My discussion group and I mainly focused on the article regarding Japanese athletes and the Olympics. We discussed the implications of gender norms, particularly masculinity. We also discussed. This discussion came in a context of looking at expressions of homoeroticism and feelings about homosexuality in class.
I think that one of the major points that we discussed was the relationship between masculinity and sports. We touched on the fact that sports highlight examples of virile and powerful masculinity. In relation to homosexuality, this figured in the fact that from what we saw in the readings and in class it was more okay to be gay so long as that person was assertive and virile, and not passive.
This weeks topics really emphasized that a perception of a man or woman as more feminine meant that they were seen as weak. We talked about the women’s volleyball team as being required to overcome their feminine bodies in order to be successful. In general there was an idea that it was necessary to overcome the limits of your body in order to be seen as strong. We saw this as correlating with a sense of honour or duty. In relation to the Olympics, these expressions of loyalty to the state are a way to reaffirm older ideals in a new context. One of my classmates made the assertion that athletes and soldiers are similar in that their bodies are controlled by the state in these matters. Overall, this weeks discussion reflected on ideas about gender, sexual orientation, and how these related to the power and ideals of the state.
Our group discussed if there was a difference in the treatment between males who did not conform to popular gender roles, and women who didn’t conform to feminine expectations. We also thought the gender characteristics and expectations described in the reading were not inclusive of the entire population. The Russian Gulag camps, Tokyo Olympics, and politics of homosexuality in Germany discussed in this week’s readings were all events of the twentieth century.
After watching the depictions of males in the 1935 Triumph of the Will film we raised the question of when homosexuals began to be largely persecuted in Germany. The article by Dan Healey also categorized males and females in Russian gulag prisons into four main groups of dominant and submissive females and males. Healey also writes about men having feminine qualities and women having masculine qualities which relates to the question raised in class about how someone could hold masculine qualities if they are not male. Ideas about the body and expectations of gender behavior were common themes this week. The stories from 1964 Tokyo Olympics were an interesting example of how athletes were taught and encouraged to train their bodies and how their performance would bring pride for the nation. It encourages us to compare the current olympics in Korea and the different athletes from over 200 countries.
This week’s reading addressed the ways in which race, gender and the identities of people were defined and utilized by authoritarian regimes and democratic societies to further a nationalistic agenda. All three of them share the notion that within each specific context, gender identities became tools to “advance” or improve the well-being of the state overall.
Can we observe the same kind of ideas if we were to assess gender roles and race today? What about in modern populism? This is something worth discussing in the present.
A concurrent theme from the readings was the concept of national value in regard to how one self-identified or was identified. Be it:
- The feminized or masculine homosexual in early 20th century Germany (Claudia Bruns)
- The linear success, male-dominated and non-individualistic discourse around people in postwar Japan (Rio Otomo)
- The warlike, hardworking and socially committed “New Man” of interwar Romania (Valentin Săndulescu)
These ideas made me begin to think about what a democratic society such as ours today perhaps hold similar to these examples. The Bruns reading shows how in German life today, female or gay descriptions are still sometimes used in a derogatory manner and that the German LGBT(QI) community may exhibit racist discourses towards Muslim immigrants.
But can we think of other ways in which gender identities today continue to shape our collective thought processes? Terms like, “be a man,” or “act like a lady” come to mind. Could it be that we still subconsciously use the gender roles that are ascribed today to further our own conception of national value?