Monday, March 21, 2011

On Masculinity

Living in Korea has me often thinking about gender stereotypes and norms.

On a daily basis I observe things that are unusual by traditional American standards, such as:  guys carrying handbags (not merely messenger bags, but full-on purses like satchels, hobo bags...). This practice is utterly common in Seoul. I'm not saying every guy carries one but certainly enough that those who do, don't look out of place.

Same goes for long fingernails on men.

Ditto for wearing sweatshirts with teddy bears or puppies.

Using light foundation and cover-up is also common for guys here. 

Last week I bought the cutest pair of pink + white gingham boxer shorts in the men's section of a store. And at Uniqlo, one of my favorite shops (which, incidentally, happens to be Japanese), I consistently find a much better assortment of colors and prints in the guys' area.

I'm by no stretch a sociologist, but I do find such observations fascinating. In Korea, these guys completely blend in. Yet, transport them to Austin, LA, or NYC, and I'm pretty sure they'd stand out considerably. Moreover, I'd venture to guess that if in those geographical contexts, most wouldn't want to be noticed for any of the above reasons.

Where am I going with this? Not really sure. Maybe I'm evaluating my own understanding of gender norms and the reasons why I'm drawn to certain traits over others. I'm thinking that much of what I've long-considered masculine or feminine has a lot to do with the particular influences that I encountered from childhood and beyond -which are likely to be different from what another American's specific influences were and are.

So now I'm wondering:  would I still find Rock Hudson (circa 1960's) dreamy if I'd been born and raised elsewhere? Or Colin Firth as Mr./Mark Darcy? 

Or, would Won Bin be my #1 crush (as is the case with 99% of my female students)?

No comments:

Post a Comment