Different Perspectives on Masculinity
People know little about masculinity. In terms of modern globalizing world and changing values, the notion of masculinity changes as well. This topic is shrouded in many different myths. Society perceives these false installations and lives in them, but they bring a lot of troubles into human life. Masculinity is a collective notion. It is constantly evolving, obtaining new content, depending on the historical period. Masculinity is literally dying out, and this is not a rant. As a result of this gradual change, the social culture and history are changing as well. The notion of masculinity significantly influences the value of a woman, the image of a man, and the perception of sexual minorities.
Homo- and Heterosexual Masculinity Relational
A modern man is less and less like an “original” image. Now, in most cases, a male individual is mentally unbalanced, sensitive, impulsive, not able to make decisions, self-centered, impatient, unsure of himself, having a negative view of the world, often obsessed with the appearance. Many people consider the described image as an image of a homosexual since they are considered to have “gotten rid” of their masculine traits. Due to the fact that a homosexual image is often stereotyped and coincides with the image of a modern “soft” man, the issue of rationality and interchangeability of masculinity among representatives of both sexual orientations arises. The point is that the homosexual perspective of masculinity (i.e. cared-for look, mannerism, emotionality and other) is now unintentionally copied and used by heterosexual individuals, which creates the confusion and coincidence in the minds of common individuals. In addition, such traits become related to all men, also changing the perspective of masculinity.
Masculinity in men is usually described as being relatively rude and direct. However, the demand is for tenderness and “soft masculinity.” For example, Sun Jung says that “masculinity is reconstructed through the ambivalent desires of middle-aged Japanese female fans” (Jun 164). The essence of this notion is that the post-colonial era of Korea and Japan gave the demand for “other men.” For centuries, women experienced the rudeness and dictatorship of men in these countries. Relative liberalization and appearance of sexual minorities and feminism motions made them strive for soft and caring men. Despite the fact that the common image of soft men is a gay image, the prevalence of “tender charisma, purity, and politeness” among heterosexuals is growing. In addition, the demand of women for men to be more soft and caring led to the exact opposite result – they lost the masculinity, and women began to perform both social roles. The specific example of such a change is the pop culture representatives. K-pop music idols are the representation of gay appearance – care-for body, perfect skin, “sweet” (i.e. feminine) appearance, sexual moves, more appropriate for women, and high voices. This is what is perceived as masculinity nowadays by society as a whole and by women in particular. The main point here is that these men are extremely popular and beloved by women. Therefore, a common male individual strived for such an appearance in order to have female attention. The point is simple, if K-pop idols are popular, then they correspond to women’s demands. Men are somehow challenged by an approval of homosexual appearance in order to be appreciated by women.
In the public mind, there is a quite firmly seated stereotype, according to which a gay is not a man in the complete meaning of this word, especially if he prefers a passive role. In addition, this stereotype was created and cultivated, oddly enough, by homosexuals themselves. This event can be seen in Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, where the notion of homosexuality is rather new and is reflected from the Western example. This is a very one-sided view of things. In fact, gays are very different. By the way, among the American gays, there can be more masculine males than among the heterosexual ones – they also do bodybuilding and have bindings, which is perceived as extreme masculinity by common individuals. As a matter of fact, this kind of masculinity is what homosexual individuals are searching for when realizing their sexual orientation – they tend to seek for the traits which they are trying to get rid of (Jun 165). Muscular and athletic men now appeared to be homosexuals – knowing that gays are said to be tender and soft, they highlight the traditional masculine appearance to show that being gay does not mean being non-masculine. Therefore, the images are changing – ordinary men become gay-like, and gays become common-like. The image of a homosexual as being effeminate and even feminine is partly created by gay-parades occurrences. For example, in Korea, gay-parades are held in order to create an image of the gays as very friendly, funny, and entertaining people (Cho 217). One can notice that the majority of parade members are muscular and masculine in the original meaning of this word, which only proves the confusion. Instead, the gay parades led to the perception of homosexuals as “clowns,” rainbow lovers, and unserious individuals. Therefore, they create an impression of a heterosexual trying to be “in style” (i.e. correspond the modern demand), being “like them” (Jun 168).
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The conclusion is that nowadays, it is hard to distinguish a soft man and a gay man. Homosexuals search for the ordinary masculinity representation, and heterosexuals search for soft masculinity, enabling both to fit into the current demand for an appropriate partner. Heterosexual individuals are now assimilating into the homosexual ones, and vice versa. The notion of masculinity is changing, especially in the Korea and Japan, where the homosexual relationships were recently a serious crime. The very fact that in Korea, homosexuality was recently considered as a factor to be included into “anti-bias” laws, and the criminal liability for being gay is cancelled, this serves as an evidence for a softened view on the masculinity notion and its interchangeability between heterosexual and homosexual individuals.
Masculinity and K-Pop Culture
Previously, a small part of states, primarily the United States and Great Britain, produced music stars – from The Beatles to Lady Gaga. Commercially significant markets for their proprietary media were a very small number of industrialized countries, mainly North America and Europe. Only now, globalization has enriched the borders of the pop industry. PSY, nowadays, is the most successful rapper in the world, and he is originally from Korea. New countries present a new image of the globalized pop-culture and turn the popular culture development onto a new level.
When considering Korean pop groups performances and singing, everything points to the influence of global popular culture on the Asian countries. One can make a parallel here with “sweet” boys’ bands of America and Britain, for example Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber, and Blue (Jun 164). There is an ideal picture of a man having a perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect appearance, and a perfect body. Usually, men are not perceived as the ones who look after themselves. Here, the situation is opposite. The global notion of a boys’ band in pop culture dictates the appearance of its members, which should be straightly supported in order to be popular among teenage girls and young women.
Talking about their performance, one can also notice that they do not fit to a usual representation of masculine artists. The very voice of band members is not perceived as masculine, despite the fact that it is the first thing to be noticed by the audience. Usual masculine voices are baritone and bas. However, here, if to listen carefully, one can notice high notes, vocalization, and long notes singing, which is more common for women’s singing. In addition, the parody for a girls’ band in Dirty Eyed Girls Abracadabra Parody seems to be an exaggerated copying of feminine movements (TheKpopcinema). On the other side, one can notice the same movements in the real Korean band 2PM video “10 out of 10.” They move their hips, demonstrate bodies, and touch faces (Jypentertainment).
The video clearly demonstrates the direct influence of globalization on the local culture. The rhythm, beat, motive, text, and presentation is similar to any pop performer in any Western country. What is interesting, these bands still try to keep to their masculine origin – they use electric guitar sounds in music (distortion), which is usually used in rock music, being 100 percent masculine. However, guitar sounds are soft and rather calm, highlighting the tenderness and politeness of modern males (Jypentertainment). The rules of behavior on stage, in video clips, and with journalists are dictated by European and American rules of popularity, i.e. being “sweet” and friendly. These performers play on the international tendency of masculinity change, i.e. nowadays, men are more and more valued for appearance, not for real masculine characteristics – strength, self-assurance, and the ability to prevail. There is a cultural technology of providing “easy-perceived” stars, who pay attention to appearance instead of music, interpretation, and the artistic attribute. Being globally popularized, art, including music, now serves as an entrainment, not as a self-enrichment tool. The prevalence of on-line music stores, such as iTunes, Play Music, and thousands of others have existed in western industrialized countries for a decade. However, they became a global distribution network only recently, with the penetration of pop culture trends in Asia. Therefore, music today gives a perspective for globalization, regarding what the world has become during past several decades.
A Changing Role of a Woman
It is not a secret that the value of a woman in society is changing. Today, more and more duties are shifted to women, including masculine ones, such as earning money, fixing technics, and other. To fit to the society, women should perform both roles – of a male and a female. Simultaneously, a woman’s role in the contemporary life is underestimated. Don Lee in Yellow and Ch’oe Yun in The Last of Hanako point out the unfair role of female individuals which they play in modern society as a whole and in male’s lives in particular. The fact that one man is playing with two women and rudely calls them #1 and #2, directly points out the change in masculinity definition and a woman’s part in life (Lee 102). Not even been called by their names, and simultaneously tricked by one man, despite the efforts they put for this particular man – here is the value of the modern woman. Similarly, in The Last of Hanako, despite the main character was the only one to be called by name and to have real values, beliefs, and goals, she is neglected. In a society that “creates facelessness”, i.e. equals all citizens to each other despite the gender, there should be rights equality too (Thapa).
Nowadays, Asian countries, in particular South Korea, hold themselves as democratic countries, supporting human rights and freedoms beyond the state law (Thapa). However, the example of Hanako and thousands of immigrants, being treated as a workforce but not as humans, prove exactly the opposite (Alam). Hanako achieved her goals but contributing to her homeland (Yun 115). Thousands of migrants to Korea have sacrificed their homeland to move to this State, but they got neglect and deportation instead of help. Migrants’ wives and brides are double-neglected since they are both women and migrants. Therefore, Asian countries are not as democratic as they seem to be.
In reality, women in the world are represented as migrants – they are working hard trying to achieve the worldwide admission, which will allow to have equal rights and to be perceived not as a “free addition” to highly masculine males. Confused in certain external priorities, a woman cannot find a sense of herself as a full-fledged member of society and cannot achieve harmony between the personality she is said to be and the real personality. Therefore, she loses the opportunity to live a happy life. Instead, women get depressed and “want to be in intimate terms with …” (Alam) everyone – with themselves, men, society, political authorities and other. In terms of a changed masculinity perspective, where the original women’s attributes are not alleged to men, the women’s role has also changed. The fact is that when men are “turning into” women, women, in their turn are to be turned into men in order to save natural balance. Therefore, women now tend to perform traditional masculine roles – earning money, solving complicated tasks, and being in charge. In addition, an eternal stereotype that women are the weaker sex makes no sense today. Women create more jobs, have more businesses than men, better than men manage the businesses and enterprises, learn better in schools. Besides, women earn more than men, there are more employed women than men. In this regard, women and girls become better than men and try to overcome the stereotype. Nevertheless, it turns out that the traditional notion of masculinity can be applied to the modern woman. In fact, as a result of change in the masculinity notion, a female individual today is a combination of traditional home-keeper and a defender, i.e. a combination of a man and a woman.
It is known that women have always wanted to become equal with men, especially in traditional and strict countries, such as Korea, Japan, China, India and others. Well, it could be said that the changing notion of masculinity and femininity did equalize both genders, but not in the way it was desired. The problem of globalization, changing society values, pop culture prevalence and other factors confusingly influence the role of women in the contemporary society. Despite the rising importance of women in the world, they are still low estimated and neglected due to traditional views of prevalence and the inability of society to change.
The changed value of masculinity in all cultural spheres seems to be a negligible question. However, giving it a closer look, it becomes clear that the changing notion which is attributed to a contemporary man makes a significant influence on other realms of social and cultural life. Such factors as the confusion between homo- and heterosexual appearance, unisexual behavior of pop culture members, influencing teenagers’ and youngsters’ perception of life, and the necessity for women to change make the society interchange the values, beliefs, and roles played by both sexes.
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Alam, Mahbub. “Immigrant in South Korea.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 25 Apr. 2009. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Cho, John. “The Korean Gay and Lesbian Movement 1993-2008: From ‘Identity’ and ‘Community’ to ‘Human Rights’,” n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Jung, Sun. “Bae Yong-Joon, Soft masculinity and Japanese Fan: Our Past is your Present Body.” Korean Masculinities and Transcultural Consumption. Ed. Sun Jung. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010. Print.
Jypentertainment. “2PM – “10 out of 10.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 12 Sept. 2008. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Lee, Don. Yellow. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012. Print.
Thapa, Ashok. “The Korean Dream.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
TheKpopcinema. “Dirty Eyed Girls Abracadabra Parody 2AM & 2PM.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Yun, Ch’oe. The Last of Hanako. Seoul: Asia, 2012. Print.