All entries for Tuesday 19 July 2005

July 19, 2005

not an aged old hag – yet

Writing about web page

Your 'real age' is: 23.6, but you could be younger!
Your age is: 24.5
Difference: -0.9

Find the idea of regressing back in time a little scary. Wouldn't want to end up back in high school with hormones going loopy or anything like that. 0.9 years off my actual age will do nicely, ta very much, especially if that difference increases exponentially over the years. Apparently I should eat more oily fish and floss (not at the same time though, that would just be messy) and then I'll be a spritely youth in no time at all.

Week 2 training

Didn't get a place in the New Forest Half Marathon but trying to keep up the training anyway as am good like that. Maybe Jamie is right and £1.50 more for the extra 13.1 miles (for the full marathon entry cost) is just too much of a bargain to miss.
Any other ideas for races in September, or even August??

Tuesday (faster run)
Ran 5km at 9–9.5km (okay so not very fast at all!); took 32 minutes 25 seconds. It felt pretty good and I could have kept going for longer, but I need to work on upping my pace and do some speed interval training or similar. Almost fell off treadmill as was watching Speedway (nothing else on t'telly) and got disorientated when one of the bikes crashed.

Feeling tense and really wanted to go to gym this morning, but decided to give knees a break from treadmill pounding so did 45 mins of x-training and cycling instead – marrrv.

Friday (slow run)
6.5km run at 9kmph … 43 mins 30 secs. My mental arithmetic is getting good… little else to think about when pounding along on a treadmill. Am hungry all the time atm, most inconvenient!

Monday (long run)
10km at 9 kmph. Dull!

now feeling lazy lazy lazy and stressed and not sure whether can be bothered to continue with the prog since not even going to be running a proper race come sept.

Unemployment and Masculinities

(a.k.a. Second half of a literature review – draft)

Beynon (2002: 86) argues that the changing nature of employment and the labour market over the past thirty years has influenced masculinities at a variety of levels, leading to an alleged ‘crisis in masculinity’. Changes such as deindustrialisation and corresponding job loss, the transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy, de-layering and downsizing, the effects of an increasingly global economy and the advent of equal opportunities have all impacted on the way in which men perceive and respond to ideas concerning employment and the workplace (ibid: 87). Economic restructuring, for example, triggered the decline of employment closely linked with masculine notions of strength and hard physical labour, while the entry of women into and alleged 'feminisation' of the labour force represented a challenge to the close connection that had been forged between employment and masculine identity (Morgan 1992: 99).

Masculinities, work and the hegemonic ideal

In recent years, researchers have adopted a more critical approach towards masculinities and unemployment, refuting the notion of a single masculine identity seen to exist ‘as the property, character trait or aspect of identity of individuals’ (MacInnes 1988: 2), and questioning commonly held assumptions such as the centrality of the breadwinner role for men. Far from viewing masculine identity as a homogeneous and unitary entity, Connell (1987, 1993, 1996) contends that definitions of masculinity are in fact multiple and shifting within any socio-historical context, dependent on the social structures that bind and confine individual experience and actions:

Definitions of masculinity are deeply enmeshed in the history of institutions and of economic structures. Masculinity is not just an idea in the head, or a personal identity. It is also extended in the world, merged in organized social relations. To understand masculinity historically we must study changes in those social relations (Connell 1996: 29).

Despite this discursive plurality, certain versions of masculinity are represented as hegemonic ideals, whilst opposing versions are marginalised or subordinated. According to Connell (1987: 184), ‘hegemony’ refers to ‘a social ascendancy achieved in a play of social forces that extends beyond contests of brute power into the organisation of private life and cultural processes’, with hegemonic definitions constructed in a complex and ever changing relationship to that which the definition excludes. For example, in the present socio-historical context, white, middle-class, heterosexual, employed males are considered to be the culturally ascendant ‘norm’ (Willott and Griffin 1996: 80). Although the social construction of this particular masculine identity is arbitrary in one sense, it nevertheless forms a pervasive discourse that shapes how men respond to and deal with unemployment, the ‘available’ discourses and structures constraining both issues deemed important to men and defining the way in which they position themselves in relation to those specific issues.

Morgan (1992) employs a notion of gender symbolism to make sense of masculinities and work, examining the gendered nature of work and its symbolic value. Employment and unemployment have been frequently constructed as oppositional and hierarchically situated in western societies, a construction concurrent with other polarities such as skilled-unskilled, heavy-light, dangerous-less dangerous, dirty-clean, interesting-boring, and mobile-immobile. Although in recent years feminist projects have challenged some of these binaries by showing how women have been excluded from analyses of work and critiquing studies of work as a public exchange of labour power for payment (??), employment, both as a means of making money and getting out of the house, remains an important anchor for hegemonic masculine identities (Morgan 1992: 99).

The symbolic opposition to employment, unemployment, exemplifies a situation where masculinity is ‘put on the line’, providing a ‘paradigmatic example of masculinity under challenge’ (Morgan 1992: 100). Beynon (2002: 87) maintains that ‘nothing has proved more damaging to [working men] and their sense of the masculine than unemployment, which took away independence and control over family finances’. Unemployment decreases a man’s ability to provide for himself and his family (if he has one), and often influences where and how he spends his time, disrupting spatial divisions between the domestic and the public sphere and problematising assumptions about the gender order.

Challenge to the ‘breadwinner’ role

As Morgan (1992: 101–2) puts it, the role of ‘male breadwinner’ assumes an underlying gender order, that of the bourgeois nuclear family and the notion of working for dependents located in the domestic sphere. In this way paid employment assumes a central role in the maintenance of the wider social order, and the presumption arises that ‘long-term unemployment deprives a man of his sense of social worth largely through the removal of this role’. In an early study McKee and Bell (1986: 141) investigated the gender-specific consequences of unemployment and its impact on the family, and found that ‘the loss of the male economic provider role struck deep chords among both wives and husbands and a passionate defence of men’s right to provide was invariably raised’, with both men and women voicing issues concerning self-esteem, self-image, pride, views of masculinity, respectability and authority.

Willott and Griffin (1996: 85) found that discourses such as that of domestic provision were salient to working-class men experiencing long-term unemployment, with the men in their study adhering to expectations that a ‘good’ family man should provide both necessities and luxuries for ‘the missus and the kids’. As such, the men of their study found it difficult to relinquish the breadwinner persona, and their inability to provide resulted in feelings of disempowerment, emasculation, shame, feelings of inadequacy in relation to cultural expectations, loss of respectability and fear of losing female partners. Unemployment thus has the potential to disrupt hegemonic masculine ideals as well as discourses of domestic provision and public masculinity (Haywood and Mac an Ghaill 2003: 38).

Convergence of public and private spheres

Masculine identities have traditionally been associated with the public rather than the domestic sphere both in terms of waged work and leisure activities such as the pub (Willott and Griffin 1997). This ideological separation between men and women in terms of spatial location has a long cultural history fundamental to the definition of hegemonic masculinities in the west, with the public sphere traditionally associated with men and masculinity, and the private sphere with women and children (Willott and Griffin 1996: 82). Not only are unemployed men officially denied access to the workplace, but their participation in the social arena of leisure activities is often restricted because of financial restraints. Willott and Griffin (1996: 82) depict the home as a female-dominated place that is not welcoming to or appropriate for men, with participants speaking about ‘needing’ the freedom to escape to the public sphere and feeling ‘out of place’ at home. Unemployment thus entails ‘spatial convergence’ between men and the domestic sphere, consequently producing conflict between public and private enactments of masculinity.

McKee and Bell (1986: 139) posited that this convergence of male and female social worlds might occur in a more positive way, with men taking on more domestic work and responsibility in the home. However, their hypothesis was found to be an unrealistic ideal, with notions of active agency and choice rejected as ‘inappropriate and stultifying’ when confronted by the reality of unemployment. Rather than increasing men’s participation in the private domain, paradoxically male unemployment in fact reinforced the polarisation of ‘gendered’ marital activities, with both male and female participants adhering to traditional gender scripts (ibid: 144). Both male and female participants described women as more efficient at domestic tasks, while men were seen to have a public purpose and profile to maintain, failing to contribute in the home because of their engagement in the public realm of job search, interviews or informal labour market activities (ibid: 144).

Public surveillance

The ways in which unemployed men’s private lives are opened up to public scrutiny and observation offer a further critical challenge to the division between public and private spheres: ‘Unemployed men are squeezed out of the public realm – but their retreat into the private realm becomes public business' (McKee and Bell 1986: 147). As benefit-recipients, their private lives are subjected to public scrutiny and surveillance both actual and perceived, resulting in anxiety, fear of investigation and self-policing, with respondents feeling that ‘their private actions are always liable to be held to public account’ (ibid: 148). In this way a discursive gulf opens up amongst the unemployed as a group, with many unemployed respondents making distinctions between the ‘respectable’ unemployed and the ‘scroungers’, between the ‘genuine’ unemployed and the ‘idlers’ (ibid: 148). Similarly, Willott and Griffin (1996: 80) found that the unemployed men of their study spoke of unemployment as equivalent to ‘scrounging off the state’, locating themselves negatively in relation to this discourse and resisting the accusation that they too might be scroungers.

In this way unemployment appears to exemplify a process Foucault (1982: 208) labels ‘dividing practices’, in which ‘the subject is objectified by a process of division either within himself or from others’. Through a process of social objectification and categorisation that imposes preconceptions about the identity of the unemployed man on a more fluid situation, unemployment defines, excludes and stigmatises a distinctive type of unemployed man, that of the scrounger. Both state and self surveillance separates and pathologises the ‘scrounger’ as a category separate from the undifferentiated mass of the unemployed. As Foucault (1977: 188) observes, ‘Discipline “makes” individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise’. In this way, 'the unemployed have no universality of experience… but they are further divided against and amongst themselves' (McKee and Bell 1986: 149).

Renegotiating masculine identities

Given that unemployment provides both economic and cultural challenges to traditional (hegemonic) masculine identities, we might question whether unemployed men are forced to renegotiate their gender identities, and if so what form this renegotiation might take. A key organising principle for the construction of many unemployed men’s identity is that of ‘respectability’, with the male breadwinner role interpreted not only as a source of economic independence, but also as a means of achieving social status and respect (Willott and Griffin 1996: 85). Morgan (1992: 108) also argues that unemployment may entail a loss of respectability, one that is linked to the stigma of lacking finances, loss of privacy through public scrutiny of finances, and inability to support a family. Respectability may not be an issue solely for unemployed men, and rather its loss may injure unemployed men and women alike, involving ‘a complex set of attitudes and orientations that links and gives meaning to a variety of important everyday situations and serves as an important basis for social status’ (ibid). Nevertheless, the concept of respectability may be dependent on key discourses that are highly gendered such as that of domestic provision or public masculinities (Haywood and Mac an Ghaill 2003: 38).

Alternatively, men may reassert their masculinity through domestic refusal, dissociation from the private sphere, or performance of a public masculinity (Segal 1990). Such performative masculinity might entail occupation of public space such as the urban street area, as in the case of Jahoda’s Marienthal study (1933) which depicts women hurrying through the streets, a public space rendered unfamiliar by the presence of unemployed men (cited in Morgan 1992: 110). Alternatively, it might involve class-based spectacular performances as a form of ‘protest masculinity’. Campbell’s account (1993) of the young unemployed men during the English urban riots of the early 1990s depicts the assertion of a different mode of masculinity – that of civil unrest, irresponsibility and violence – as a means of re-presenting their perceived powerlessness and asserting a different mode of masculinity. In a similar manner, Connell (1995: 116) describes unemployed working-class men’s exaggerated claims to masculinity, resulting in a ‘spectacular display’ of masculinities focussed around sexuality, violence and bohemianism.

Although unemployment may result in discursive repositioning or reconstruction of masculine identities at both a micro- and a macro- structural level, such responses tend to pose little significant threat to hegemonic forms of masculinity (Willott and Griffin 1996: 88). Willott and Griffin found that the most common strategy used by their participants in response to the debilitating effects of long-term unemployment was to re-establish traditional forms of masculine identity and make recourse to familiar and traditional ‘powerful’ patterns of discourse, an exercise in damage-limitation that restricted the harm that assailed individual masculine pride without posing any great challenge to traditional gender or power relations (ibid).

Constraints on identity change

In recent years researchers have claimed that social and cultural capital may aid our understanding of the ways in which unemployed men respond (or fail to respond) to the challenge that unemployment represents to their masculinities (Russell 1999, Willott and Griffin 2004). In a quantitative study linking sociabilility, gender and unemployment, Russell (1999) found that unemployed women, particularly those who had worked part-time in the past, were better able to capitalise on and maintain strong social linkages that provided emotional, instrumental and informational support during periods of unemployment than men.

Willott and Griffin (2004) claim that a Bourdieuian concept of capital may aid our understanding of structural and ideological constraints that impede renegotiation of men’s gender identities. Bourdieu (1986) proposes an understanding of society based on the movement of ‘capital’ through social spaces as it is accumulated or lost by individuals (Skeggs 1997: 8). The most obvious example of this is the Marxist concept of economic capital, a highly rationalised form of capital reified as material exchanges and financial assets. Bourdieu moves beyond this model, however, by proposing other metaphorical forms of capital (Bourdieu 1986: 243). ‘Cultural capital’, for example, exists in three different states: in an embodied state in the form of durable dispositions in the mind and body; in an objectified state existing in the form of cultural goods such as books or paintings; in an institutionalised state such as academic credentials (Bourdieu 1986: 243). ‘Social capital’ refers to ‘the connections and networks an agent may call upon in their effort to achieve a specified goal’ (Crossley 2001: 97), while ‘symbolic capital’ signifies ‘the form the different types of capital take once they are perceived and recognised as legitimate’ (Skeggs 1997: 8). Bourdieu develops these other capitals analogously with the structure of the economic variety, demonstrating how capitals may be accumulated, lost, invested, distributed and traded within a particular social field. The value of different capitals is tied to the context in which it is found; for example something that is greatly valued in an academic field may not be so highly revered in the world of theatre, or art, and may not afford the corresponding power and privilege.

The working class unemployed men of Willott and Griffin’s study were trapped in ‘a domestic place with meagre access to capital resources’, a positioning that challenged their masculinity by defining them as inferior men (Willott and Griffin 2004: 59). These men had limited resources available to construct masculine identities that reflect the changing structural and ideological demands of the current socio-historical period. Rejecting proactive discourses about change or revolution, they instead depicted themselves as defeated, passive victims, constituted as ‘older’ and ‘less of a man’ (ibid: 58). Although the men paid lip service to a ‘slightly tongue-in-cheek picture’ of a ‘collective and violent uprising against the state’, ultimately they understood themselves to be ensnared by unjust social structures and believed that they lacked the power and agency to instigate change and escape restricted social roles, discursively positioning themselves as ‘stuck in a rut’ (ibid).

Like Skeggs’ study of working-class women (1997), who were born into structures of inequality with access to limited amounts of capital, working-class unemployed men may attempt to ‘put a floor’ under their economic and cultural circumstances by using and trading the scanty amounts of capital to which they have access to stop things getting worse (Skeggs 1997: 161). For Willott and Griffin’s participants, this entailed adherence to a traditional construction of themselves as family breadwinners, resorting to (illegal) work that offered limited capital in restoring their self-images as ‘proper’ men capable of earning money in the public sphere (Willott and Griffin 2004: 63). Education was also constructed as one possible escape route out of this apparently hopeless situation, simultaneously increasing cultural capital (through formal qualifications) and social capital (through social networks) and providing the necessary resources to renegotiate gender-class identities and possibly increase economic capital in the long-term. Ultimately, however, social structure impedes the ability to trade and capitalise upon already meagre forms of capital, and the breadwinner persona was seen to offer greater symbolic capital to this group of men than it would to other, more socially privileged groups.



(The Levellers: from Mouth to Mouth)

You're there in black and white
Hundreds watch you every night
You've been starring in a film on every weekend
You're on video and stills with all of your friends
You're there in black and white
Hundreds watch you every night

You cannot hide
You cannot hide
You cannot
Cos we can see you everywhere / in the daytime
We can see you everywhere / in the nightime
We can see you everywhere / for a lifetime
We can see you everywhere

You're great in every scene
You're very natural
It's as if you cannot see
The spotlight on you
But when you fluff a line
The director says you're doing time
You cannot hide…

When you're walking home
In the evening after dark
Remember don't hide
And show your best side
Cos you're the star in a film…

You cannot hide
You cannot hide
You cannot hide
You cannot hide
You cannot…...

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