Midterm 1 Essay Questions

Answer one of the following questions in approximately 4 (minimum) – 6 (maximum) double-spaced pages.  Papers should be in 12-point Times New Roman or similar typeface, with one-inch margins on all sides.  Answers should be well organized, well written, and thoroughly proofed.  Citations should be either MLA or Chicago Style format.  Use telling (but not too lengthy) quotes. You must provide a bibliography only for the outside material you bring to bear on your answer.  The essay should address the main question (the question in boldface) and any of the smaller questions that will allow you to build your case.  Your paper must have a clear, focused argument that unambiguously answers the question.

All papers are due via email (tgreene@bowdoin.edu) by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 27 as either a Word, Pages, or Google Doc (if you submit the paper as a Google Doc, you must give me permission to access the file (tgreene@bowdoin.edu or theodoregreene2008@u.northwestern.edu). Failure to do so may result in penalties for lateness. Submitting your paper as a PDF may also result in lateness penalties if I am open and download the document after the deadline.  Late papers (papers submitted after 12:15 pm) will be docked accordingly (one step for each hour late: (i.e. A to A-, C- to D, etc).  Papers submitted after 11:29 a.m. on Saturday, October 28 will not be accepted (except in documented emergencies).

QUESTION ONEOn September 23, 2017, President Donald Trump generated controversy at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama by stating that (black) football players taking a knee in protest during the National Anthem should be fired.  “If players want the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues,” he tweeted, “he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem.  If not, YOUR FIRED.  Find something else to do” (emphasis in original).  Weeks later, Americans remain deeply divided over the issue; while many of the black football players believe they are taking an opportunity to protest inequalities in America (and a legacy of racism that both the flag and the National Anthem represent), many spectators not only find their form of protest ineffective in gaining broad support, but also disrespectful to soldiers who have died protecting and preserving American freedom.  Drawing on at least three articles of your choosing (newspapers, magazines, opinion pieces) and at least two of our course readings, consider how the recent debates over kneeling during the National Anthem exemplify a contemporary crisis of masculinities.  How might these tensions compare or contrast to previous crises we have explored in class (i.e. Jack Johnson; Industrialization)?  You are welcome to select any angle you wish (i.e. the (racial, class, sexual) politics behind/against kneeling; the burning of NFL paraphernalia). To answer this question, you will need to distinguish the forms of masculinities operating within this debate (i.e. hegemonic; subordinated; marginalized; synthesized), and think about how the debate reproduces/challenges domination of one group at the expense of another.

QUESTION TWOEarly this semester, we debated what it means to claim an “inclusive” or “hybrid” masculinity. Several of you challenged the idea that adopting and incorporating marginalized subjectivities into one’s construction of identity reproduces and reinforces hegemonic masculinities at the expense of other manifestations of masculinities and femininities.  Others questioned the sincerity of embodying an inclusive or hybrid masculinity.  Using Bowdoin College as a case study and drawing from at least two of our course readings, consider whether hybrid or inclusive masculinities can ever challenge or symbolically distance men from constructions of hegemonic masculinities.  To answer this question, you will not only need to consider the strengths and limitations of hybrid or inclusive masculinities, but you must also show how your example at Bowdoin forces a reconsideration of what it means to adopt “hybrid” or “inclusive” masculinities.  What does you case say about who is able to “claim” hybrid or inclusive masculinities without being challenged?

QUESTION THREEEarly this semester, we debated what it means to claim an “inclusive” or “hybrid” masculinity. Several of you challenged the idea that adopting and incorporating marginalized subjectivities into one’s construction of identity reproduces and reinforces hegemonic masculinities at the expense of other manifestations of masculinities and femininities.  Others questioned the sincerity of embodying an inclusive or hybrid masculinity.  Consider the recent controversy over the failure of men speaking out against allegations of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. Drawing from at least two articles of your choosing and two of our course readings, consider whether hybrid or inclusive masculinities can ever challenge or symbolically distance men from constructions of hegemonic masculinities.  To answer this question, you will not only need to consider the strengths and limitations of hybrid or inclusive masculinities, but you must also show whether those men who have successfully expressed support for the women alleging sexual misconduct are adopting “hybrid” or “inclusive” masculinities.  What kinds of other masculinities are male celebrities claiming by speaking up?  What does the initial reticence for men to speak out about the allegations indicate about adopting “hybrid” or “inclusive” masculinities?

QUESTION FOURRecently, several students defended the existence of “hegemonic femininity,” arguing that women can use their marginalized status as women to gain gender capital and exercise a form of power against men and other women. Sociologist Mimi Schippers argues that “hegemonic femininity” does exist, although it remains contingent upon its subordination to “hegemonic masculinity.”  However, is it possible to call femininity hegemonic if it depends on male domination?  Why? To answer this question, you will need to provide several empirical examples to consider how power operates within hegemonic femininity.  Does hegemonic femininity operate a resistance or protest identity?  Must it be exclusively contingent on masculine subjectivities to operate as exercises of power?  How might expressions of “hegemonic femininity” compare to performances and embodiment of femininity that adopt hegemonic masculinities (female masculinities)?

QUESTION FIVEAs an alternative to marginalized men developing compensatory masculinities in resistance to hegemonic masculinities, Victor Rios and Rachel Sarabia developed the notion of “synthesized masculinities,” which involves the “strategic and situational display of various masculinities” (p. 168). Given our recent discussions on the “dilemmas” surrounding “female,” “trans-” and “disabled masculinities,” consider whether synthesized masculinities offer a better framework for understanding enactments of either female, trans- or disabled masculinities.  To answer this question, you must draw on course readings and draw on empirical data from at least two outside articles to establish the benefits or drawbacks of synthesized masculinities in rendering legible the masculine identities of women, transmen and/or men living with disabilities (as opposed to relying on or reformulating hegemonic standards of masculinity). You might also want to consider what enables or constrains women, trans- or disabled men to claim hegemonic masculinities in the first place.