After school, I moved 2000 miles away from home and took a government job in Washington, DC—my first real adult job. I had a roommate, and her brother and two of his friends came to visit from out-of-state. Janelle had planned a day trip to Shenandoah National Park, but she was called in to work. Janelle asked me if I would hang out with her brother and his friends and follow through with the plans.
To be honest, I wasn’t real thrilled about the idea because 1) I didn’t know them; 2) I’d be the only woman; and 3) they were rowdy and acted hyper-masculine from the time they arrived. I felt certain this behavior would continue throughout the day. However, I hid my trepidations, agreed to her request, and three rambunctious guys and I rode off in a souped-up Malibu.
On the way, they reminisced about their military experiences and bar brawls. All three exhibited a competitive air and talked over each other during the hour and a half drive. It seemed apparent to me that they weren’t listening to each other but rather thinking about what they were going to say next. The façade was obvious, and although I got the feeling they were trying to impress me, I wasn’t impressed.
Glen, the shortest and youngest of the three, acted the most macho. He talked with a strong, Bronx accent and strutted when he walked. He showed off his nunchuck (nunchaku) skills in the apartment parking lot before we left. I never heard them address each other by their names. Everyone was “dude.” At about the halfway point, I zoned out.
Somehow we ended up at a limestone rock quarry, which had been closed down. It was filled in with crystal clear water, probably spring fed. It was a hot summer’s day, and the guys were up for a novel adventure. Ignoring the “No Trespassing” sign, we climbed the tall, chain-linked fence, took off our shoes and jumped in the cool water. It was so clear the bottom was visible. If I had to guess, the depth was probably close to 27 meters. I never saw any fish. Perhaps the water was too alkaline.
As we swam to the other side, a dark, irregular circle appeared just below the waterline of this rugged, steep wall of limestone. Upon closer examination, it was an underwater quarried tunnel. A faint, pale green light inside the tunnel piqued our curiosity. Taking a deep breath, we dove under, swam about 5 meters through the tunnel, and surfaced inside a cave.
While catching our breath, we were awe struck by what we saw. The inside of the cave was illuminated like aqua green neon lights. It was breathtaking. I had a lump in my throat and wanted to openly weep as I was completely gobsmacked by this unexpected, spectacular sight. For several hours we explored more quarry caves glowing from filtered light.
On the way home, the tone and energy was different in the car. We were all on a natural high and our inhibitions were lowered. There was authenticity in our conversations. For the first time I heard them call each other by their first names. It was apparent there was an emotional connection between us all. Emotional intimacy. I saw their humanity; their authentic selves void of gender roles. I didn’t want that day to end, and neither did they.
I was sitting in the back, right behind Glen who was in the front passenger seat. He started to weep. Silence filled the car for several seconds. I asked Glen if there was something wrong. He said, “nothing is wrong.” I asked him why he was crying. He said “because I’m sure I’ll never experience anything like this again.” Glen wasn’t referring to the quarry adventure.
Below are excerpts from an article “The Selling Of Masculinity” by Harris O’Malley:
“The question of the role and meaning of masculinity is especially strong in younger men – men in their late teens and early twenties – as they strike out to find their own place in the world. It’s only natural to look to the world around us for gender cues and role-models to guide us through the thorny questions of gender identity1 and the role to take in the world.
With the ubiquity of mass-communication – whether it be magazines, newspapers, movies, television or the Internet – it’s not surprising that many men look to popular culture for sources of information what male behavior is supposed to be and how we’re supposed to display it.
In the most recent issue of the journal Sex Roles, psychologists from the University of Manitoba examined the prevalence of hypermasculinity – the ideology of exaggerated male traits as the epitome of masculine identity – in advertisements in popular men’s magazines including Maxim, Playboy, Game Informer, Fortune, Esquire and Wired.
Hypermasculinity portrays violence and physical aggression as manly ideals; it promotes a world where all of male life is a struggle of dominance of others, where sex is a matter of power and female submission rather than one of intimacy and mutual pleasure and that any “feminine” emotions are to be repressed.
Hypermasculine ideology reinforces a culture that permits a very narrow expression of male identity. The message carried by the imagery is that men are defined by conflict and violence. Every interaction between men is one of a struggle for dominance. There are no equals, only the dominant and the submissive.
The story of manhood in these messages is one of a very narrowly defined form of heteronormativity; to deviate even slightly from this model of manhood is to be feminine, which is a fate worse than anything short of emasculation.
The vision of manhood perpetuated by the hyper-masculine ideology is one where men are little better than chimps. The world of hyper-masculinity is one where life is brutish, stupid and short. All male interactions are forms of aggression and dominance display; “toughness” masquerades as discipline and male friendships cannot exist because emotional intimacy is frowned upon for fear of being too feminine. Men in this ideology are disconnected from their emotions.
A man in this ideology has next to no control over his impulses. He is ruled by his genitals and his need to gain the respect of others through violence and the pursuit of danger. He is utterly at the mercy of his base instincts: the need to fuck, the need to eat, the need to accumulate goods.
Personally, I value being a man too much to let it be insulted, marginalized and commodified like this. And so should you. Read more.
Scott A. Lukas, Ph.D. is the creator of The Gender Ads Project:
“This Web site is focused on the cultural intersections of gender and advertising. Its goal is to promote greater awareness of the relationships of gender and advertising as well as an understanding of the social, cultural, political, personal, psychological and other effects of gender and advertising. Currently featuring 4000 ads.
Humans are sexual beings, but we must ask why such a limited view of sexuality is displayed in these and other ads? http://www.genderads.com/page5/slideshow-32/
“…there is remarkable evidence that the ads present in our society do impact our psychological understandings of gender and sexuality. As Lindsey suggests in highlighting previous research on this subject (Rudman and Verdi 1993; Lanis and Covell 1995), “males exposed to ads where females are portrayed as sex objects are more accepting of rape-supportive attitudes and predictive of subjective levels of exploitation” (1997:315).” http://www.genderads.com/page9/slideshow-61/
Women, on the other hand, are things. They are to be desired, yes, but not as partners or equal participants in life; they are trophies, proof of one’s superior masculinity. The men in these ads don’t value the women for their personality, their minds, their ability to make them laugh… they are at best ornamental. At worst, they are playthings – pets even – to be used however a man cares to, regardless of their wishes. Harris O’Malley – “The Selling of Masculinity“
The barrage of messages helps confirm and reinforce the hypermasculine ideal that men are to be dominant and aggressive, that sex is something that is available to you by default and that take not “no” for an answer is a good thing. It fortifies a culture where boys think that it’s ok to take a girl who is intoxicated to the point of near unconsciousness…] Harris O’Malley “The Selling of Masculinity“
“Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies offers an interesting look at the connections between masculinity, fascism, hatred of women and violence (1987).” http://www.genderads.com/page6/slideshow-44/
“What do the following ads and video games suggest about our society?
You might note that there is a parallel between the representations of women in the video games themselves and the various gender ads. Women are often thin, wrongly proportioned, behave stupidly, and are the subject of the gaze and actions of men.
Males are also stereotyped, particularly in games like Grand Theft Auto and its spin-offs. Men are thugs, violent, overtly masculine and without passion or intelligence.
Video produced by a gamer – Ten Ways To Kill A Hooker in GTA IV
One of the most shocking games pictured on this page is the Japanese game known as “RapeLay.” Just consider the implications of this form of entertainment!” http://www.genderads.com/page10/slideshow-77/
The game centers on a male character who stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters.
I encourage readers to browse through The Gender Ads website. Many studies are cited. The ads (4000+) are quite eye-opening and many if not most are disturbing. Media, such as advertising, is playing a major role in dividing us, and making huge profits in the process.
Advertisement images from:
The Gender Ads Project.
Created by Scott A. Lukas, Ph.D.
Created in 2002, South Lake Tahoe, California.
Accessed on: [July 12, 2013]
US Copyright Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107