Monday, June 9, 2008

Policing the Social Construct of a Man's Role in Marriage

I don't usually pay much attention but I happened across the headline in a store the other day that caught my SUCCESS with the OPPOSITE SEX(TM) radar:
Mariah Carey treats new husband Nick Cannon like an assistant

Newlyweds Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon were enjoying a romantic dinner at Gyu-Kaku in LA when suddenly, the pop diva felt the urge to use the restroom. “She told Nick to escort her to the bathroom,” a witness at the restaurant on May 12 tells In Touch. “He walked here there, then waited outside the door. It was like he was on her security team.”

Insiders say that since the two married in the Bahamas on April 30, Nick seems more like Mariah’s employee than her spouse. “She treats Nick like an assistant,” says a friend of Mariah’s. “He’s not treated like her equal or her husband.” Nick also seems to be at Mariah’s beck and call. “He’s very attentive to her,” his pal… Kevin Frazier tells In Touch.
[From In Touch, print edition, June 2, 2008]

The article mentioned Cannon's age (27) and though Mariah's age is not revealed (how gracious of the writers), it was clear that all these details were there to support a cultural myth we have not about superdivas, but about men and their proper roles as the one wearing the pants in a relationship.

I recall when Brandy got married and MTV did a whole reality stint with them. I remembering noticing that her then young husband (now divorced) was not going to like the idea of being represented as a kept man. She kept calling him "pooky" and her voice dominated the narrative in the biopic. It was not long after they divorced. When I saw the piece on Mariah and Nick I thought here we go again.

I teach my anthro students about social constructs. I suggest they are like superstitions we live by like the earth being flat and they shape our thoughts and actions and feelings even though they are anything but true. Here the social construct is about masculinity. You can translate it into hip-hop/black terms "being p*ssy-whipped," "pimped," playin you like a b*tch". All these comments are what polices the boundary of an old antiquated and not real view of the way men should be with women. It's so outdated and doesn't allow for any individuality or self-expression.

A social contruct is "is a concept or practice which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society" (Wikipedia). The way men are or are supposed to be may seem natural but it is invented and could be interpreted any number of ways. These socially agreed upon constructs are often limiting and damage the possibility of having what one truly wants in life with one's partner.

What is masculinity to you? Surely your view is tainted with a social construct. Mine is. I love a man to walk on the outside of the sidewalk, open doors, pay for the dates, but that is not what makes him a man. Masculinity is just his expression. It may complement and overlap with what I express as a female, as femininity and it can even be something I've never imagined.

Tabloids will be tabloids. But will we have enough sense to not continue the superstition about the way we think men oughta be?

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