masculinity

Gender Identity

We commonly differentiate ‘sex’ as biological identity, from ‘gender,’ which is the cultural, social, and psychological differences between males and females.  Gender then refers to the patterns we associate with men and women in a cultural context.  The relationship between sex and gender often seen as direct or compulsory, but is socially constructed.  As I’ve previously posted, the Gender Unicorn illustrates the difference between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. 

Some other cultures have historically included gender identities outside of the male / female binary.  This recognition of identity does not necessarily mean that they do not face discrimination

Recently, Germany has recognized a third gender for intersex people.  As I’ve previously posted, intersex people “do not fit the typical definition of male or female… biological characteristics.”  Theorist Judith Butler argues gender is performative in that it “produces a series of effects” that “consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman.”  We are not born as men and women, but that it is in social interaction that gender identities are reproduced.

Other terms that have entered the general vernacular around gender include ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ people.  Cisgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does correspond with their gender identity.  Transgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does not correspond with their gender identity.  Because transgender people encounter intolerance and violence, gender performance can be complex.

It is becoming more common for young people to identify as gender ‘non binary,’ meaning they do not identify as male or female, or ‘non conforming,’ meaning their gender expression does not correspond with the cultural expectations of their respective gender.  A study recently found that 27% of teenagers in California are gender nonconforming.  In Oregon and California, residents can legally identify as non binary on drivers licenses and state documents.  In 2017, a baby in Canada became the first to have the gender status of ‘unassigned’ or ‘undetermined’ on their health records.  Some celebrities, such as musician Sam Smith and actress Amandla Stenberg, have also come out as gender non binary.    

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Having ‘Juice’ and Being ‘Hard’

In Code of the Streets, Elijah Anderson discusses how poverty, racism, fallout from drugs, and a lack of faith in the criminal justice system in inner cities have resulted in alienation.  The code of the street is a set of informal rules governing interpersonal behavior that act as a framework for obtaining and maintaining respect or “juice.”  The code creates an alternative status system whereby respect is hard won and easily lost.  The presentation of self, such as facial expressions, body language, manner of dress, and word use can signal intentions.  Ignorance of the rules are no excuse; everyone is expected to know the code and behave in the prescribed manner.  

In Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Byron Hurt talks to academics and rappers about representations of masculinity and violence in rap music.  Though the documentary is a bit older (2006), the content is still relevant.  In an interview, rapper Fat Joe talks about how even at music industry events and in night clubs, everyone feels the need to present themselves as “hard.”  Later, rapper Mos Def talks about growing up as a black man you “don’t want nobody taking you for short…but when shit got critical, you can’t be no punk…and you will get tested.”  Hurt also includes discussion of the need for poor men who lack financial power to have control over their bodies and be able to present themselves as deserving of respect.

The Risk podcast, episode 510 “Impulsive,” featured a story called “Judgment Day” by J.J. about his experience coming from inner city poverty, going to college, and returning home to visit.  The storyteller gets in an altercation with a man from the neighborhood and comes very close to killing the man as retaliation for hurting his pride.