue reading

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Finding Male-Oriented Solutions To The Problem Of Campus Rape And Sexual Assault

2 Feb

Our very own Cliff Cleek, PhD student at Stony Brook University and Program Director at the Center for the Study of Men & Masculinities, recently spoke on Wisconsin Public Radio about how to engage men in fighting sexual assault on college campuses.

You can listen to the interview here.

The Rape Culture Problem at UVA

1 Dec

University-of-Virginia-RotundaIf you haven’t read the Rolling Stone article entitled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” do so. The story outlines the horrifying gang rape of a freshman, Jackie, at the University of Virginia in 2012 and the response of the University following her rape. It’s a heartbreaking, yet necessary read, and points out some major flaws in how universities in the United States handle rape and sexual assault.

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Stop the Victim Blame. #HelpFindHannahGraham

29 Sep

enhanced-buzz-5927-1411599764-13Hannah Graham, a second-year attending the University of Virginia, went missing in the early hours of September 13, 2014. She is 5 feet, 11 inches tall with a slender build, blue eyes, light brown hair, and fair skin. Hannah Graham has been missing for 16 days. She was last seen on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. There is a lot of victim blame being thrown around.

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“don’t invent me” or “my dick is terrifying!”: Constructing the Male homunculus

4 Aug

 

thinker

 

  reflections, lessons, thoughts, frustrations, and ramblings as after-effects of the Steubenville Rape swirl

we’ve all heard about it. the “Steubenville Rape Scandal“, as it has been called (among other things), was/is everywhere. everyone was/is talking about it. and it should be talked about. but we wonder how rape should be discussed, characterized, disseminated. it seems a lot of people are unhappy about the type of attention the incident received, for a number of reasons. but the media lens seldom focuses on the truly hidden places. what should be talked about? how should it be talked about? when, why, and where should it be talked about? it’s tricky. we don’t have all the answers to all of these questions. we have some good theories and the beginnings of answers to them, sure – but definitive answers? no. not really. Continue reading

Pick-Up Artists & Anti-Pick-Up Artists: Promises of Sexist Gender Ideologies Denied

2 Jul

[“White Ribbon”. Source: MesserWoland [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

In response to the horrific murders at UC Santa Barbara in late May, many commentators have pointed out the perpetrator’s connection to so-called Anti-Pickup Artist online communities and to the misogynist and racist motivations of the shooting. Whereas the Pick-Up Artist fad has received some media attention and academic study in the past, the so-called Anti-Pick-Up artist scene has received much less attention – with notable exceptions well worth reading – and has probably been completely off the radar even for those of us studying gender. Even though the name suggests an oppositional stance on the idea of PickUp artistry, in reality, these Anti-Pick-Up Artists share in the very same gender ideology as those being drawn to Pick-Up Artist message boards and websites. Add in the frustration with the ineffectiveness of the Pick-Up Artists’ tips and strategies, and the Anti-Pick-Up Artist scene reveals itself as promoting an equally – if not more – toxic gender ideology.

[This article first appeared at SociologyLens]

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Media Representation of Rape Victims

28 May
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Last month, the New York Times published an article about Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the controversy surrounding his award (Bogdanich 2014). Winston was accused of raping a freshman woman at Florida State University, and despite the accusation and the implications that go along with it, Winston was still awarded the premier honor in college football that not only recognizes athleticism, but character as well. After an overview of the case and a description of the poor response time from university and police officials, the article depicts the scene where the victim and her rapist met. Winston is referred to as “Mr. Winston”, while the young girl is described as “Mr. Winston’s accuser,” a 19-year-old girl, who could not legally buy alcohol, but was at the bar anyways, implying the young woman did something wrong because she was underage. Winston is described as, “A redshirt freshman quarterback, 6 feet 4 inches and 235 pounds, Mr. Winston had been a prize recruit, well-known in football circles but not yet a widely recognizable name.” She, on the other-hand, isn’t offered the same kind of praise, despite accusing “Mr. Winston” of rape. The young victim is merely described as a caricature of a college-aged drinker who got into trouble, or worse got what she deserved, because she was at the bar.

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Masculinity Without Men: The Sontarans and Relational Gender in “Doctor Who”

30 Apr

[F]or male-dominated society, man is the founding principle and woman the excluded opposite of this; and as long as such a distinction is tightly held in place the whole system can function effectively. […] Woman is not just an other in the sense of something beyond his ken, but an other intimately related to him as the image of what he is not, and therefore as an essential reminder of what he is. Man therefore needs this other even as he spurns it, is constrained to give a positive identity to what he regards as a no-thing. Not only is his own being parasitically dependent upon the woman, and upon the act of excluding and subordinating her, but one reason why such exclusion is necessary is because she may not be quite so other after all. Perhaps she stands as a sign of something in man himself which he needs to repress, expel beyond his own being, relegate a securely alien region beyond his own definitive limits. Perhaps what is outside is also somehow inside, what is alien also intimate–so that man needs to police the absolute frontier between the two realms as vigilantly as he does just because it may always be transgressed, has always been transgressed already, and is much less absolute than it appears.

– Terry Eagleton on deconstruction, in Literary Theory: An Introduction

Traditionally, one of the functions of the science-fiction/fantasy genre (or genres, if you prefer) has been to make the familiar strange: to give readers a new perspective on our own world by reconfiguring it. To that end, this post concerns the Sontarans, an alien species from the long-running British sci-fi television series Doctor Who. If you’re not familiar with Doctor Who, allow me to be the first to say: hello, and welcome to the internet. Doctor Who chronicles the episodic journeys of a time-traveling alien named The Doctor. Being  a sci-fi show with a very loose sense of continuity, it depicts a wide variety of fantastical planets and cultures, usually to allegorical effect. Case in point, the Sontarans, an aggressive, militaristic species of vaguely potato-shaped humanoids.

The Doctor refers to the Sontarans as “the greatest soldiers in the galaxy,” and he ought to know, having seen most of it. Having engaged in a war with another alien race known as the Rutan for some fifty-thousand years, theirs is an unsurprisingly martial culture that valorizes duty above all else. To some degree, we’ve seen their like in our own history. The Sontarans glorify not only killing, but dying in violence; they find acts of pity or compassion to be shameful; they fear being out-bred by their enemies and place great emphasis on controlling the technologies of reproduction; they consistently find foreign cultures to be contemptible and incomprehensible. In short, they seem to embody a weaponized, hierarchical form of masculinity often associated with warlords, military dictatorships, and totalitarian states.

What problematizes the perceived masculinity of the Sontarans, or any gender distinctions we might care to make, is that their species lacks the sexual dimorphism we’ve come to expect from intelligent species. They simply do not have sex, either as category or activity. Lacking the time or inclination for any kind of civilian life, and constantly in need of new cannon fodder, the Sontarans reproduce via cloning, in specialized hatcheries aboard warships or on suitable planets. On that basis, to what extent does it still make sense to refer to their culture as masculine? Can masculinity exist independently of the binary Eagleton detailed above, with neither the feminine (as attribute) or women (as entity)?

Perhaps a better question would be whether the binary is flexible enough to accommodate gendering an asexual species. While Eagleton describes this application of masculinity as being believed to have objective existence and absolute value, in practice, the only truly necessary quality it possesses is that of not being feminine (or, perhaps more accurately, being not-feminine). A man becomes masculine, so to speak, by standing next to someone more feminine than himself.

Joanna Bourke, writing in Rape: sex, violence, history, describes a number of scenarios in which this relational masculinity is asserted through violence, most commonly sexual in nature. This violence is highly contextual, and always bound up with identity. Among the more prominent of those identities is that of the soldier. Historically, the association is warfare with rape is so strong that it’s become conventional wisdom: “Women are set outside of culture, becoming merely the ‘bounty’ of war.” Gang rape, in particular, is uniquely common on the battlefield, in rituals of bonding and desensitization. Even the dead are frequent targets of sexual degradation.

The targets vary considerably–female and male, adult and child, living and dead–but they share an assertion of dominance through violence and humiliation that is specifically sexual in nature. What Bourke implies but never actually argues is that the assertion that gender precedes sex, that being a woman is one element, but by no means a deterministic one, of femininity. In the act of rape, the gender binary defines the rapist as masculine and the victim as feminine not because the former is a man and the latter a woman, but because that’s simply what “masculine” and “feminine” ultimately mean.

What, praytell, does this have to do with the Sontarans?

Despite their lack of concern about their own gender (or lack thereof), the Sontarans do find time to engage in old-fashioned misogyny. “Words are the weapon of womenfolk,” says one in response to the mocking of a doomed, disposable redshirt. “I must find you unfit.” Elsewhere, they express disgust with sexual reproduction itself. To a Sontaran, any sexually reproducing species is embarrassingly feminine; even their soldiers literally come out of women. In the absence of such women, the Sontarans have displaced the antipathy they might have shown towards women with an antipathy toward every other civilization they encounter: for all things not-Sontaran. As a result, this violent conquest is itself constitutive of existence and value as a Sontaran. Other species exist to be crushed; the Sontarans exist to crush them.

The kind of systemic, imperialist violence embraced by the militarized masculinity we see in the Sontarans is inherently gendered, even when you take sex out of the equation. When we learn from the Sontarans is that our ideas about sex, violence, power, and gender are so deeply intertwined that we can’t even fully imagine them being separate. In fantasy, we have an opportunity reality does not offer: to see the various elements of the social imaginary out of context, to understand the part by obscuring the whole.

Peter Rauch is an ex-academic looking for his next thing. He writes about media, philosophy, and gender issues at Undisciplined, and writes shorter things as @Wordbeast.

Convergence of Masculinities in “Gamer” Culture

19 Mar

Presenting at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2013, Microsoft unveiled Killer Instinct to the press, a reboot of a popular franchise from the 1990s and a high-profile release for their upcoming console. To demonstrate the game, Microsoft brought out two employees–one male, one female–to play it onstage. In an incident that would quickly become infamous, the one-sided contest devolved into trash talking, culminating in a joke likening the woman’s defeat to rape. Microsoft quickly clarified that the on-stage banter was not scripted; the male employee, a producer on the game being demonstrated, had simply decided to joke about raping another employee during an official event, in front of hundreds in attendance and millions online.

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Shifting Hegemonic Masculinity? Gay Male Athletes and Discourses of Masculinity

5 Mar

By mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The NBA has its first openly gay player in Jason Collins, and the NFL will follow soon, as former college player Michael Sam is expected to join a team this summer.  This might indicate that we are seeing a radical shift in society’s stereotypes about gay men. At the same time, it remains to be seen, as Dave Zirin asks at The Nation whether gay male athletes like Sam can help shift our definitions of masculinity more broadly or whether they might paradoxically reinforce gender norms and notions of hyper-masculinity at the same time.

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