4.11 Masculinity and the Binary

4.11 Masculinity and the Binary
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How does binary affect men (and put them in risk)?

Now that you’ve learned how gender is socially constructed into a binary, let’s examine one pole of the binary: masculinity.

Beginning of the work

Before you begin, answer these questions. Answer each one quickly with the first words that come to mind. Don’t worry about profanity, just write the words that come to mind:

QUICKLY, without thinking, think of the first three words that come to mind:

1. What three words describe what it means to be a man?

2. What three words describe someone who is not a real man?
Research by CJ Pascoe

Here is Micro lecture by CJ Pascoe about bullying and masculinity. Watch the video below.

What does Pascoe’s research suggest about masculinity?

Do you think Pascoe’s research is right for your high school?

Men are at risk because of the norms of masculinity

Recall the table below from our lesson on the gender binary. Use the chart to rate each of the following three areas where men are at risk.

Men and school
  • In school, boys are 30% more likely to fail, 250% more likely to be suspended, and 300% more likely to be diagnosed with learning and emotional disabilities.
  • Men are less likely than women to go to college and get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a Ph.D.

What is your hypothesis as to why this is? How can this be related to binary? (Use the diagram above to try to explain why traditional masculine traits might lead to these learning outcomes.)

This article examines how men choose to participate less in school and how this affects their ability to succeed at work.

Young men are much more likely to die from accidental death than women:

Men aged 20-24 are 3 times more likely to die from accidents,

4 times more likely to die by suicide and

6 times more likely to be murdered than women. (Ferris and Stein, p. 256)

What is your hypothesis as to why this is? How can this be related to binary? (Again – see chart above.)
Explorers Sandra Nakagawa and Chloe Hart conducted a study that examined how gender identity influences eating habits.

“…In the United States, where men have a higher rate of life-threatening medical conditions than women, incl uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease – changing their eating habits can be important for their health.

Why do you think it is difficult for men to change their eating habits?

Hypothesize why traditional masculine traits may lead men to eat less healthily.

After your hypothesis, read the research explanation here in contexts. From the link

“This study shows that masculinity affects men’s health. The important thing is that the problem here is not masculinity itself, but the high standards men feel they have to live up to (pun intended?) and eat.”

After reading the above explanation in contexts, evaluate your hypothesis. Was it right?

Men and violence

Men are more often both perpetrators and victims of violence.
From Statista 2022 (below) and from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2010),

  • 40% of teenage girls aged 14-17 say they know someone their own age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
  • 1 in 5 college women will experience some form of dating violence from their male partner.
  • 1 in 3 high school students have been or will be in an abusive relationship.
These statistics come from The Zachary Foundation which is a local organization that will provide confidential support to individuals dealing with sexual and domestic abuse.

6. What is your hypothesis as to why this statistic might be related to gender socialization? How can this be related to binary?

Men and work

Some jobs are gendered, and men are limited by sexist socialization messages about gender.

It’s ironic, but misogyny actually hurts men. Below is evidence of how gender inequality limits male-dominated jobs and feminizes entire industries. Men do not want to take jobs that they identify as feminine. As a result, men are moving into some of the fastest-growing industries, such as home health care.

in Gender and society, Latonya Trotter finds that it is not just an exclusion from male occupations, but also a policy of inclusion of female occupations that maintains distinctly gendered domains.

  • Here is the article Harvard Business Review written by Janette Dill Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Akron, Ohio:

Entry-level health care jobs that are (and aren’t) taken (2017)

All of this suggests that men, particularly White men, who are able to obtain additional education may define some health care professions as more technical and masculine, preserving conventional understandings of masculinity in the health care sector. Unfortunately, this also means that women and minority men may continue to work in lower paying direct care jobs where “dirty work” remains stigmatized as “women’s work.”

Professor Dill’s work is supported by this research on gendered language in job advertisements.

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth provides this fact sheet (2017) on occupational segregation.

The gender division of jobs includes some of the following examples (Ferris and Stein 2018, 269-71):

Many jobs are still highly gendered: nurses, early childhood education (97%), dental hygienists, secretaries (94%), paralegals, housekeepers are predominantly female, while pilots, carpenters, mechanics (98%) and firefighters ( 94%) are male. .

By the way candidates themselves choose jobs by gender, employers also choose by gender. This research (2019), documented by Contexts, shows that employers hire candidates by gender based on their perception of what the gender of the job should be.

The Australian Men’s Health Forum breaks down research on work and gender discrimination.

Do you understand how the gender binary affects men’s work?

How does binary affect men (and put them in risk)?

“The mask you live in” – 2013 A documentary about masculinity from the creators of Miss Representation. Here’s the trailer:

Read “Adolescent Masculinity, Homophobia, and Violence in Random School Shootings, 1982-2001.” This is a qualitative study by an American behavioral scientist about who randomly shoots up schools and why. Students can access it here. It is also publicly available here.

After reading the article, answer question 1 below. Here is the Google form for answering the questions in this lesson.
1. What is Mahler’s (and Kimmel’s) claim in common?

After understanding Mahler and Kimmel’s claim and evidence, we will attempt to replicate and update their qualitative research. Their qualitative analysis of existing data on school shootings examined random school shootings in the major print media (Time, Newsweek, US News, USA Today, NY Times, LA Times). Below are two lists of school shootings.

First, pick at least one of the random post-2001 school shooters.

Second, after choosing a shooter to research, use mainstream news outlets to gather data on some school shooters since 2001. up to now.
Pay attention to the shooter:

  • Gender
  • the race
  • state (red or blue in 2001)
  • community: urban, suburban, rural
  • other qualitative information about them, such as music, video games, movies, parental status, mental illness, social status/teasing, etc.

Here are some other sites to help you find information:
Every town K-12 Database
NRA gun law tracker can be useful in determining the gun culture of a state.

2. What shooter(s) did you research?

3. What was the shooter’s race like?

4. What was the gender of the shooter?

5. What community setting did the shooting take place in?

6. Is shooting red or blue?

7. What other details about the shooter have been revealed?

Given the data above for at least one school shooter, hypothesize whether Mahler and Kimmel’s research still holds true.

Do you think that since 2001 Mahler and Kimmel’s claims about who shoots up schools and why still hold true?

Answer any of the following questions about this lesson.

  • Does your data correlate with what the rest of the class found?
  • What do you think of the findings?
  • Is this data interesting/insightful? Why why not?
  • Do you see a connection between masculinity and violence?
  • Do you think the average American would have a hard time understanding the connection? Why?
  • What other questions do you have?

Finally, try to apply the research to other random shootings outside of schools. Search for previously used sites. Again, you can use an IC newspaper search or Google their names to find information about the shooters. Here are some other sites to help you find information:

Mass shooting tracker
TheTrace collects articles and data related to the shootings at
Follower of NRA gun laws

Find one example of an accidental shooting that did not happen at school.

Does Mahler and Kimmel’s research also apply to OUT OF SCHOOL random shootings?

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