Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure Helps Get the Job Done: Intersections of Hegemonic Masculinity and Stress among College-Aged Males

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure Helps Get the Job Done: Intersections of Hegemonic Masculinity and Stress among College-Aged Males

Article excerpt

From early childhood we are exposed to statements such as "You throw like a girl," and "Real men don't cry." We hear these messages during leisure activities, in classrooms, on popular television shows, and in countless other settings. For most people, there are shared beliefs that give these statements meaning. We rarely question what is meant by suggesting someone throws like a girl or how crying is related to being a man.

It is common to assume and expect that those recognized as men act in certain ways. Butler's (1993) concept of performativity is useful for examining how specific behaviors become expected of certain bodies. Through experiences, we negotiate understandings of how certain bodies are supposed to behave in specific contexts. Performativity encompasses both individual and shared perceptions given that expectations often exist before the individuals who encounter them. Interactions involve reconciling individual understandings with social expectations. For example, we have an idea of what it means to be a man. Therefore, when we meet someone we identify as a man, we already have expectations about how he will look and behave based on our pre-existing understandings. If someone wants to be classified as a man, he represents himself in ways compliant with shared and personal understandings of what makes someone a man. It is not simply an individual's body, but also his actions that are involved in how he presents himself and is perceived by others. To tie this back to the opening statements, if man throws like a girl, then he faces being labeled as feminine; if the dominant belief is that real men do not cry, then a man who cries faces a perception of not being masculine. Even though everyone involved in an interaction may recognize his body as male, his actions may contribute to him being perceived as more or less of a man by himself and others.

Common practices in the United States link sex and gender as interchangeable. For example, surveys often ask individuals to identify either their sex or gender as male or female. Before an individual is ever born, expectations exist that he or she will either be male or female. He/she, male/female are the binary options. Other options are perceived as less than normal. Through social practices, an individual's sex and gender often become linked. Sex and gender are intersecting, but not interchangeable, aspects of identity. While sex is best conceptualized using biologically determined categories (i.e., male, female, intersex), gender deals with more than anatomical characteristics. Gender involves how people represent themselves and meanings attached to bodies, appearances, and behaviors. Blank (2012) argued gender "refers to all the manifestations of masculinity or femininity that are not immediately, demonstrably biological. These include mannerisms, conventions of dress and grooming, social roles, speech patterns, and much more" (p. 17). The male body takes many different forms, and masculinity is embodied through a wide array of behaviors. Feminist frameworks and empirical findings suggest that meanings attached to sex and gender change at both individual and societal levels and that social expectations related to them are affected by race, ethnicity, life stage, able-bodiedness, social class, religion, and culture (Butler, 2004; Pascoe, 2005; Scott, 1986; Wellard, 2006). This study was based on the assumption that people negotiate their gender and their identities through lived experiences and societal expectations.

Negotiating societal expectations can be stressful, especially if there is inconsistency between how society perceives an individual should behave and how that individual chooses to behave. Evidence indicates that stress and depression may be especially prevalent among 18- to 24-year-old college and university students due to a unique stage of development. Literature indicates that, within developed nations, a developmental phase known as emerging adulthood maybe theoretically distinct from both adolescence and early adulthood (Arnett, 2000). …

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