Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

"Don't Call Him A Cowboy": Masculinity, Cowboy Drag, and A Costume Change

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

"Don't Call Him A Cowboy": Masculinity, Cowboy Drag, and A Costume Change

Article excerpt

Introduction

The journey is only 1.1 miles from my studio apartment to Saddlebags. As 1 turn onto 12th Avenue I peer in through the windows of the independently owned queer bookstore that sits nestled comfortably on the corner to my right. One couple in their early twenties sits on the small corner patio bench smoking cigarettes. As I pass them one of the men leans over and steals a long soft kiss from the man holding his hand.

I pass Promenade Park on my left, one of the most popular urban parks in the city. Promenade Park serves as a host to public events like movies on the lawn, music festivals, art and craft shows, fundraising initiatives, and the Southeastern United States's largest gay pride festival. This entire area of the city is more than queer-friendly, as it is dominated by the gay men, lesbians, bisexual, and y transgendered people who live, work, and play in this geographic location.

Considering the large gay male population in the city and the diversity of the gay male community I should not have been surprised that there were over 2 5 gay bars to select from as a site for my research. Consider a few of this community's choices: Gary's, a trendy neighborhood bar flaunting its central location on the park and offering the latest surge in gay/lesbian television programming and video dance remixes; Glenn's, a more rustic neighborhood bar focusing on Karaoke and commercialized promotional events; Sinners, a dark, gay male exclusive dance club; and Boxers, known Jar pouring the strongest. drink in town and appealing to men of color and the white men who love them. Alleyways, a 24-hour nightclub with high-energy dance music and an adjoining cabaret theater, contrasts with Extremities, a small, dimly-lit club with stnppers and drag queens for entertainment. Hanging Harry's is a high-end all-male, all-nude strip club. And The Falcon, a bar catering to the counter-culture needs of Leathermen (men who like to dress in leather) and Bears (typically large, hairy gay men). I contemplate how my research and my life might be different if I had chosen one of these other bars.

Scholars in leisure studies are searching for research that examines the structures which foster and perpetuate inequality of marginalized populations (Aitchison, 1999; Kivel, 2000; Pedlar, 1995) and seeking to "develop richer understandings about the, social construction of place and its political ramifications" (Stokowski, 2002, p. 379).: This paper addresses that concern. The goal of the larger ethnography was to describe the culture of a country-western gay bar and to explore how gay men confront and negotiate meanings of masculinity in that culture. In this paper I focus specifically on how the bar's clientele use dress as a marker of hegemonic masculinity and how bar patrons change their dress (and consequently their masculinity) as they migrate to other bars in the city.

Background

For as long as I can remember I have been cognizant of the essentialized notion of what it means to be a man most men are. I have not always been successful in my performance of it most men aren't. Despite the success or failure at presenting an acceptable performance of manhood, a persuasive and often subversive set of cultural norms exists, as part of mainstream discourse, to inform and guide men's behavior (Butler, 1990; Connell, 1995).

Connell (1995) described "masculinity" as those practices in which men engage male social gender roles with the effects being expressed through the body, personality, and culture. Culture, then, serves as both a cause and effect of masculine behavior and in our western society masculinity has taken shape in relation to securing and maintaining dominance. Masculine power is balanced by its difference, whereby masculine is valued over the feminine. While masculinity is grounded in difference, it is not a static characteristic, but a fluid construct organized within social relations. According to Connell (1995), masculinity is not just an object of knowledge but the interplay between the agency of the individual and the structure of the social institution. …

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