Archive for the ‘Masculinity’ Category

Folk ethology: wolves

January 14, 2022

Recently come past me, two metaphorical uses of wolf (and wolf-related vocabulary) that get their punch from common lore about wolves and their behavior: one from a particular sociocultural context in which men have sex with other men; one from a different particular sociocultural context in which men relate socially to women and other men. The first context is from working-class Harlem of the 1920s; the second from recent alpha male self-help / self-improvement literature aimed at striving American middle-class, largely professional, men.

The first case, which involves labels for particular categories of male-male sexuality, will require some care, since the labels are so bound to specific contexts and are mostly drawn from ordinary language, but used in specialized ways. You might appreciate this last point better when I tell you that a rough synonym for the 20s Harlem male-male label wolf was man — which obviously must in this context be understood as metaphorical (some males in this context were men; other males were either punks or fairies); more on these label vs. category complexities below.

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Masculinity comics 8

December 19, 2021

Now in my comics feed, a 11/22 One Big Happy strip mostly about what home is, but with its first two panels on masculinity for boys (I’ll show you the whole strip at the end of this posting):


(#1) Guy stuff, no glitter — ’cause that would be gay stuff

Another item in my “Masculinity comics” series. From the first, on 10/5/21:

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. … 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.

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zhuzh it up!

November 25, 2021


(#1) Available as a sticker from Redbubble, also as a t-shirt

Enter Monica Macaulay (in Wisconsin), who posted this ad for seasoning packets from Uncommon Goods on Facebook yesterday, with her innocent comment:



(#2 & 3) Monica: “zhuzh it up! apparently a well-known expression”

Well, yes, well-known in some circles (dictionary resources, in considerable detail, to come below). It was popularized earlier in this century in the US by the tv program Queer Eye for the Straight Guy; but then back in the 1960s and 70s in the UK by the BBC radio program(me) Round the Horne, with high-camp characters who made much use of a secret lexicon called Polari.

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Pissing and moaning with Ed Koren

November 24, 2021

From the 2018 cartoon collection Koren in the Wild (my copy of which arrived today), this New Yorker cartoon (published in the magazine on 9/6/99):


Working-class masculinity — the bar, pissing and moaning — meets the intellectual — verify what you’re saying with data: who verifies their pissing and moaning with data?

Then there’s the slang idiom to piss and moan.

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The long johns, the erection, and the cruise face

November 12, 2021

(Significant mentions of erections, plus a photo of a barely covered one, displayed with carnal intent — so not to everyone’s taste.)

This morning’s ad from Daily Jocks offers extremely form-fitting long johns from Helsinki Athletica, modeled in such a calculatedly raunchy way that I broke out in helpless laughter.

The ad copy for the garment (illustration under the fold):

SPECIAL PURCHASE: 40% OFF LONG JOHNS

The Helsinki Athletica Long Johns [AZ: note Ad-Copy Capitalization] are made from premium modal [AZ: modal fabric is made by spinning beech bark cellulose] which forms to your skin with ultimate comfort, whilst showing off your best assets. [AZ: If you got ’em, flaunt ’em!]

These Long Johns are only available for 1 week per year! [AZ: I’m not sure we could survive an extended display of them.]

USD $19 | AUD $27 [The DJ company is in Oz.]

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Tell me that you love me

October 21, 2021

Two very different occurrences from my experience.

The Fillmore plea. From the late 1960s, Chuck (Charles J.) Fillmore, tapped (as senior member of the linguistics department at Ohio State) to serve as acting chair of the department while Ilse Lehiste was on leave, hesitantly addressing the first faculty meeting of the year (I was one of those faculty):

(CJF) I can do this job if you all tell me, often, that you love me.

The Transue plea. From ca. 1990, my guy — my husband-equivalent — Jacques Transue, with some visible anxiety, pulling me aside for a moment of serious couple-talk, holding my hand, gazing into my eyes:

(JHT) I need you to tell me more often that you love me.

Two clearly different senses of the verb love (but both, of course, capable of different shadings in different contexts).

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Masculinity comics 7

October 17, 2021

Now graduating from boys and normative masculinity to men and normative masculinity, but still in the comics. Via Verdant on Twitter, the Lieutenant and Sarge in an old Beetle Bailey (apparently from 3/30/65):


At issue is the status of illegible vs. neat handwriting with respect to normative masculinity.

Sarge, offering himself as an authority on the matter, identifies his own illegible writing as rough, and is about to brand the Lieutenant’s neat writing as, well, at least soft.

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Masculinity comics 6

October 16, 2021

A fresh installment in this series on boys and (normative) masculinity, in this case illustrating Michael Kimmel’s first rule of the Boy Code and the Guy Code: that “[normative] masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine” — in the One Big Happy comic of 9/19:


(#1) The ignominy of having to use the women’s room

Public restrooms in the U.S., especially large ones (in shopping malls, airports, and the like) can be daunting places for children, so it falls to caregivers to help them use the facilities, until they are large enough and experienced enough to cope on their own. Since caregivers for small children in our society are very predominantly women, it falls to women to do this work in most circumstances (family outings being one notable exception).

The consequence is that female caregivers will take a boy into women’s restrooms until the boy objects (as Joe does above) or she decides that he can go it alone (while, typically, she hovers fretfully outside the mensroom). Sites for mothers are packed with agonizing about the situation, and sites for parents in general are packed with complaints about how drastically unaccommodating public toilets are for children.

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Sapphires for two

October 12, 2021

From yesterday’s posting “This day”, mostly about my man Jacques and me (October 11th being the day we had chosen as our wedding-equivalent anniversary), on contemplating gifts for a 45th anniversary — the sapphire anniversary, if you’re hawking gems — for a male couple:

J and I were indeed fond of sapphires (and rubies and emeralds too), but never conceived of accessorizing with them (or with the much more affordable spinel imitations). (Our wedding-equivalent rings were hematite and — when the hematite ones kept getting shattered — plain steel. I know, so butch.)

Ah, negotiating fabulous + butch. J was leanly muscular and athletic, but far too sweet and engaging to project as butch. Meanwhile, I was pretty good at being outrageous, but no damn good at projecting fabulosity; other gay guys sometimes accused me of being deliberately straight-acting, of putting it on, and so of mocking them, with their more flamboyant presentations of themselves.

Still, back in the last century, we had masculine jewelry, though nothing quite like some of the things I found on a net search yesterday

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Masculinity comics 3

October 7, 2021

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.

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