Here for you now, I present a collection of Milwaukee’s Best Light Beer commercials… Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGItoKaX0BM
What do all of those commercials have in common? Beer. And also hegemonic masculinity.
Hegemonic masculinity is the term used to explain the criteria for being a “real man”; a model for all men to show how they “should” be. Generally, in American culture, there is only one complete unblushing male: a young, married, white, urban, heterosexual, Protestant, father, college educated, fully employed, handsome, tall, of the appropriate weight, and has a recent record in sports. And anyone who fails to qualify in any one of these ways at any time is likely to see himself as unworthy, incomplete, or inferior. Right? All other men who don’t fit this criteria are not manly at all.
The tagline of the beer is “Men should act like men”, and those who do not act like “men” should be crushed to death by an enormous beer can that falls from the heavens. Of course.
Clearly, this is unfair and sexist towards men. The men deserve to die because they are not acting like men, but are acting like women, and men becoming women is a fate deserving of death?
However, these men are not acting “like women”. They’re just not being stereotypical, hammer-up-the-drywall, macho-macho-masculine dudes.
The man who was showing love, warmth, affection, and sensitivity to a dog instead of working on the car? He definitely needed to die.
The guy who checked in with his wife? Acknowledging that he cares about his relationship? Obviously worthy of death. How dare a man be considerate. That’s just not how we do things here.
The dude with the clothes matching his wife? Whipped! He lost control of his woman. (And if you notice, once the guys reject him, his wife does too. She lets go of his hand and kind of inches away from him. Rejected by everyone.)
The man blotting his pizza, caring about his health, and perhaps even his appearance? Dead. And good riddance. (This is ironic because most older men in America have worse health than their wives. Not to mention this is a Light Beer commercial.)
A lot of this idea of masculinity has to do with the time we live in. If you notice, all of the “real” men are doing manual labor: digging a hole, fixing a car, grilling outdoors…. A hundred years ago, the perfect man would be he who did not have to do any physical labor. He would have slaves or servants to do it for him. Today, that has completely changed. The men were smoking, eating, drinking, working, getting dirty. Their masculinity was about brute strength. And this doesn’t really seem all that odd to us, because it is in fact hegemonic, and we don’t realize it’s there. We’ve integrated it into society so thickly, so deeply, that it only seems natural to us. Of course guys are rough and sweaty. What else would they be?
However, if this idea of “masculinity” was in fact natural, a hundred years ago the manliest men would also be digging holes and greasing up the … horses. If this really was natural, there wouldn’t be such great differences across time and space.
Here in America, two guys holding hands—not cool. Guys don’t generally hold hands, not unless their lovers. But in Africa, across the sea in the Middle East, guys hold hands. It’s a sign of friendship, of comradery. Guys do it all the time there, and it’s normal, it’s natural.
A guy I know, we’ll call him Gerard, served a Mission down in Africa recently. He had a tour guide to help him navigate the town. The tour guide was going to show him where such-and-such was, so he reached down to grab Gerard’s hand and instantly Gerard snatched his hand back, absolutely shocked. His tour guide looked at him strange, he was kind of hurt and confused. The tour guide was just trying to show him the way. Why had he not wanted to hold hands with him? Weren’t they pals?
It was extremely weird for Gerard to hold another man’s hand, and it was weird for the tour guide not to because of these two conflicting ideas of masculinity.
What’s so wrong with two guys holding hands in America? Oh right, because it’s “gay”. … Oh, sorry, that was my cue: *Gasp!*
But wait, now why is that a bad thing? Oh right, because of this thing called hegemonic masculinity that says all real men are straight men, and real men are hardass Schwarzenegger S.O.B.’s that would never show affection or emotion because truly they’re half robot inside. And any deviancy will be met with the swift and just verdict of a giant beer can falling out of the sky to murder them on the spot. Silly me, how could I forget?
Whoopsi daisy! How did that get there?