March 12, 2008

Radical Masculinity: A Discussion with Gauge

She's My Man- Scissor Sisters

In my last interview with Paul Baines, I ventured into the realm of masculinity as a construct. Moreover, Paul relayed how current masculine depictions and attitudes are self-destructive.

Today I want to showcase a more radical idea of masculinity. Gauge's blog, Radical Masculinity, helped me further understand the concept of alternative masculinity(ies) as well as how masculine privilege can be evoked/revoked in varying situations. So, with out further ado, here is part 2 of my masculinity interview trilogy.

Hercules and the Love Affair- Blind (Hercules Club Mix) featuring Antony Johnson on vocals

Radical Masculinity explores many issues in regards to the masculine identity and of male privilege. Can you explain in a little more detail the notion of alternative masculine identities and how male/masculine privilege interacts with them?

"Well, first of all, I like to think of sex and gender-based privilege as two separate things that tend to intersect to the point that they often seem to blur into each other. Many alternative masculine identities are held by people who aren't privileged on the basis of their sex.

It would be very blind to say that masculinity is ever not privileged, but, the interaction between society and alternative masculinities often views those masculinities as invisible or illegitimate, and often oppresses the deviance from gender norms in such a way that the oppression faced for non-normative gender is tied up in possessing masculinity.

In general, non-normative genders greatly complicate discussions of privilege and oppression, so, it requires looking at both individual identities and specific locations, communities, and subcultures."

Do you feel as if normative identified males can benefit from alternative masculine discourses?

"Absolutely! I think that normative masculinity is very prescriptive. While feminism has opened things up a little, I think that a dialogue between people with alternative masculinities and people with normative masculinities can help people in both groups grow and resist unwanted social constraints on their identities."

Visibility Alert’s
main goal is to question (and highlight) typical pop culture representations and analyze who is actually receiving legitimizing power from dominant society. Do you feel as if alternative masculinities are represented in mainstream areas?

"Not all that much. We don't see much in the way of alternative masculinities for males who are assigned at birth men. For female assigned at birth people, we might see someone who is a little bit of a tomboy, but what masculinity she'll display has to be balanced out by her still being conventionally attractive and capable of performing mainstream femininity.

The majority of the time, for people who society says aren't masculine, they can do masculine things, as long as they themselves do not read as exclusively masculine.

FTM spectrum characters are pretty rare in fictional mainstream media. In documentaries and talk shows, they tend to always be very conventional, normative & narrative FTMs.

In the mainstream of queer media, you definitely have most of the characters that aren't just normative LGB folk in the background, or as minor characters, or doing Trans 101 (most of the time Max is on the L Word, for instance), or being held up as objects to be laughed at (how the Big Gay Sketch Show on LOGO treats trans people). So it seems that we're recreating the same sort of dynamic that the mainstream media does to queer people in our own little microcosm."

Transgenderism as spectacle in The Big Gay Sketch Show's Tranny 911

Any closing comments on alternative masculinities in relation to pop culture?

"I think it's pretty striking to me how pop culture will try to sweep away alternative gender identities. An isolated example is the video for the Scissor Sisters' video for “She's My Man” - a song that pretty clearly lyrically reads as being about a very masculine woman, yet the video has a very normative woman being the aggressor in a stylized fight at dinner. Beyond just the reinforcing of the equating of masculinity with violence, it eliminates what I – and it seems like a lot of other people I've talked to – read into the song.

Even in the queer mass media's depictions of LGBT people, the vast majority of depictions – and almost all the major ones – are of people who have simple, clear cut identities that fit very normative standards. I think as LGBT people have gained , we've mainstreamed our own depictions of ourselves."

For more radical insights, check out Gauge's wisdom at Radical Masculinity.

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