Masculinity

After watching the video, I feel that I understand in a better way what we talked about in last weeks class, than men are more heavily sanctioned when they are not considered masculine enough. As this video point out, Barack Obama and 50 Cent (aka Curtis) embodies two different kinds of masculinities, and when Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, is being accused and doubted as a leader and a man, when his masculinity is questioned in regards to how great of a leader or president he will be, that’s when it really hit me – no on is exempt from being questioned or examined when it comes to being masculine or a “real man”.

In the video, two of our time’s most powerful black men, Obama and 50 Cent, are compared in terms of their masculinity. The view on masculinity is depended on the culture and time, and so in this case we’re talking about black men in the 2000’s century, where the overwhelming number of pictures, videos, songs etc shows us how we are all supposed to be, where the media set examples and creates role-models and ideals for us. The mainstream media is bombarding us with pictures, videos and songs depicting black men as gangsters, as dangerous, wearing baggy clothes and caps heavy chains – this is the stereotypical black man I grew up with, seeing it on my television screen and in the music videos of the 90’s – a man like 50 Cent. In this community, the masculinity of a man was measured by for example how many women he’s had, how many children he has, how many time’s his been in jail. He is tough, he is strong, he is aggressive and he is dangerous. President Obama however, is a different kind of black man (he is a family man, staying true to his wife, who is herself very strong, smart and competent, he doesn’t support war or violence and he hasn’t been in jail or in prison) and this is where the video got interesting because it pointed out that some black men don’t think that Obama has that masculinity needed for a black man and thus, doesn’t have what it takes to represent blacks and be a good leader. Of course, this is due to him being brought up in a completely different manner than 50 Cent and many others in that kind of black community. So, Obama has the style and manners that perhaps isn’t considered masculine enough in all black communities, and maybe not even among men in general, but what I’ve come to understand is that you can’t please everyone – there’s not even uniformity of masculinity within the black community, so how is one supposed to be able to be man enough according to the standards/norms/rules/conventions in every community/society/culture?! It’s impossible!

The mainstream media has generally portrayed the masculine man as a fit man with muscles, typically broad shoulders and a six pack; wearing fitted clothes, jeans or a suit; holding a high ranking position or generating high respect within his community; he is not one to talk about his feelings; he likes to hang out with his equally manly friends, talk about sports, drink beer and women of course, the masculine man in mainstream media is heterosexual! Any man who doesn’t seem to follow these conventions appears weak either in mind, soul and/or body, and being weak is the worst thing for a man, according to the notions of mainstream media. When it comes to black masculinity, it gets perhaps even more narrow, because there seem to be even less playroom for black men to be masculine in the mainstream media, and those differ a bit from the general masculinity as seen in media. Black men in film and TV, in my own view, often fall into two categories; the Barack Obama type and the 50 Cent type. The Obama black man has a high position, bossing over others, wears suits etc – or he is the kind side-kick type – and he interacts mostly with white people. The 50 Cent types is a gangster from top to toe, he is dangerous and often violent or threatening, some sort of criminal or someone holding a low position within the community, and he interacts mostly with others like him. This type is the one I see the most often, and the one that I think has had the most effect on the me and my view on black men, but I can’t speak for everyone. However, I do think that this negative stereotypical way for depicting a black man, as a thug, gangster, violent, dangerous, criminal, uneducated etc has something to do with the fact that our society is a white patriarchy, and so by constantly portraying black men in this manner, furthers strengthens white men’s power and domination – to maintain the status quo. Basically, creating stereotypes that portrays women as weak, helpless and vulnerable and black men as “bad” is all very important, because otherwise white men wouldn’t be able to keep their dominant power in society… I am super happy that Obama has broken down some of the boundaries for black men, showing that these stereotypical negative portrayal is just that, a stereotype, it’s a negative and exaggerated view, and not a generalization of the group as a whole – but then again, there are men like 50 Cent out there who support this stereotype…

(Originally posted on 2014/11/02 for Melanie Klein’s class blog “Women and Popular Culture”)

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