Pop Culture and Masculinity

Early 90s gangsta rap group NWA

In the past decade, the concerns of black feminists has expanded to include concerns over issues not solely related to black women, but also to how American ideals of masculinity and femininity repress all people, gay and straight, male and female.

bell hooks examines how racist and sexist attitudes marginalize black males. She is critical of certain movies, for example, as reflecting white imperialist capitalist patriarchy. Films like Eddie Murphy’s Raw and Harlem Nights [trailer] embody a notion of phallocentric violence and portray women in stereotypical roles as either a sex object or a mother figure.1

Patricia Hill Collins is critical of hip hop in her book From Black Power to Hip-Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism, and she and others have cited the misogyny which is prevalent in hip hop culture.

In Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity, Jackson Katz addresses the limited way that men of color are portrayed in the media which perpetuates stereotypes. Men in general are usually portrayed in the media as violent and aggressive, but there is even less diversity in the way men of color are presented in popular culture. Men who are marginalized because of minority status or socioeconomic class are more likely to feel like they have to put on a hypermasculine front to get respect or validation. This hyper violent image is then idealized in the popular culture as mediums like hip hop music reach the mainstream. [Full video here]

“Sexism fosters, condones, and supports male violence against women, as well as encouraging violence between males.”2  The misogyny and violence that is celebrated in popular culture therefore is a huge obstacle.

References

1. bell hooks, “Reconstructing Black Masculinity” in Black Looks: Race and Representation, (Boston: South End Press, 1992), 102-106.

2. bell hooks.  Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1981), 105.

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