Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"Cool Posing" on Campus: A Qualitative Study of Masculinities and Gender Expression among Black Men at a Private Research Institution

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"Cool Posing" on Campus: A Qualitative Study of Masculinities and Gender Expression among Black Men at a Private Research Institution

Article excerpt

Using theories and concepts relating to the social construction of Black masculinity and male gender role conflict, the authors explored contextualized meanings of masculinities and corresponding behavioral expressions among 22 Black men enrolled at a private research university. The concepts of toughness, aggressiveness, material wealth, restrictive emotionality, and responsibility underscored the meanings the participants ascribed to masculinities. Participants expressed these concepts behaviorally through their pursuit of leadership and academic success, homophobia, and the fear of femininity, and through the sexist and constrained relationships they experienced with women. Based on the findings, practical implications for supporting the gender identity development and success of Black men during their undergraduate years are offered, as are recommendations for future research on the gender-related experiences of Black male undergraduates.

Keywords: Black men, college, gender, masculinity

Over toe past four decades, much has been written about toe experiences of Black college students (e.g., Allen, 1992; Feagin, Vera, & Imani, 1996; Fleming, 1984; Fries-Britt & Griffin, 2007; Fries-Britt & Turner, 2001; Guiffrida, 2003; Love, 1993; Nettles, 1987; Patton, 2006; Sedlacek, 1987; Thompson & Fretz, 1991). However, only recently have scholars begun to disaggregate the experiences and chaUenges of male students from toe larger Black college student population. For example, recent inquiries have considered Black men's academic achievement and outcomes (Cuyjet, 1997; Dancy & Brown, 2008; Flowers, 2006; Hagedorn, Maxwell, & Hampton, 2001; Harper, 2006a; Palmer & Gasman, 2008; Palmer & Young, 2009; Strayhorn, 2008a), involvement in educationaUy purposeful programs and activities (Cuyjet, 2006; Harper, 2005; Harper, 2008; Harper & Harris G?, 2006a), participation in coUege sports (Beamon, 2008; Comeaux & Harrison, 2007; Donnor, 2005; Gaston-Gayles, 2004), racial/ethnic identity expression (Harper & Quaye, 2007; Howard-HamUton, 1997), and peer interactions (Harper, 2006b; Harper & Nichols, 2008; Strayhorn, 2008b).

While toe aforementioned research has offered significant insight into the experiences of Black men on coUege campuses, toere is a dearth of published research toat focuses specificaUy on Black masculinities and gender performance. Davis (1999), who made a similar claim more toan a decade ago, noted: "Very little work has focused on toe role of gender in the higher education experience of Black students and specifically how gender informs toe experiences of African American males on campus" (p. 137). In fact, much of what we know about toe intersection between gender and education as it relates to Black men is based on studies toat have been situated in K-12 contexts (e.g., Davis, 2003; Davis & Jordan, 1994; Fashola, 2003; Ferguson, 2000; Irving & Hudley, 2005; Noguera, 2003; Roderick, 2003). Moreover, most studies toat focus on Black male students in higher education say Uttle about their experiences, challenges, and development with respect to masculinities. In other words, studies about Black men are not necessarily synonymous with studies that seek to understand them as gendered beings.

Cuyjet's edited volumes, Black Men in College (2006) and Helping Black Men Succeed in College: New Directions for Student Services (1997) were ground-breaking considerations of the experiences of Black undergraduate men. But the purpose of these volumes was to offer critical analyses of trends and challenges in Black male student enrollment, persistence, graduation, and out-of-class engagement on college campuses. In addition, programmatic interventions that have been enacted nationally to support die success of Black men in college are detailed in Cuyjet's (2006) volume. Therefore, while issues related to masculinities and Black men's gender identity development were appropriately highlighted, comprehensive discussions of diese issues were largely absent from both volumes. …

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