Masculinity in the Language and Images of
The Convention Center in Honolulu is located
near the USS Arizona Memorial, built to honor members of the military
who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor in 1941. This year, we will be
attending our annual convention and strolling on the beach while soldiers
from the United States are again at war, this time on the blistering
sands of the Middle East.
Division 51 of the American Psychological Association was not organized for the purpose of examining war and peace issues. Those concerns are more directly addressed by Division 19 (military psychology) and Division 48 (peace psychology). Nevertheless, the work of Division 51 members who address psychology of masculinity issues seems quite relevant. Masculinity ideologies do interact with theories and practices of war.
For millennia, one of the most powerful symbols of masculinity has been the soldier heading off to battle, fully equipped with the weapons he needs. The man who behaves well in this role—with patriotism, courage, and self-sacrifice—is regarded as truly masculine. A hero. A male adult that boys should emulate.
This phenomenon is so common, so universal,
that some have wondered whether men must inevitably go to war. Historically,
mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters have remained at home, singing
lullabies to children while waiting for their warrior men to return.
Even though women increasingly join the military, it is still primarily
men who are making most of the decisions about war.
One explanation is primarily biological, and asserts that male human nature is the most important explanatory factor. Engaging in conflict—whether for sport, vengeance, or protection—is an essentially male activity. These tendencies come with the genetic blueprint. The truly violent expressions in the human species, such as rape, revenge, and killing, are simply part of the male makeup from the beginning, and then become activated when conditions are favorable.
The evolutionary explanation for this reality, it is argued, is both inevitable and positive: men fight other men to protect their loved ones from harm, to provide land for their own families, and to gain the natural resources necessary to support their communities. War is a naturalistic expression of the biological principle that only the strongest survive.
A second approach is largely social, and argues that men strive to meet expectations that are constructed by their societies. Wars are important settings in which men can act in ways consistent with this socialization process. In effect, the military is a stage on which men can act like the men they have trained to become.
One implication is that certain constructions of masculinity may actually cause war. Though biological factors are involved, it is principally socialized behavior that defines masculinity in a given culture. Depending on particular social or political realities, the explanations for war can go far beyond the immediate demands of evolutionary survival, and include such causes as punishing distant dictators, advancing religious interests, protecting victimized peoples, encouraging the development of certain political systems, or preventing ethnic cleansings.
This constructionist view emphasizes the overlap between the “rules” of masculinity and the expectations of military life. Men are taught to be aggressive, dominant, and under emotional control. Joining the military is the quintessentially masculine step to take in this learning process. No other decision moves a young man from boyhood to manhood in quite the same way. Boys can discover how to prove themselves strong and capable in the military. In so doing, they honor those who sent them to battle.
A further implication of the constructionist view involves peacemaking. While making war is highly consistent with many socialized masculine expectations, making peace is not. Typically, a lasting and effective peace is not about a winner claiming victory and forcing acquiescence on the loser; it is about all sides discovering their shared needs and trying to define and meet joint expectations. It emphasizes conflict resolution and the building of enduring relationships of trust and good will. Peace-making takes a communal approach, looking for the best that can be achieved for all parties. These themes are not as prominent in masculine socialization. In fact, much of the conflict resolution literature has been criticized as being too individualized, too autonomous; in effect, too masculinized (see Lederach, 1997). From this vantage point, traditional masculine ideology doubles its impact on history: war is made more likely, and peace is made less likely.
Most members of our Division organize their
thinking and clinical work around a more constructivist approach to
these questions. For example, Ronald Levant (1996), a founder of our
Division and the next President of the American Psychological Association
has written, “…it is not the biological differences of sex
that make for masculinity and femininity. These notions are socially
constructed from bits and pieces of biological, psychological, and social
experience to serve particular purposes.”
From this perspective, military activity can be examined in the context of a North American masculinity. This version of masculinity has been the topic of theory development and active investigation for nearly 30 years, from Deborah David and Robert Brannon (1976) to Michael Addis and Jim Mahalik (2003). Examined over the years have been such tendencies as aggression, self-sacrifice, physical domination, and emotional control. These themes have long been associated with soldiers in combat, long before Iraq and Afghanistan. Long before Pearl Harbor. Even before Troy. For a very long time, war has been waged by men who were trained to be powerful, forceful, self-controlled, and dominant. These expectations continue in our culture. Members of our Division have offered empirical evidence that traditional masculine socialization teaches North American boys to place a high priority on such attributes as aggression (showing your “killer instinct”), domination (avoiding the “wimp” label), and victory (staying away from “losers”).
Boys learn important lessons about masculinity from the language and images of conflict and war. They learn early from comments made on the playground (“I bet Tyler can beat you up.”). They learn by watching a professional hockey player deliberately knock an opponent senseless by hitting him in the back of the head with his stick. They learn when they hear about a soccer Dad attacking a referee the next day in the referee’s office at the local junior high school. They learn when they see the adoration given to a man who exchanges an Arizona Cardinals uniform for an Army Rangers uniform, and then dies in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Boys learn when they see the President of the United States challenge certain people in Iraq and Afghanistan by saying, “There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on." (Loughlin, 2003). Boys listen when the President says he will “smoke ‘em out of their holes, “hunt ‘em down,” and that he wants them “dead or alive.” Vice President Chaney reinforces this perspective when he tells the Meet the Press host that the President is a “cowboy” who “cuts to the chase,” and that this approach is "exactly what the circumstances require." (Faludi, 2003).
Using this sort of language, of course, is not new. When I was in college, President Johnson exhorted soldiers in Vietnam to “Nail the coonskin to the wall” (Polman, 2004).
Using strongly aggressive language in connection with war is a trans-cultural tendency. In the conflict between Pakistan and India over Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani President Musharraf noted, ‘Unlike women, we are not wearing bangles.” To which then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee replied: “…in Punjab, were bangles are popular, people also wear ‘kada’ (steel bangles) along with other bangles. When the level of speech stoops to bangles, it is not a sign of manliness.” And then to make sure the point was clear, he added that “nobody should be under any illusion” about the strength of India to respond to Pakistan (Pak, 2001; Proxy War, 2001).
Whatever the metaphor used by national leaders—from coonskins to cowboys to steel bangles—boys learn in countless ways that military intimidation and domination demonstrate a strong masculine image that includes power, authority, and success.
Boys cannot fail to notice the connection between masculinity and the language of war when they hear Kevin Garnett, voted the Most Valuable Player of the National Basketball Association this year, talk about his preparation for Game 7 of the playoff series between his Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sacramento Kings:
It should not be surprising, then, that it becomes difficult for some male soldiers to shed this version of masculinity when they return home. For many men, any conflict (not just war) becomes a contest that must be won in order to maintain self-esteem as a man. I have seen this played out in my work with families near the Army base where I live. Wives and children ask for help in dealing with the aggressive and violent behavior of their veteran husbands and fathers, who neither admit mistakes nor tolerate disagreement.
One particular cost of war is often not discussed these days. I first noticed this pattern when working with college age young people whose fathers had fought in the Vietnam War. Some of those men had returned to their homes badly damaged by their experiences in the jungles of Southeast Asia. They were filled with rage and felt unable to address it in any constructive way. They avoided asking for help from those who could have made their lives easier. Many of these isolated men became fathers, and had little understanding of how their parenting could be affected by their experiences at war. Their rage was directed toward many targets, including their own children. Twenty years later, the college-aged children of these Vietnam veterans were struggling with the abuse they had received at the hands of their own war-damaged fathers. What has often been ignored is this: many of these college students have expressed deep fears about how their own parenting was going to be affected by the model of their aggressive fathers. Some decided not to have children at all. The effects of the Vietnam War did not end when the American helicopters left the rooftops of Saigon.
During the last 30 years, the consequences of traditional masculinity have become the subject of increasing academic interest. Members of our division have shown many ways in which traditional masculine themes create distress for men. Jim O’Neil’s Gender Role Conflict Scale (see O’Neil, Good, & Holmes, 1995) has now been used in more than 130 studies. The consequences have been measured in many areas (see Published, 2004), such as marital distress, substance abuse problems, reluctance to seek help, emotional inexpressiveness, depression, anxiety, prejudicial attitudes, coercive sexual behavior, shame, and many more. Other masculinity measures have developed similar literatures.
In the meantime, the connection between masculinity and war has not been broken. For many, joining the military is almost a rite of manhood. Boot camps are expected to turn boys into men. This very week, I listened to another father of a teenage boy in legal trouble say in my office, “My son needs to become a man; I think he needs to join the Marines and soon as he can.”
Young men who have refused to join the military have been heavily criticized. I can remember the epithets thrown at anti-war protesters during the Vietnam era. Their presumed lack of masculinity was often part of the diatribe, with references to their hair length, their lack of courage, their “Make Love, Not War” signs, or their physical weakness. Calls for negotiation or pulling out of the war were seen as signs of cowardice. In The Remasculinization of America, Susan Jeffords (1989) argued that some reviews of the Vietnam War in the 1980s conveyed the message that the war was lost because long-haired protestors somehow influenced the military decision-makers to be less aggressive and less masculine than they needed to be. This view has been used to help explain the development of a “hypermasculinity” during the 1980’s.
Action figures have certainly become more hypermasculine. When my sons were small in the 1970s, James Bond images were popular. A Sean Connery look-alike sported a small handgun. A few years later, a figure inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared, with guns larger than his arms. Last fall, President Bush borrowed a flight suit, landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to the Iraq War in front of a banner reading Mission Accomplished. Within days, boys were presented with a new action figure called Elite Force. It is 12 inches tall and still available; the Aviator comes with flight suit, helmet, oxygen mask, g-pants, parachute harness, and much more. The line between masculine war fantasy and political reality can become blurry. Sean Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999; Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California in 2003, and George Bush is running for re-election in 2004.
What can our Division contribute to this phenomenon—to the very real interaction of masculinity with the language and images of war?
Perhaps this. We can support those who are working in ways congruent with our Mission, as outlined in each issue of our Bulletin. That is, we can encourage the development of research projects and clinical services that:
Making progress along these lines requires a shared sense of commonality between ourselves and others. Good will. Trust. Humility. And empathy. Especially empathy. Interdependence in any setting—a romance, a family, a nation, a region—is based on an overriding awareness of what we have in common with others who share this planet with us.
At times, the development of a widely acceptable reconstructed masculinity seems as illusive as the search for a friendly peace in the Middle East. But I am a psychologist in independent practice, and I am in the business of helping people develop a realistic sense of hope about their lives. I believe that a reconstructed masculinity can include such elements as wonder, mutuality, reconciliation, responsiveness, optimism, originality, kindness, forgiveness, and empathy. New generations of boys can be given new language, and new images.
And so, my fellow members of Division 51, I wish you well as you teach, counsel, write, and research the various implications of these concerns. The stakes, these days, are high.
Playing on the Field of Dreams
Fred Rabinowitz, Ph.D.
Everyone who has read this column knows that I have a son whose childhood experiences I have used extensively to understand what it means to be a boy growing up in our culture. You know him as the sensitive now 10-year-old kid who plays basketball and who cried when his hamster died. Well, this past weekend his baseball team completed an undefeated season, something I had never experienced before. They won 16 regular season games and 4 playoff games and collected big trophies from the league commissioner. I am proud of the team and of him.
I am proud of the team because it is rare to watch a diverse group of boys in terms of ethnicity, experience, and skill come together for a common goal. While there were squabbles and a lot of ten-year-old humor about gross stuff, there was also a natural flow to the way they played the game. The head coach, Craig, an ex-college pitcher, had the attitude that the boys needed to have fun while they played the game. In practice, he didn’t do repetitive drilling but rather made every aspect of the game be “game –like” as baseball was intended. His son was an awesome baseball player but he was treated as just one of the guys. Four of the kids had very little baseball experience coming into the season, including my son Jared. By the end all had established a place for themselves on the team. It was common to hear, “We need some runs from the bottom of the order. Let’s do it.” And they did it. The skilled players rooted for the beginners and the beginners for those with more experience. Everyone had a place on the team and a role to play. It was expected that the top of the line-up hit and field while the bottom was to get on base and make a play, even if it wasn’t perfect. After the games, the boys would mix and play and it didn’t matter who was the best at baseball. They were just kids playing.
The assistant coaches consisted of two dads and a grandpa. We supported each of the kids in our own unique ways. The boys were exposed to four adult male role models. Craig and Troy were the tougher coaches who pushed the kids to do better. Their boys were the best two players on the team. Phil, the grandpa, and I were the empathic coaches who listened and supportively helped the kids who needed a gentler approach at times. All four of us got along, shared our ideas and didn’t seem to contradict each other despite our different styles. They were even willing to listen to me talk about “something going on under the surface” with some of our players. All of us had played organized baseball and respected each other’s strengths. On several occasions after games we sat together reviewing the contest at a local pizza place as the boys on the team enjoyed each other’s company.
I gave my son Jared my old glove from when I last played baseball on a team 30 years ago. He and I threw the ball to each other during warm ups at practice. Sometimes I pitched against him in batting practice. We talked on the way home about rules, pitches, batting stances, funny situations, and I let him know I saw how he was improving in all aspects of the game. It was time we shared being boys together. More than once I thought with tears in my eyes about the scene in “Field of Dreams” where Ray, the Kevin Costner character, gets to finally have a catch with his dad. I could identify with Shoeless Joe Jackson of the White Sox when he asks Ray, “Is this heaven?” A dad lovingly interacting with his son through a 150 year old game sounds like heaven to me no matter how many games we won or lost.
President-elect: Lawrence B. Beer, EdD (Presidential term begins 2006)
Secretary: David Shepard, PhD (Term begins 2005)
Member-at-Large: Gary R. Brooks, PhD, and Roberta L. Nutt, PhD (Terms begin 2005)
Council Representative: Neil A. Massoth, PhD (Term begins 2005)
Congratulations to all and a special thanks to all those who ran for office. Your involvement and vision helps direct our energies in SPSMM.
Symposium: Enhancing Our Vision
of Masculinity---Stories From Men of Color
Symposium: Gender Role Conflict
Research---Four Empirical Studies and New Research Paradigm
Symposium: Psychotherapy With Men---A
Video Demonstration and Discussion
Business Meeting: [Business Meeting]
GROUP DINNER TO FOLLOW SOCIAL HOUR
Symposium: Highly Achieving Racial
and Ethnic Adolescent Boys---Theory, Research, and Practice Implications
Shawn M. Burn, PhD, California Polytechnic
State University--San Luis Obispo
Frederick W. Willoughby, PhD, Central
Texas VA Health Care System, Temple, ZZ
William Ming Liu, PhD, University
Tracy L. Tylka, PhD, Ohio State
University at Marion
Ginger L. Welch, MS, Oklahoma State
Gagan S. Khera, MA, George Washington
Travis L. Osborne, MA, University
of Missouri--St. Louis
Michael Waldo, PhD, New Mexico State
Chapman P. Benjamin, MS, University
of North Texas
Gordon E. Finley, PhD, Florida International
David M. Lawson, PhD, Texax A&M
Travis L. Osborne, MA, University
of Missouri--St. Louis
Jennifer A. Lafferty, MA, Alliant
International University--San Diego
Melani M. Russell, BS, Louisiana
Michael S. Boroughs, MA, University
of South Florida
Jennifer M. Lane, MA, Clark University,
Guy Cafri, BA, University of South
Florida, Tampa, FL
Ronald F. Levant, EdD, Nova Southeastern
Maryse Aupont, MS, Nova Southeastern
Jimmy D. Hurley, MS, Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University
Sheree D. Conrad, PhD, University
of Massachusetts Boston
Joo-Yeon Lee, PhD, University of
Whit H. Missildine, MA, Center for
HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training, New York, NY
Rita A. Johnson, MS, COPE, Inc.,
Bruce A. Bidgood, PhD, University
of Windsor, NONE, ON, Canada
Maryam Kia-Keating, MEd, Boston
Garrett A. Gilchrist, MA, UNKNOWN,
David H. Whitcomb, PhD, University
of North Dakota
Julia M. Whealin, PhD, National
Center for PTSD, Honolulu, HI
Christopher T. Kilmartin, PhD, Mary
Andrew Smiler, PhD, University of
Invited Address: [Levant]
Conversation Hour: Female and Male
Therapists---Gender as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention With Male Clients
Presidential Address: [Robertson]
8/01 Sun: 10:00 AM - 11:50 AM
Rationale for Teaching the Psychology of Men
Psychology of Men and Masculinity is among the world’s first scholarly publications devoted to the dissemination of research, theory, and clinical scholarship that advance the discipline of the psychology of men and masculinity. This discipline is defined broadly as the study of how men’s psychology is influenced and shaped by gender, and by the process of masculinization, in both its socially constructed and biological forms. We welcome scholarship that advances our understanding of men’s psychology, across the life span, across racial and ethnic groups, and across time.
Examples of relevant topics include, but are not limited to, the processes and consequences of male gender socialization, including its impact on men’s health, behavior, interpersonal relationships, emotional development, violence, and psychological well-being; assessment and measurement of the masculine gender role; gender role strain, stress, and conflict; masculinity ideology; fathering; men’s utilization of psychological services; conceptualization and assessment of interventions addressing men’s understanding of masculinity; sexuality and sexual orientation; biological aspects of male development; and the victimization of male children and adults.
Submitted manuscripts must be written in the style outlined in the 1994 Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (fourth edition). Psychology of Men and Masculinity will accept both regular length submissions (7,500 words) and brief reports (2,500 words). Submitted manuscripts must not have been previously published and must not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.
Four copies of the manuscript should be mailed to: Sam Cochran, PhD, 3223 Westlawn, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1100, Phone: (319) 335-7294, Fax: (319) 335-7298, Email: email@example.com.
Nominations for Fellow Status in divisions 51, APA are presently being accepted for 2005. If you are aware of a member who has been exemplary in the areas of Research or Service for the Psychology of Males and Masculinity (or if you yourself fit the mold), please forward names to our new Fellows Chair: Mark S. Kiselica, Ph.D., HSPP, NCC, LPC Professor and Chairperson, Department of Counselor Education, 332 Forcina Hall, The College of New Jersey, PO Box 7718, Ewing,NJ 08628-0718. Office phone: (609) 771-3462 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaleidoscopic Images of Diversity among Men
Special Focus Editor, Michael
I am very excited to serve as Member-at-Large for Ethnic Minority Slate for The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (SPSMM). I extend my thanks and appreciation to members who supported my candidacy. I further welcome continued support and collaboration from members as I fulfill my commitment to the SPSMM. After consultation with John Robertson, Fred Rabinowitz, and Sam Cochran at 2003 APA convention in Toronto, I immediately began to contemplate my new role and responsibilities for this position with D51. During my tenure I will dedicate myself to achieve one primary goal: increase representation of diverse images of men within Society membership and programs. As a means to achieve this goal I am excited to share with you a new project, Men and Masculinities Cultural Diversity Forum (MMCDF), planned for 2005! This new project has been conceptualized and developed as a means to promote the D51 mission and to increase participation of culturally diverse men and women with the SPSMM.
Purpose of MMCDF
MMCDF Opportunity & Objective
As co-sponsor of the Men and Masculinities
Cultural Diversity Forum, Division 51 will provide nominal funding support
to hosting academic training programs and/or counseling center agencies.
At this time we anticipate minimum $150 funding support depending on
the number of accepted MMCDF proposals. More specific details and funding
support will be forthcoming in Fall 2004.
All of these contributions offer a diverse perspective of cultural dynamics and issues critical to enhancing our understanding of the multiple realities of masculinities as influenced by salient aspects of culture in men’s’ lives. I want to extend my appreciation and gratitude to these three men who responded to my call especially within a short 6-8 week window of opportunity. Thank you Will, David, and David. J I hope that as you read these contributions you are inspired to develop a Men and Masculinities Cultural Diversity Forum proposal to advance cultural perspectives related to “the critical study of how gender shapes and constricts men’s lives, and is committed to an enhancement of men’s capacity to experience their full human potential” as characterized within the SPSMM mission statement.
William Ming Liu, Ph.D.
University of Iowa
For Asian American men, constant reminders of their marginalized masculine status appear in the media. Take for instance an April 2004 Details magazine section that asked readers to ponder the question, “Gay or Asian?” and displayed a picture of an Asian American man in trendy clothes. The captions read, “One cruises for chicken; the other takes it General Tso-style. Whether you’re into shrimp balls or shaved balls, entering the dragon requires imperial tastes. So choke up on your chopsticks, and make sure your labels are showing. Study hard, Grasshopper: A sharp eye will always take home the plumpest eel.” Sartorially, the Asian American man was dressed in the same clothes prominently advertised throughout Details, but ironically, the writer of the piece suggested that “homosexuality” was associated with these clothes. That is, if you actually were to purchase the clothes advertised in its magazine, your masculinity would be in jeopardy. What Details failed to understand was that the association between Asian American men and “gayness” highlighted a long socio-cultural history of feminization and demasculinization forced on Asian American men. In many ways, the advertisement was akin to asking readers to consider, “African American man or rapist?” Details subsequently apologized and printed a retraction after facing protests outside its offices and a petition of over 26,000 signatures. However, the publication of such these images in the first place further reasserts the media role in perpetuating stereotypes and shaping Asian American men’s sexuality.
Consequently, some Asian Americanists and Asian American scholars have attempted to take control and reinstate a legitimate form of Asian American masculine sexuality. Sexuality, the social construction of desire (both straight and gay) and attraction, is not the same as sex, which is purely the physical demonstration of one’s sexuality. Using this premise, for example, Darrel Hamamoto, a professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California at Davis produced a pornographic film called “Skin on Skin” that featured an Asian American man and a professional adult film actress as the primary actors. Skin on Skin is part of Dr. Hamamoto’s Yellow Porno Movement/Practice in which he casts Asian American men into central roles with Asian American women rather than the typical White male-Asian female dyad. Along with Skin on Skin, Dr. Hamamoto also produced a documentary, Masters of the Pillow, which follows the casting, producing, and filming of the film. The purpose was not only to transform the dominant image of Asian American men but also to "mainstream" Asian American men into leading roles. This article will critique the premise of this film to reshape Asian American masculinity and sexuality and the potential problems associated with this film as a counter-hegemonic project
.As suggested, the need for countering dominant negative images of Asian American men is because Asian American men have historically been regarded as invisible beings in the United States due to exclusion laws, unfair taxation, citizenship restrictions, and incarceration. Asian American men were marginal figures to be killed, enslaved, and excluded since the focus was on Asian land, labor, and Asian American women. Asian American men, along with other men of color, and women in general were forced to obey strict anti-miscegenation laws, while the privilege of sexual freedom was reserved for only White men. As such, Asian American men were, and continue to be, associated with asexuality or sexual deviance. With this historical legacy, reshaping Asian American sexuality is an important anti-racist project.
I watched Masters of the Pillow during an Asian American film festival in which I moderated a panel discussion among filmmakers and Asian American media organizations. The discussion focused on Asian American sexuality and masculinity, and how pornography is but one reconfiguration project among many. Other examples of recuperating Asian American sexuality featured Asian American men mimicking dominant masculine images such as “beefcake calendars.” All of these “performances” attempted to suggest that Asian American men are just like other men—with the same sexual prowess, desire, and masculinity—and well within the mainstream.
Ironically, rather than provide Asian American men with authentic self-actualized sexuality, these projects only reinforced strict gender roles. By focusing specifically on the racist elements of dominant media images of Asian American men, and by attempting only to change the sexualized image of Asian American men to be similar to dominant men (i.e., White masculinity and sexuality), they perpetuated homophobia and sexism, and reinstated strict gender roles. What Dr. Hamamoto did not analyze or discuss was that pornography is a masculine practice that primarily benefits, economically and socially, only men.
I am neither writing a treatise on pornography (Greek for “writing about prostitution”) nor advocating Victorian era norms and mores—several authors have explicated fully the personal, institutional, and social problems of repressed Victorian sexuality such as sexism, patriarchy, and homophobia. However, I am suggesting that heterosexual pornography, rather than being liberating, tends to reinforce traditional domestic relationships and roles between men and women. Because traditional gender roles are reinforced, and because traditional gender roles are usually premised on White masculinity, and because White masculinity is normalized through the marginalization of Men of Color, using Asian Americans as lead actors in pornography may not accomplish the goal of changing the perception of Asian American men’s sexuality.
Dr. Hamamoto suggests that men and women who watch an Asian American man perform in this film, and others he hopes to produce, will start to change their perceptions of Asian American men. Yet he fails to recognize that heterosexual pornography, which focuses on a male-female dyad also elicits homophobia among its male viewers. That is, socializing men and boys into the consumption of pornography requires them to emotionally detach from the sexual exploitation of women while simultaneously disregarding the male actor in the scene. Men and boys must disregard the male actors in the scene for fear of being labeled, by self and others, as "gay" or "fag." Because Dr. Hamamoto does not recognize the operative assumptions of sexism and homophobia that are triggered in viewing pornography, it may be that the Asian American man, who is supposedly the focus of the film, remains just as invisible as before. Thus, Dr. Hamamoto's argument that the use of an Asian American man in pornography will rehabilitate the sexuality of Asian American men is faulty.
It has always been my contention that Asian American sexuality and masculinity cannot be reshaped and changed through the mimicking of dominant masculine forms and styles. Because dominant masculinity and sexuality have historically been premised on the exclusion of Men of Color to make White masculinity normative, adopting the same form and style as White masculinity only highlights Men of Colors’ marginal position. Using pornography as a social and cultural project to change people’s perception of Asian American men’s sexuality is one of many practices that is problematic, not only for how people will perceive Asian American men but how Asian American men see themselves.
The deleterious consequences of dominant masculinity are unchallenged through Dr. Hamamoto’s film. In fact, I would suggest that gender role conflict, emotional disconnection, and dominant male role norms are only reinforced. Although the focus was on deconstructing a racist image of Asian American men as non-sexual or asexual people, race is not the prominent script in heterosexual pornography, but rather it is sexism and homophobia. My fear is that some Asian American young men already find Dr. Hamamoto’s film liberating and agree that it helps show Asian American men are sexual beings. Yet, they fail to see that men in pornography are typically one-dimensional beings, with one function, and little dialogue. Culture and anti-racist discourse are no more communicated through Dr. Hamamoto’s film than an Asian food fair at your local university or community center. Rather than pornography, Asian American men need to be presented with mature mentoring relationships that help them to articulate and connect their racial and sexual selves; to understand how culture, history, and society work to shape and influence their desires and needs; and how they can form nurturing male and female relationships.
David Whitchombl, Ph.D. University
of North Dakota
Sexual orientation and gender identity are two human attributes that most of us perceive as being a core part of who we are. For many men, these aspects of identity are taken for granted, as the majority of men readily identify as heterosexual and masculine. For those of us who identify as gay or bisexual, however, coming to terms with sexual orientation and gender identity is often an arduous process, complicated by how we were socialized as boys to become traditionally masculine men (Barber & Mobley, 1999; Pollack, 1998). In this article, I will review some common pathways of sexual orientation and gender identity development for the minority of men who are not traditionally masculine and heterosexual. A review of these developmental trajectories may illuminate potential ways for The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (SPSMM) to create more meaningful bonds with a broader spectrum of men.
As a disclaimer, I would like to point out that this brief review covers ground that will be very familiar to some readers, yet includes concepts that are still difficult, if not impossible, for many people in our society to understand and accept. The recommendations that follow, however, assume that the assertions within this review are valid. Therefore I will proceed, knowing that for a while I may bore some, while perhaps irking others.
From an early age, some boys develop a sense that they are somehow different – different from other boys and perhaps different from other people in general. Often this feeling of being other than the norm comes into focus via gender nonconformity (Pollack, 2000; Savin-Williams, 1995; Troiden, 1989), that is, not readily engaging in behavior expected of boys, such as rough and tumble play, or not wanting to be, when we grew up, an astronaut, fireman, or some other heroic prototype idolized by other boys. For a small number of these boys, the sense of gender difference is so profound that there is a conviction that they were born into the wrong gender and that they are, in fact, girls. A transgender identity of this extent, namely transsexual, completely defies society’s expectations of children and, if openly expressed, is often horrifying to the boy’s parents, particularly the father. For boys whose gender identity is less distinct from the norm, however, it is easier for the boy, his family, his teachers, coaches, and friends to deny or simply not notice that there is something different about him. In such instances, gender identity development may proceed gradually and inconspicuously, at least until puberty.
Adolescence and very early adulthood are common times for boys and young men to come out to themselves, and eventually to others, as gay or bisexual (Cass, 1996; D’Augelli & Hershberger, 1993; Fassinger & Miller, 1996). In general, the less traditionally masculine, (i.e., the more effeminate) the boy is, the less surprising the news to family and friends (Savin-Williams, 1996). The more traditionally masculine the young gay or bisexual man, the easier it is for him to maintain an outwardly heterosexual identity. As others (including his peers, family, and other people of all ages, across gender) recognize his masculinity and expect him to be heterosexual, this powerful influence may affect his sexual orientation identity to the point that he continues to do what others expect of him, such as dating young women and perhaps having sex with them or even marrying a woman, while paying little attention to same-sex attractions. At some point, however, a sense of not being true to oneself will emerge. Then the process of coming out to oneself as gay or bisexual will begin, which will likely, but not inevitably, be followed by coming out to others. Although empirical findings on this coming out process of traditionally masculine men are lacking, as there is evidence that both men and women associate femininity in men with homosexuality (Green, 1986; Kite & Whitley, 1998; Madon, 1997), we may speculate that family and friends may often be surprised, even shocked, to find that such a “man’s man” is actually gay or bisexual.
As may be evident by now, I am asserting that gender identity has a fundamental influence on the coming out process for gay and bisexual men. Although the research is mostly anecdotal at this point, we are beginning to develop a clearer picture of masculinity as a powerful predictor of the timing and the related intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts associated with coming out to oneself and others (Connell, 1992; Green, 1986; Pollack, 1998). In a sexist and heterosexist society that privileges men and masculinity (while simultaneously burdening them with heroic expectations), there is a substantial price to pay for any boy or man who identifies to himself or others as gay, bisexual, or transgender (Dworkin & Yi, 2003; Herek, Cogan, & Gillis, 2002). This cost can be exacted early in life or later, but in any case, it is unavoidable. The greater the gender nonconformity, the earlier the self-identification and identification by others is likely to be. In instances when these identities emerge in boyhood through mid-adolescence, rejection and ridicule from peers and family is likely to be greater than when the identities form in adulthood. Bullying and economic oppression (e.g., parents’ disowning a child or cutting off financial support) tend to have a greater impact on minors than on adults, though the situation of a married man coming out to his wife and children is often accompanied by harsh rejection and economic hardship that demonstrate the limitations of this generalization.
As we develop a greater understanding of masculinity or masculinities (as Robertson noted in his Presidential Message of the Winter 2004 newsletter, masculinities is a more useful term), it becomes evident that transgender issues go far beyond the situation of the transsexual, who feels a mismatch between sexual anatomy and gender identity. Lesser degrees of gender atypical behavior influence the expectations we have of the sexual orientation of others and may relate to the development of sexual orientation identity, whether or not any transgender self-identification is present. In other words, most gay and bisexual men, whether traditionally masculine or effeminate, do not identify as being transgender, yet their gender identity and others’ perception of this identity are powerfully intermingled; both identity perceptions influence the coming out process.
As a society of men and women who are deeply concerned with the well-being of boys and men, Division 51 has demonstrated an appreciation for the caring and compassionate aspects of masculinity and has fostered publications that feature this understanding (e.g., Brooks & Good, 2001). Inclusion of sexual orientation diversity has become more pronounced as Division 51 has become more established. Still, as with other groups that study gender and sexual orientation issues, this organization’s understanding and appreciation of transgender issues, broadly defined, lags behind. Although most men are heterosexual and traditionally masculine, some heterosexual men are more androgynous or feminine in their expression of gender role. The gender identity of gay and bisexual men runs across the spectrum and there is little consensus to date about whether traditionally masculine gay men comprise the majority or minority of this population. Even the gender identity of transgender men is not uniform and, to add another layer of complexity to this matrix, the sexual orientation of transgender men is also diverse (Docter & Fleming, 2001).
All of these identity phenomena are terribly difficult to comprehend in a society that likes to dichotomize the world into black and white, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual. Yet such is the world we live in. In a gendered society that has traditionally wanted its men to behave one way and its women to be the opposite, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people present as a threat to fundamental norms. A lesson we have learned from the multicultural movement is that our human experience becomes richer when we learn from other cultures, appreciate their values, and share our lives with their people. Similarly, with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, diversity enriches our lives. The Society of Men and Masculinity is poised to take a more definitive role as a leader in recognizing and affirming such diversity. By acknowledging that the dominant culture’s limited view of masculinity has historically restricted its parameters to heterosexuality, thereby excluding gay and bisexual men, Division 51 has demonstrated a willingness to become more welcoming of gender identity and sexual orientation diversity. In my concluding paragraphs, I will suggest ways to build upon this diversity initiative.
I believe that the work of Division 51 would benefit from a greater appreciation of the influence of gender identity on the development of sexual orientation identity. Research and public statements made by Division leaders should attend to this issue. Greater acceptance of a continuum of traditionally masculine to traditionally feminine gender roles in boys and men are very likely to make it easier for a young man to crystallize his sexual orientation identity, whatever it may be.
Everyone would benefit from recognizing that some men may not have come out yet as gay whereas others, conforming to society’s expectation of dichotomous identities, may be using a gay or heterosexual label to mask a more nuanced bisexual identity. In our research, the psychological services we provide, and in our social activities, we would do well not to assume the sexual orientation of another person. We must also recognize that a label of self-identification is sometimes a convenient shorthand for a multifaceted identity that will only be revealed as trusting relationships evolve.
A final recommendation for Division 51 is to recognize that most gay and bisexual men enjoy being men and being in the company of men, characteristics we have in common with most heterosexual men. Similarly, many gay and bisexual men dislike and even distrust many traditionally feminine qualities, while also being attracted to some feminine qualities – characteristics I have also noticed in many heterosexual men. Exploration of the similarities among men across sexual orientation, while recognizing important differences, will certainly deepen our understanding of men and masculinity.
I have provided here only a sketch of ideas, which are still in formation. I recognize that some of my biases have emerged in this essay. For example, some with a strong social constructionist perspective will note that I tend not to view sexual orientation as something that typically changes throughout one’s life, though my opinions on this issue are more complex than can be explored in this brief piece. Also, cross-cultural issues have only been touched on. I write from the perspective of a White, middle-class man; the interplay of sexual orientation and gender identity is similarly complex, but in some ways quite different, among different peoples of color and across socioeconomic status (Caraballo-Dieguez & Dolezal, 1994; Mobley, 2000). I hope, nevertheless, that this essay promotes more discussion on these topics and I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you.
David Tager, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate, University of Missouri-Columbia
We now speak of masculinities in the plural, and there has been a much needed surge in recent literature on the ethnic, racial and sexual diversity of masculinity in the United States. There have also been a few studies on masculinity in other countries. However, getting at the cross-cultural differences in the construction of masculinity is difficult since almost every masculinity instrument at our disposal has been developed by and predominantly normed on educated American white heterosexual males. The result, when we compare differences on those scales across populations, is shadow images of masculinity: Cultural diversity appears as vague figures posed in different stances. Missing are the details of ligament and expression, the context that gives meaning to the pose. There are hints, but questions of how precisely masculine socialization differs and the consequences of those differences in shaping identity remain sketchy. The shadow image in a different pose describes what I see as I near completion of a study on masculine gender role norms in Italian university students.
For the purpose of the study, which was supervised and co-authored by Dr. Glenn Good, I chose to use the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory (CMNI; Mahalik, et al., 2003) as an instrument because it contains a wide range of masculine norms (eleven) on which to base comparisons. The norms are Winning, Emotional Control, Risk-Taking, Violence, Power over Women, Dominance, Playboy, Self-Reliance, Primacy of Work, Disdain for Homosexuals and Pursuit of Status. The study had 152 male student participants. I bundled the instrument in a larger survey that I placed on the web and handed out in classrooms at La Sapienza University in Rome and the University of Palermo in Sicily.
I received a very enthusiastic welcome from women professors who study gender and from the more than 250 female students who also took the survey. They seemed to be saying, “It’s about time we took a look at men.” In fact, the data would never have been collected without the enthusiasm of a few influential women scholars. In general, the male professors and students I encountered were less interested and frequently expressed a sentiment along the lines of, “Why bother with this?” Judging from my attempts to get participation from non-student males--in an orchestra, a hiking club, a gay activist organization, etc.,--and from male students I interacted with on campus, I would have gone home without data on men, if I hadn’t offered the survey in classrooms as an alternative to thirty more minutes of Machiavelli. This reluctance of men to look at masculinity fits with the general lack of work published on men as men in Italian Academia. It also brings to mind the warning I received from Dr. Giovanna Fiume, Director of the association of Italian Women Historians, about how traditional her Sicilian male students were.
The data, however, presents a slightly contradictory picture. Compared with American male students, the Italian male students in this sample reported significantly less endorsement of nine of the eleven masculine gender role norms as well as less Total Conformity. (On six of the norms and on Total Conformity, statistical differences were significant at the p<.001 level.) That is, the Italian male students in this sample seemed to be saying that Winning, Emotional Control, Risk-Taking, Violence, Power over Women, Dominance, Self-Reliance, Primacy of Work and Disdain for Homosexuals were not as important elements of being a man as they were for American male students. The two populations endorsed Pursuit of Status more or less equally, though status is likely to be defined differently in each culture. Playboy, a key piece of the Latin-Lover stereotype, was the only norm that Italian males endorsed more highly than American males. On the other hand, other aspects of the Don Giovanni stereotype, such as Dominance, Risk-Taking and Power over Women were less highly endorsed. This pattern was apparent even among the more traditional southern Italian males.
So, assuming the findings can be replicated in further studies, what does it tell us about the construction of Italian masculinity? Does it suggest that, contrary to popular and scholarly perceptions, Italian male students are less “traditional” and more egalitarian than American male students? Does the data call into question Dr. Fiume’s knowledge of her own students?
I think it is more likely that while CMNI’s masculine norms overlap with Italian masculine norms, “traditional” Italian masculinity differs from the “traditional” masculinity described by CMNI. After all, CMNI’s norms were developed by Americans with Americans in mind. So the comparison leaves us with that shadow image, the differing pose of the figure without details. The question remains: What does Italian masculinity look like? I can only speculate, based on my experience living in Sicily and on a few glimmers in the data.
Jim Mahalik, principal author of CMNI, mentioned to me that he saw American masculinity in terms of a cowboy ideal. For Italy, particularly among the educated, I would suggest a more aristocratic, princely ideal. It is important to point out the much greater weight of class, in the inter-generational sense of family history, in creating social status in Italy. If the United States is a country that believes in “self-made” men, Italy is a country that still admires pedigree and social connections. Violence, for example, is seen as a mark of commonness and lack of education. A man with power does not need to sully himself with fighting when he can control the fate of those around him. This type of man would never speak of dominating women because women are under his protection and present no threat. Openly gay men would also present no threat. In fact, the word domination may be too crass, too direct for how power is exercised. In Italy, power is distributed to a much greater extent through social networks. So rather than the cowboy, who shoots his will into being, or the determined individual who makes it in the world through sheer skill and effort, the Italian prince is made by the world he is born into and by his ability to manage that world to his advantage. The prince exercises power by intelligently distributing favors and negotiating alliances with influential others. What I am suggesting is an interactive and social masculine ideal. CMNI’s Winning, Self-Reliance, Risk-Taking, Dominance, Primacy of Work, and Emotional Control can be seen as norms that reflect the ideals of a more individualistic culture, one in which status and power are symbolically determined by the imposition of self, rather than by the management of social networks.
The data provides a few glimmers of support for this idea of a diverse “traditional” Italian masculinity. As we would expect, the American study (Mahalik, et. al, 2003) shows no significant negative correlations between norms on CMNI. However, in the Italian sample, Primacy of Work was mildly and negatively correlated (p<.01, two-tailed) with Risk-Taking. In Italy, this seems to make sense. For the most part, jobs are still seen as something to be counted on once they are attained. And while risk-taking may promote individual achievement and sense of self, it can also negatively affect social networks, arguably the bedrock of Italian job security and self-esteem. Another instance involves the norm of Emotional Control. This norm did not significantly correlate or was negatively correlated with eight of CMNI’s eleven masculine gender role norms. This may suggest that for Italian males, emotional restriction is not an important normative aspect of masculine identity. In fact, if we think within a framework of social networks rather than in a framework of individual power, the opposite may be true: Emotional involvement might well be a tool for increasing connection and facilitating negotiation. Perhaps, then, Dr. Fiume and the data are both right. Perhaps Italian males are still quite traditional, but their tradition is different than our own.
The shadow image, however, remains. The most we can really say is that
the study suggests there is a difference in the masculine pose of Italian
university students, that this population reports lower endorsement
of CMNI’s masculine gender role norms. My desire for detail forces
me to add speculative brushstrokes to the image. I hope someone will
take up the challenge and develop an inventory of Italian Masculine
Gender Role Norms. Ideally, we will begin trying to describe how masculinity
is constructed within different populations, so that we can compare,
not only the shadow image cast by one culture upon another, but the
details of the differing poses. I am convinced that this type of comparison
will yield more than a basis for understanding the diversity of masculinities.
It will help each of us to better understand himself.
Note. Data will be presented in a Division 51 student poster session at APA, July 2004.
James Boobar, University of Redlands
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,”
The semester of my teaching Tolkien is nearly half-way through, and the class has encountered a near dizzying array of readings, interpretative methodologies and voices, all seeped in concern for Tolkien’s literary offering. A glance at the bookshelf in my office gives a small sense of the proliferation of re-editions and new editions of works devoted to Tolkien. To name a few: Tolkien in the Land of Heroes, Anne C. Petty; Tolkien: Man and Myth; Joseph Pearce; Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter, Greg Wright; Frodo’s Quest, Robert Ellwood; The Sanctifying Myth, Bradly Birzer; Following Gandalf; Matthew Dickerson; Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, Brian Rosebury; A Question of Time: JRR Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, Verlyn Fleiger, and The Lord of the Rings: A Mythology of Power, Jane Chance. Spurned by the huge success of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, which may be both the impetuous and the crescendo to the latest renaissance in Tolkien interest, hundreds of thousands of words have surfaced or re-surfaced to offer insights, raise questions, encourage reflection, many of which involve lengthy consideration of Tolkien’s most popular work, The Lord of the Rings. Literary theory, philosophy, religious and culture studies, psycho-analysis, self-help, philology, array themselves like swords, axes, staffs, waiting only to plucked down from their displays on the castle wall and rushed into adventure, aiding and empowering their wielders.
Preparing an entire course on Tolkien’s life and work was, understandably, challenging. Prepping for each class has become almost nightmarish as more and more textual voices join a now seemingly staggering conversation with words and viewpoints reflecting, engaging, dismantling, opposing and complimenting each other. And I didn’t think I would be preparing materials for a class on the final volume of the “trilogy,” entitled The Return of the King, in the emergency room to the hum of the Discovery channel, surrounded by eyes shining with glassy and deep worry. This morning I rushed one of my closest friends to the hospital, and, now only three hours later, my friend of many years lies unconscious, his stomach sliced open in surgery, oblivious to the dark uncertainty of his life ahead. Strangely enough, I find myself just as surprised that from the churn and swarm of textual voices engaged in debate about LOTR, one work dominates my thoughts, enshadowing the landscape of my reflection. Maybe even stranger: the genesis of these now preoccupying thoughts is a mere aside made during a complex argument.
In her article “’My Precious’: Tolkien’s Fetishized Ring,” which was published in The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy, Alison Milibank offers a quick, casual consideration for the “brokenness” of Middle-Earth, the setting for the epic battle against the Dark Lord, Sauron. She writes:
Milibank’s article analyzes a “broken” Middle-Earth as exemplified by the inability to relate to things beyond fetishizing them. Or rather, until the destruction of the one ring of Power, forged by the ultimate nihilist Sauron the Dark Lord, men’s and women’s relationships to things, and consequently, to each other, is understood as a corruption, rather than as a wonder with full participation in the object as object. What may be most glaringly present in the quotation above, however, is Middle-Earth as a “broken-world” of relationships that cannot yet be. I’m haunted by the image of men and women in Middle-Earth as inherently “broken,” in a world where true intimacy cannot yet be, with characters groping their way toward “healing” the conditions that block relationships, friendships, interactions and marriages that signify prosperous lives and a regenerating world. If love and intimacy cannot yet be in this “broken” Middle-Earth how do the characters grope their way, find courage and meaning in each other? And since much of Tolkien’s narrative is dominated by men’s actions and thoughts, how do these “broken” men enable themselves and each other to act in destroying the One Ring, persevering through fear and despair to re-create the conditions for healthy emotional relationships?
And in asking these questions, I find Tolkien’s LOTR reading back, as it were, into my own life as a man in contemporary America, a man negotiating the borderlands between a masculinity constructed and a masculinity created. How do I grope toward the conditions of a world abundant with loving intimacy, openness, and “whole,” prosperous relationships, regardless of whether our world is “broken” or not?
Writing about the community of men of all races in LOTR is almost a sub-genre of Tolkien criticism. Biographically oriented critics and readers will point toward the role of male community throughout Tolkien’s life. From his earliest days as a university student to the famous “Inklings” group that included CS Lewis, Tolkien needed, even thrived on, the company of men. To the point of alienating his own marriage, Tolkien would spend hours conversing on literature and philology, reading his work to other men in his circle, and finding strength to “go on,” so to speak, through his communal bond with other men. It seems that after losing two of his closest friends in WWI, Tolkien recognized his intense need for a social and intellectual circle of close male friends. Indeed, he was at his happiest, most engaged, when interacting in his intimate, all male setting, finding his later years in more isolated living arrangements after the death of his wife as depressing. His involvement and recognition of male attachments has prompted critics to consider Tolkien as a man with the inability to relate fully to women, or even as a man with homosexual tendencies. Critics working from the text will focus on the large disparity between the number of important and interesting male characters of all races versus the number of women. Still, they draw similar conclusions regarding Tolkien’s notion of male community. Critics working from tradition and history, defend Tolkien’s “disparity” as a reflection of the warrior culture, and other chronological realities, concerning the societies of Northern Europe from which he developed much of his source material and overall authorial project.
Regardless of theoretical leaning or cultural agenda, there can be no doubt that Tolkien places an extreme importance on male community in LOTR. We need only look to the pivotal Council of Elrond episode in the first volume of the “trilogy,” The Fellowship of the Ring. Called together by Elrond, Lord of the Elves, who as a race bear the charge of tending to Middle-Earth until the time to board the ships to the Gray Havens, the council is composed of all the races of men in Middle-Earth: Dwarves, Elves, Men, and Hobbits, and of course, Gandalf the Wizard. Diverse and with multi-perspective approaches in its make-up, they council what must be done with the Ring of Power, which has come into possession to Frodo the Hobbit. Through its discussion, the council acts on authority of the past, signified through lineage of the participants and their stories which update the reader on the happening surrounding the One Ring, including the story of Gollum’s obtaining of the ring years before and its horrid effect on his being. Additionally, the council seemingly acts on the authority of the future, knowing their actions and choices may save Middle-Earth or doom it to endless shadow.
It could be said that the lengthy chapter with interweaving collective history and legend with personal stories along with the debate surrounding the One Ring embodies Gandalf’s saying “even the very wise cannot see all ends” (LOTR, 58). In contrast the Dark Lord Sauron, from high atop his tower in Mordor, possesses none of the multiplicity of viewpoints or the openness of dialogue through which new ideas can be generated. He seeks no council, and, consequently, blinded by his isolated desire for power in re-obtaining his One Ring, fails to foresee or imagine the one course that ensures his destruction. The council declares Frodo the Ringbearer and forms the Fellowship of the Ring, nine men of the four races of men, to take the One Ring into the heart of shadow and darkness in order to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom. As Gandalf says, “there lies our only hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril” (LOTR, 260).
Returning to the epigraph, and in line with my meditation, the fellowship will do with the time given them all they can do to return, or create, the conditions for relationships and intimacy to be. In setting up the narrative action for roughly 700 pages to follow, Tolkien places critical importance in men’s lives on the act of council in determining decisive and meaningful actions in the world. In council, men may avoid the blindness that brings its own destruction and arrive at imaginative decisions that result in the need for difficult action, resulting in a change in the world’s circumstances and in the lives of the world’s participants. Now, of course, a great deal of horrible deeds have been decided upon and later brought into cruel fruition through councils of men. But, Tolkien’s LOTR restores to me the need for council, whether through friendships or men’s groups, in my life. For through the council I may not only see the true condition of my world, but also arrive at the pivotal action to change it, to bring the conditions needed for the growth of true intimacy. Still, the Fellowship ultimately fails and falls apart in response to the chaos and darkness of events in Middle-Earth. In itself, it is not enough.
Another main offshoot of writings concerning Tolkien’s excavation of men and their relationships revolves around the figure of the hero. Pyschoanalytically oriented critics see the evolution of the heroes in LOTR as signifying the growth of consciousness akin to Jung’s individuation process. Ethicists see a complex re-tooling of the heroic category from one of conquest to one of service and humility. Religious thinkers delineate a pre-Christian salvation myth that becomes the narrative of hope in Middle-Earth. Biographical critics seek Tolkien’s own horrific experiences in WWI, citing the author’s desire to enfuse the “hero” with the countless young men suffering and fighting in the trenches. Philosophers and philologists find Tolkien’s project as a reclamation of a value system that contextualizes Tolkien’s reclamation of the word ‘hero,’ from a materialistic and individualistic society to a society based on devotion, among other things.
Unquestionably, Tolkien’s LOTR can be seen as a multi-faceted exploration and lengthy consideration of the heroic in men’s lives. Throughout the “trilogy” heroes of differing characteristics move forward, pushing the Ring toward its destruction, and Middle-Earth to a place where true intimacy can be. Indeed, the text is almost encyclopedic in its investigation of what it is to be heroic, the necessity of heroes to inaugurate a new “world,” and the hero as the bearer of hope for many. Frodo the Ringbearer begins the story as a middle-aged, complacent, Hobbit who must venture beyond the hedge of the Shire, the only home and place he has ever known, in order to embrace extreme danger and discovering the heroic qualities that have been latent within him. The 1000-year-old strange being, Gandalf, signifies the Wiseman hero, continually searching for knowledge of the Ring and the obscure branch of Hobbit Lore, and more than any other character, possess the awareness of the inability to see how events will turn out. Though Gandalf, too, faces the fire to emerge heroic in the end when he seemingly perishes battling an ancient evil, a Balrog. Gandalf literally re-emerges into Middle-Earth, “sent back” more powerful and wise, to help finish the task at hand. Prophesized as the rightful King who will once again sit on the throne of the most powerful kingdom of men in Middle-Earth, Gondor, Aragorn spends 80 years in the wilderness as a Ranger named Stryder, learning, tracking the movements of the Dark Enemy, until the War with Sauron sets the stage for his unveiling and the Return of the King. Each mentioned man becomes greater through trial and tribulation and signals the hope for all men throughout the narrative. And each man undergoes his hero’s transformation in service of the cause greater than themselves, executes crucial action at pivotal moments and is faced with the mark of all heroes, choices when no choice is clear, counseled, easy or without consequence. And, to expand matters, many critics regard Frodo’s faithful servant, Samwise the Hobbit, as the story’s true hero. Citing Sam’s staunch service in the face of Frodo and his arduous trek through Mordor, and Sam’s successful and reintegration into Hobbit life in the Shire by marrying, raising a family and becoming Mayor, critics see in Sam the sharpest articulations of service and possibilities that to Tolkien characterize a heroic life.
As Tolkien’s LOTR “reads back” it is seemingly impossible to work through the narrative without identifying with heroic aspects in one or more of the characters that translate or adapt themselves to contemporary life: the need to venture beyond the Hedge of comfortable life, into an unknown and uncertain “place” in order to bring forth latent gifts within us as living men; the role of continual learning regardless of any supposed mastery to help us on our way; the simplest guises worn by destiny and the return of “greatness” as a gift to others in our lives; the notion that regardless of the extremity of the adventure, it is the reintegration into a successful community life that constitutes a successful venture. Regardless of specific situations, the myriad of Tolkien’s exploration of heroism, underscored by common elements of service to others, rather than conquest of others, refracts a kaleidoscope of encouragement.
Yet, during this latest read through Tolkien’s LOTR, the encounter with despair strikes me most forcefully as I meditate on bringing a “healing” to the conditions that result in relationships that cannot yet be. In an encounter with true despair where one sees “the end beyond all doubt” (LOTR, 262), a hero is not enough. It is only at the intersection or interchange between the community of men and the hero that keeps Tolkien’s characters groping forward. To move beyond seeing the end beyond all doubt, requires interaction, encouragement, intercession—of word, men and action. As the narrator of LOTR tells us, referring to Samwise the Hobbit: “He had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed” (LOTR, 624). The postponing of despair becomes an action between two men in conversation, an action based on recognition and dialogue. When the task is most near its ultimate failure, council and heroism, give way to the specific act of the interaction of both. When it seems hardest to consider “what to do with the time we have,” Tolkien offers, not council or an individual hero’s response, but rather both. Exhausted, thirsty, hungry and beaten, Frodo and Sam near the fires of Mount Doom as the quest seems near collapse. Tolkien writes:
Throughout LOTR, the men find themselves in the face of despair, confronting world events that seem all but hopeless. Rather than a necessarily isolated, internal response that motivates them beyond hopelessness into action, interaction spurs the dejected man through dialogue. For example, council is unavailable when Aragorn is lamenting his mistakes in leading the Fellowship after Gandalf’s assumed death, nor are the internal reserves of the hero to lead himself onward. Instead, his companions, Legolas and Gimli speak to him of his choices and their situation. Gimli tells Aragorn: “Perhaps there are no right choices.” Three men in chaos and facing despair rely on themselves as a group and on their individual selves, not knowing where one ends, but rather relying on the interchange of both. And gazing out at the swelling army of Sauron poised to besiege Gondor, Pippin the Hobbit tells Gandalf: ‘”Tell me,’ he said, ‘is there any hope?” Gandalf put his hand on Pippin’s head. ‘There never was much hope,” he answered. ‘Just a fool’s hope, as I have been told’” (LOTR, 797). Beyond council and heroism, the postponing of despair, the groping toward a world where intimacy can be, lies the specific dialogic interaction: Gandalf’s recognition, his touch, and even his words, keep Pippin from despair. Between council and hero, we find interaction in specific response to the fear and chaos of the world, the dialogue for negotiating between hope and the postponing of despair.
Maybe this is obvious, but it is only becoming more obvious to me sitting
in the emergency room waiting for news from my friend’s surgeon.
For in the conversations that will follow—the cancer, the terror,
the uncertainty—we’ll only find strength in the interaction
as communal individuals with shared history and authority, joined in
separation. As men, maybe we’ll only find the strength and courage
to bring forth the conditions for intimacy to be in the recognition
of conversation that leads to choice and action, choices and actions
the exact locus of which, whether individual or communal or a dialogue
of both, remains a mystery.
Participate in SPSMM-L, the listserv for SPSMM members. It is a place to share current psychology of men and masculinity news, as well as updates regarding organizational aspects of SPSMM. If you have access to the Internet, you can subscribe to SPSMM-L at no cost. Send your request to email@example.com—Michael E. Addis, PhD.
The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (SPSMM) promotes the critical study of how gender shapes and constricts men’s lives, and is committed to an enhancement of men’s capacity to experience their full human potential. SPSMM endeavors to erode constraining definitions of masculinity which historically have inhibited men’s development, their capacity to form meaningful relationships, and have contributed to the oppression of other people. SPSMM acknowledges its historical debt to feminist-inspired scholarship on gender, and commits itself to the support of groups such as women, gays, lesbians and peoples of color that have been uniquely oppressed by the gender/class/race system. SPSMM vigorously contends that the empowerment of all persons beyond narrow and restrictive gender role definitions leads to the highest level of functioning in individual women and men, to the most healthy interactions between the genders, and to the richest relationships between them.
Has your address changed?
Contact: Keith Cooke
John Robertson, Ph.D., President
The Board met in Kansas City on March 5, and discussed a number of issues. I want to give members a brief summary of what we addressed.
TWO NEW AWARDS
“Outstanding Contribution to the Psychology of Boys Award.” This award will identify important contributions made to our understanding of masculinity among boys. The award will consider research, service, and therapeutic contributions.
Details on both these awards will be developed in the near future, and disseminated to members of our Division and to others who might be interested in applying for either of these awards.
STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES TO THE BOARD
CULTURAL DIVERSITY FORUMS
WOMEN IN DIVISION 51
The Board did not adopt a new name that addresses
these possibilities. However, there was agreement than an effort should
be made to find such a name. To wit, the Board is inviting suggestions
from the membership. Changing our name is a major event, and one that
entails many steps involving various parts of the American Psychological
Association. So this won’t be quick or easy.
APA Membership Status:
Member/Fellow Associate Member
Student Affiliate Non-APA Member
APA Membership No.:____________________
SPSMM Membership Status Desired:
Member (Psychology Doctorate, APA Member/Fellow) • $25
Associate Member (Associate Member of APA) • $25
Student Affiliate (Student Affiliate of APA) • $5
Affiliate (Interested in SPSMM & Non-APA Member) • $25
Sex: Male Female
European-American African-American Hispanic/Latino
Asian/Pacific Islander American Indian/Alaskan Other
PhD EdD PsyD MA/MS MD Other
Make check payable to Division 51, SPSMM. Send application & check
to Division 51 Administrative Office, American Psychological Association,
SPSMM provides book reviews for members to learn about the latest books in the field. Currently, book reviews are published in the SPSMM Bulletin because page space in the Division’s journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity (PMM) is at a premium with priority being placed on publishing manuscripts. This policy could be revisited once additional pages are allocated to PMM.
Persons interested in reviewing books or having their books reviewed
in the Bulletin should contact the SPSMM Book Review Editor. The SPSMM
Bulletin Book Editor will exercise his or her discretion as to which
book will be reviewed in any given issue based on his or her judgment
about the interests of the membership and mission of SPSMM. The current
SPSMM Book Review Editor is Dr. Jay Wade, Department of Psychology,
Book reviewers must assert in writing that they do not have a conflict of interest or personal relationship that would interfere with providing an objective review. The Book Review Editor will select reviewers in response to an author’s request, and the author will provide a copy of the book to the Book Review Editor.
Division 47: Sport and Exercise Psychology Presents
The annual race and walk at the 2004 Honolulu Convention of APA will be held on Saturday morning, July 31st, at 7 a.m.. The race will be held on the Kapliani Trail near Waikiki Beach, walking distance from the major hotels. More details will appear in the APA Monitor on Psychology, the Division 47 web site (www.APA47.org), and in your convention packet. If you pre-register, you will be notified via email or post.
Trophies will be awarded to the overall men’s and women's winners and to the top three in each 5-year age group, from under 25 to over 75. The top three male and female finishers who hold membership in Division 47 will receive awards. The top three finishers who are current Psi Chi members also will receive awards, as will the top three current Psi Chi National Council members. To honor the exhibitors at our meeting who provide excellent raffle prizes for us, a special award also will be given to the highest finishing male and female exhibitor.
Pre-registration will run until July 23rd which means that the entry form and fee must be received by that date. Please give us all the requested information including age and gender so that the race numbers can be labeled appropriately and save us time in determining your category for the results. THE ENTRY FEE FOR PRE-REGISTERED RUNNERS IS $20.00, which includes a commemorative t-shirt, raffle chance, and post-race refreshments. PAST July 23RD, CONVENTION, AND DAY-OF-RACE, REGISTRATION FEE IS $25.00. Pre-registration for students is $10.00 and convention/day-of-race student registration is $14.00. PLEASE pre-register to help us avoid too many convention and day-of-race registrations. Make your check payable to: Running Psychologists.
Division 47 members receive a discounted race entry of $10 as a value-added benefit of division membership. If you are an APA member and wish to apply for division 47 membership with this entry form, check the block on the form below and remit the discounted entry fee ($10) plus the Division dues ($22 for members, $8 for student affiliates). We will forward your application to APA for processing.
You may pick up your race number, shirt, and raffle ticket at the business
meeting of Running Psychologists on Friday morning at 8AM (see the program
for room number) or at the APA Division Services booth in the main Convention
Area, beginning Wednesday morning. The 7th Annual Pre-Race Pasta Dinner
will be held on Friday evening, July 30th, at 6:00 - 8:00 PM. Please
mark your entry form to reserve a place at the party, details to follow.
2004: APA 5K “Ray’s Race” in Honolulu (Run or Walk
Member_____ Sponsor_____ Exhibitor_____ Student_____ Friend/Dependent_____
The Division’s Cookbook is ready for release and people are raving
about it. In the words of Sam Cochran, “This is a spectacular
collection of recipes and stories, truly distinctive
in the world of cookbooks . . . I will treasure this book for many years
to come. After all, in what other cookbook will you find Lenore Walker’s
Holiday Turkey, David Lisak’s inspirational recipe for red chile
sauce, Murry Scher’s ‘best blueberry muffins in the world’
recipe, Ron Levant’s couscous-stuffed green pepper recipe, or
David Rose’s Teppanyaki Pancake recipe (yum).
All the recipes in the book are clearly ‘family favorites’
that are conveyed with a loving and charming sense of personal history.
This is a cookbook that everyone must own!” The Division’s
Cookbook is now available by sending a $20 check to Larry Beer at Child
and Family Psychological Services, 5380 Holiday Terrace,
Division 51 of the American Psychological
John Robertson, PhD
Kurt DeBord, PhD
Neil A. Massoth, PhD
Roberta Nutt, PhD
PO Box 22996, Texas Women's University
LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY COORDINATOR
CODAPAR LIAISON TO DIVISION 51
Mark S. Kiselica, Ph.D., HSPP, NCC, LPC (2004)
MEMBERSHIP AND RECRUITMENT
Student Health and Counseling Services
NOMINATIONS AND ELECTIONS
DIVISION 51 WEB SITE COORDINATOR
DIVISION 51 LISTSERV FACILITATOR
Division 51 Webmaster: Laura Anibal Braceland
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