Over at Sociology in Focus, Dave Mayeda has a new post on the intersections between masculinity, rape culture and sports and explores masculine bonding as constructed against a feminine “other” seen as the out-group. This was especially visible in the Steubenville case:
“But it’s more than the ways that male athletes are treated as public heroes who can do as they please in societies where sport is deeply embedded in society’s power structure. Sporting culture also seeps into male groups, where individuals within them simultaneously aim to out-do and bond with each other through others’ exploitation. This masculine bonding can be committed against females or males, but in the process, the victim is typically feminized, irrespective of his or her sex.
In the Steubenville case, this gendered bonding and exploitation is clearly visible, as the adolescent males enhanced their friendship through the physical and subsequent verbal/online abuse of the female victim. Karen Franklin, in her important article, “Enacting masculinity: antigay violence and group rape as participatory theater,” notes further that males who participate in such activities are actually compensating for masculine insecurities by performing and showing off in front each other, at the expense of the feminized victim.“
And now, there is the case of Mike Rice, at Rutgers University:
The whole ESPN story is here.
I think this video perfectly illustrates the point Dave was making. The coach asserts his power and superior status through physical posturing, pushing, showing, throwing the ball, and accompanying all this physical display with a torrent of homophobic slurs directed at the players. This utterly patriarchal behavior (the power of the fatherly figure) not only reinforces the dominance and power of the coach but also acts as social control mechanism against the players. It is a form of gender socialization directed at male player behavior: what traits they are expected to display and what happens when they do not.
As was demonstrated very convincingly some time ago by Jackson Katz in Tough Guise, such name-calling (and here, the physical bullying) operates to keep young men in a very small box of acceptable masculinity, posited as completely opposed to anything feminine or gay.
As Mayeda states,
“The prevention of such violence is not about telling women and girls how to dress or behave. It’s about socializing boys and young men to develop a socially healthier form of masculinity. At 18:20 of the Aljazeera video, social workers discuss how teenage males learn about their maleness, sex, and intimate relationships through highly violent means (e.g., pornography and violent peers). The need then, is for men with healthier social outlooks to take leadership in teaching the younger generations of boys what it means to be male.”
Well, add violent and homophobic coaches to the list.