That which is socially expected from men cannot be reduced to mere biology. This is one of the key conceptual distinctions within sociology: the distinction between gender and sex. Articles such David Barry’s “Guys vs. Men” and John McMurty’s “Kill ‘Em! Crush ‘Em! Eat ‘Em Raw!” discuss precisely this distinction. Although gender vs. sex is not explicitly mentioned in these texts, it can be said that the authors’ words in these articles revolves around this distinction, as both writers intend to investigate what are some common Western conceptions of manhood. In other words, what are the social discourses that create the gendered image of manhood?
In Barry’s article, the author talks about points such as “liking pointless challenges”, a “lack of a clear ethical moral code” and “guys life neat stuff.” Barry is talking here in generalizations, and essentially is communicating in his article the main stream discourse of Western capitalist life as to the role of men. Whereas Barry’s work can be interpreted as a critique of these social expectations, at the same time the article has its own key weaknesses, which merely re-enforce the stereotypes that Barry can be said to be attempting, in a generous interpretation, to critique. Firstly, Barry’s entire text is based around generalizations, such as the ones mentioned. Certainly, Barry could be interpreted as criticizing these generalizations, showing their vacant nature. However, at the same time, Barry is discussing a notion of “guyhood”: what this really means is a particular type of capitalist contemporary male living in the United States.
Barry cannot see outside of his own cultural horizon, even though he criticizes this horizon: he fails to see that there are many different types of masculinities. Certainly, it can be said that he is using such general categories to show the underlying lack of logic to these categories. However, in his populistic style of writing, without any lack of intellectual depth, Barry merely seems to be re-enforcing these stereotypes. There is no depth to his writing and therefore he fails to penetrate what masculinity can possibly mean in its different forms, other than showing some arguably “stupid” traits that are associated with capitalistic and American guyhood. However, by clinging to these definitions, even though he may be interpreted as critiquing he presents a shallow account of gender expectations that fails to touch the issue by offering any type of more intellectually rigid framework to understand gender roles.
McMurty’s text follows the same populistic style, talking about men’s association with violent sports such as football. However, McMurty’s text, even though it concentrates on this stereotype and in particular his own life experiences with football, also makes reference to philosophy at the end of the text: McMurty’s text is not limited to particular gender roles. McMurty instead talks about how physical sports may be used to channel especially biological instincts in the male, such as violence. However, this is not at once at endorsement of these sports. McMurty instead talks about a complicated intersection between sex and gender, between biology and the social. His work makes the reader think more attentively about the relationship between these two categories and the extent to which there is an imbalance between them.
Masculinity is a key sociological category. It brings to mind concepts such as patriarchy and hierarchy. It also brings to mind it’s “Other”, that of the feminine. These concepts are serious to sociological thought and must be treated in a serious manner, such as the distinction between gender and sex, so as to really penetrate the meanings of our social discourse and why and how such social expectations for gender emerge.