chapter  26
18 Pages

GENDER DISPLAYS AND MEN'S POWER: THE "NEW MAN" AND THE MEXICAN IMMIGRANT MAN

I N O U R discussions about m a s c u l i n i t y w i t h o u r students (most o f w h o m are

w h i t e a n d u p p e r - m i d d l e class), talk invar iab ly turns to c r i t i c a l descr ipt ions o f

the " m a c h o " b e h a v i o r o f " t r a d i t i o n a l m e n . " Cons is tent ly , these m e n are p o r -

trayed as " o u t t h e r e " , n o t i n the c lassroom w i t h us. A l t h o u g h it usual ly r e -

mains an u n s p o k e n subtext , at t imes a student w i l l actual ly speak i t : T h o s e

m e n w h o are sti l l s tuck i n " t r a d i t i o n a l , sexist, a n d m a c h o " styles o f m a s c u l i n i -

ty are b lack m e n , L a t i n o m e n , i m m i g r a n t m e n , and w o r k i n g - c l a s s m e n . T h e y

are n o t us; w e are the N e w M e n , the M o d e r n , E d u c a t e d , a n d E n l i g h t e n e d

M e n . T h e b e l i e f that p o o r , w o r k i n g - c l a s s , a n d e t h n i c m i n o r i t y m e n are stuck

i n an atavistic, sexist " t r a d i t i o n a l male ro le , " w h i l e w h i t e , educated m i d d l e -

class m e n are f o r g i n g a m o r e sensitive egal i tar ian " N e w , " o r " M o d e r n m a l e

HONDAGNEU-SOTELO/M ESSNER

ro le , " is n o t u n c o m m o n . S o c i a l sc ient i f ic t h e o r y a n d research o n m e n a n d

mascul in i ty , as w e l l as the " m e n s m o v e m e n t , " too of ten c o l l u d e w i t h this b e -

l i e f b y d e f i n i n g m a s c u l i n i t y almost ent i re ly i n terms o f gender display (i.e.,

styles o f talk, dress, a n d b o d i l y c o m p o r t m e n t ) , w h i l e i g n o r i n g men's s t r u c t u r -

al pos i t ions o f p o w e r a n d p r i v i l e g e over w o m e n a n d the s u b o r d i n a t i o n o f c e r -

tain groups o f m e n to o t h e r m e n ( B r o d , 1983-1984) . O u r task i n this chapter

is to e x p l o r e a n d expl icate s o m e l inks b e t w e e n c o n t e m p o r a r y men's g e n d e r

displays a n d men's var ious pos i t ions i n a social s tructure o f p o w e r . Scot t

Col t rane ' s (1992) compara t ive analysis o f gender display a n d p o w e r i n 93

n o n i n d u s t r i a l societies provides us w i t h an i m p o r t a n t start ing p o i n t . C o l t r a n e

f o u n d that men's " f ie rce p u b l i c displays a n d d e n i g r a t i o n o f w o m e n . . . c o m -

pet i t ive phys ica l contests, voc i ferous oratory, ceremonies related to warfare ,

exclusive men's houses a n d rituals , a n d sexual v i o l e n c e against w o m e n " are

c o m m o n features i n societies w h e r e m e n c o n t r o l p r o p e r t y a n d have distant

relations w i t h y o u n g c h i l d r e n ( C o l t r a n e , 1992, p. 87). B y contrast, " i n societies

i n w h i c h w o m e n exercise s igni f icant c o n t r o l over p r o p e r t y a n d m e n have

close relat ionships w i t h c h i l d r e n , m e n i n f r e q u e n t l y a f f i r m the i r manl iness

t h r o u g h boastful demonstra t ions o f strength, aggressiveness, a n d sexual p o t e n -

c y " (p. 86). T h i s research suggests that men's p u b l i c gender displays are n o t

g r o u n d e d i n s o m e essential " n e e d " for m e n to d o m i n a t e others but , instead,

t e n d to vary a c c o r d i n g to the extent o f p o w e r a n d p r i v i l e g e that m e n h o l d

v i s - a - v i s w o m e n . P u t another way, the m i c r o p o l i t i c s o f men's a n d w o m e n ' s

da i ly gender displays a n d interact ions b o t h reflect a n d reconstruct the

m a c r o p o l i t i c a l relations b e t w e e n the sexes (Henley , 1977).