Masculinity comics 3

On the value of a big brother (and his responsibilities). The One Big Happy from 9/2:

(#1) Joe and his younger sister Ruthie

If Joe had a big brother (not too much older than he was), then by the codes governing masculinity in modern American society, it would be that brother’s duty to join adult male figures (fathers, uncles, coaches, etc.) in instructing Joe (and other younger boys, but especially his younger brother Joe) about the practices, attitudes, and behaviors of normative masculinity, and in enforcing those teachings. Older boys have pretty much full responsibility for the practices, attitudes, and behaviors specific to kids (kids having their own elaborate social worlds); and, in fact, they are the primary vectors passing on normatively masculine values.

The special virtue of a (somewhat) older brother is that not only is he a guide to the normative world of boys, he’s also around a lot of the time, so he’s a kind of built-in wiser buddy. Someone you can, for example,  engage in imaginative conflict play and active adventures with. Cool. And besides that, he’s older and stronger and can be a buffer for you against the world.

Meanwhile, Joe is himself an older brother, but his younger sibling is a girl, and that relationship calls up a different set of responsibilities: not to induct the younger child into the world of her normative gender, but merely to do the buffer thing, to serve as her protector, as a stand-in for her father. We don’t see much of that in the One Big Happy strip, though.

Meanwhile, I note that, to one degree or another, plenty of modern American boys don’t hew to the norms of masculinity in this sociocultural setting; there are many masculinities out there. But I think it’s fair to say that we all feel the weight of the normative values.

Reminder of the background. From my 10/6 posting “Masculinity comics 2”:

I’ve been accumulating comic strips having to do with boys and masculinity, in particular about what they’ve picked up about normatively masculine behavior and attitudes by the age of 8 or so: the age of the character Joe in the comic strip One Big Happy, who’s the older brother of Ruthie, age 6, who’s the central character of the strip. At the moment I have 5 strips (4 OBHs, plus a Zippy), overing a wide range of themes in normative masculinity for boys. To judge from the comics (and my recollections of boyhood), an 8-year-old has an extensive and pretty fine-grained command of the cultural norms of masculinity within his social group.

Then [for] introductory material on the Boy Code (and normative masculinity more generally), from my 4/12/16 posting “On the brocabulary watch: brocialist”:

[Michael Kimmel’s] first rule [of the Boy Code and the Guy Code] is that “[normative] masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine” …

And the central precept of the first rule is No Sissy Stuff!: avoid anything that might suggest homosexuality. The most wounding insult to a young man is to call him a fag(got), and “That’s so gay” is a powerful put-down among adolescent boys.

But beyond that: avoid women as friends rather than sexual conquests; avoid “feminine” interests (like the arts), avoid empathetic rather than competitive interactions (men improve one another, make one another into better men, by challenging each other agonistically), etc.

Also avoid “Mama values” (at the risk of becoming a “Mama’s boy”): cleanness, neatness, respectfulness, “proper grammar”, no “dirty talk”, etc. – including these values as policed by female partners (standing in for Mama), who are seen as “ball-busters” or “castrating bitches” when they perform this role: women as emasculating.

Two brothers. From the FamilyMinded site, “17 Reasons Why Brothers Are the Best”, by Briana Hansen on 6/1/18, one of the photos, plus a few of the reasons (which should resonate with my discussion above):

(#2) The classic brothers-as-buddies pose, with kids (from the FamilyMinded article); I had hoped to find a good example of another classic American brothers pose, in which one has the other in a headlock, but without success

You’ve Got a Built-In Best Friend
They’ll Look Out for You
You Have a Partner in Crime
They Won’t Judge You
They’re Top Notch Pranksters [play aggression again]
They’re Competitive
They Teach You to Stand Up for Yourself

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