Messerschmidt That the Prisons in Research Proposal

  • Length: 12 pages
  • Sources: 8
  • Subject: Women's Issues - Sexuality
  • Type: Research Proposal
  • Paper: #42977606

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

More recently, Miedzian (1991) has studied peer pressure, the socialization process, and military impact that has resulted in violence becoming standard behavior in males, and Thompson (1991) has demonstrated that violent acts are more often performed by males with greater masculine gender orientations.

Another slant on this topic was placed by West and Zimmerman (1987) in "Doing Gender," that looked at gender not in terms of a set of traits that are held by individuals, but rather as something people do together in their social interactions. In this case, gender is basically about social interaction and establishing relationships. It is an integral part of all daily interactions. Where a person's actions in "doing gender" simultaneously produce, reproduce, sustain and legitimate the social meanings accorded to gender. The authors state that gender is a fundamental aspect of all social relationships, in terms that no one can possibly not do gender if wanting to perform accountable actions. These authors also do not agree with the idea that gender is a role or a means of display, for although roles are positional identities, gender is a key identity that slices across many different circumstances. Similarly, display means that something is not basic to human interaction.

According to West and Zimmerman (1987), in order to completely understand how gender is involved with all areas of daily interaction, there exist three separate yet overlapping concepts: sex, sex category and gender. 1) Sex characterizes females or males based on biological criteria. 2) Sex category, while attained through the function of sex criteria, behaves as an alternate for categorization based on sex in day-to-day activities, and therefore is created and sustained by the socially required displays of identification that declare someone's membership in one or another group. It is possible to be a member in a sex category even when someone does not have the necessary traits based on biological sex. 3) Gender are the activities themselves that are appropriate for one's sex category. Whereas, sex categorization is quite cut and dry, gender is a much more complex set of categories. Doing gender reinforces the essential differences between females and males. These gendered activities are not actually as much different expressions of natural genders as they are the very process of acting out these differences. Actually, because gender differences need to appear natural and essential through "doing gender," it is critical in maintaining the status quo of oppression of men over women.

There are traditional and nontraditional forms of "doing gender," to reach the same result (West & Zimmerman, 1987). To attain the status of manhood, a person must have specific qualities that are deemed masculine and manly, including but not limited to being married, having children, providing for the family, and proclaiming an aura of physical and mental strength and dominance. As historically agreed upon by general society, these characteristics allow a man to appropriately display his gender in areas where it will be accepted.

To present a positive masculine image, a man will rely on learned cultural definitions of masculinity. In the United States, this includes physical strength, aggressiveness, and visible proof of achievement (Messerschmidt, 1993). Masculine identity is consistent with acting tough and being courageous. Most research finds that men take greater risks than women, and these risk-taking actions are another feature of masculinity. Regardless if the actions that demonstrate masculinity is legal or not, the critical aspect is that it is fully shown. The use of criminal masculine assertion is especially probable when a man's masculinity is questioned or threatened. Masculine gender is not something that a person is, but something that this person does -- and does at all times. Thus, if traditional, non-criminal capability is not available, alternative avenues, even ones that are criminal, will be used to accomplish demonstrations of masculine gender. (Messerschmidt, 1993).

In Masculinities and Crime, Messerschmidt (1993) combined the theoretical work of Connell (1987) and West and Zimmerman (1987) to attain a viewpoint that stressed both the meaningful aspects of individuals and the structured features of social environments. Following West and Zimmerman (1987), Messerschmidt argued that gender is a situated, social and interactional accomplishment that develops from social activities in particular settings and acts to inform these activities in reciprocal relation. In other words, people coordinate their activities to "do" gender in situational ways. Critical to this gender concept is West and Zimmerman's (1987) idea of accountability. Since people recognize they may be held accountable to other individuals for their actions, they construct and organize their behavior in terms of the way that these may be understood by others in that specific social context in which they are going to take place. Within situations of social interaction, therefore, people make the job of accountability easier by proving they are male or female by demonstrating often contrived actions that may be interpreted appropriately.

Thus, people do gender differently based on the particular social setting faced. Doing gender, therefore, forces people to be accountable for their social actions in terms of attitudes and actions that are appropriate to one's sex in the particular social setting in which one performs (West & Zimmerman, 1987). Yet, doing gender does not necessarily mean acting in a vacuum, but is affected by the social constraints confronted. "Social structures are regular and patterned forms of interaction over time that constrain and enable behavior in specific ways; therefore, social structures 'exist as the reproduced conduct of situated actors" (Giddens as quoted in Messerschmidt, 2005).

Based on Connell (1987) and Giddens (1976), Messerschmidt noted that such social structures are not external to the participants or just constraining. Instead, the structure is recognized only by social behavior, and social behavior necessitates structure. As individuals do gender, they copy and even may change the social structure. Gender relations connect one person to another in a commonality. They share structural space. As a result, these shared times of gendered knowledge evolve through interaction where particular gender ideals and activities play a part. By these means, comes the institutionalization of masculinity, which gives men the permission to draw on existing, but earlier established masculine ways of thinking and acting to construct a form of masculinity for each setting. Therefore, men are in different positions throughout society, and power is historically based on class, race, and sexual orientation. In some settings, some men have more power than do others, and thus masculinity is relative. Connell's (1987) theory of hegemonic masculinity is critical to understanding these power relations among men, since it is the culturally idealized form of masculinity in a particular historical and social setting.

Based on this foundation, Messerschmidt (1993) theorized masculinity and crime in a new way that would allow criminologists to find in what ways and in what respect masculinity is constituted in specific settings and how that relates to crime. One important way, but not the only way, to understand men making crime is to analyze these doing of masculinities.

Because of factors of race, class, age and gender, different crimes are elected as a means for doing masculinity and for separating masculinities from one another in varying social settings. In other words, Messerschmidt's (1993) works did not only negate traditional criminological theory, but also explained class and race distinctions in male adolescent crimes and in myriad adult crimes, from domestic violence to corporate crime.

Messerschmidt (1993) demonstrated how the predispositions to violence and nonviolence occur due to the simultaneous interconnection of home, school, and street, as well as the opportunities and pressures placed on those interconnections. Specifically, for example, teenage boys and girls, in relation to their bodies, socialization experience and alternate constructions of femininity, adopt violent or nonviolent behaviors while doing different types of gender. For example, Messerschmidt (2005, p.118) wrote of two males, Lenny and Perry, who were both gender conformists. However, at the same time, they produced in settings, specific but different types of masculine practices by using different forms of assaultive evidence and nonviolence. Both Lenny and Perry had complicit, yet subordinate masculinities at home. Yet, because Lenny did not experience masculinity challenges in this setting like Perry, he constructed a nonviolent masculine self, whereas Perry eventually became a violent masculine self in this environment. Outside their separate home environments, different types of masculinities by Lenny and Perry emerged from practices that similarly reflected different social circumstances and bodily resources.

One of the areas of interest based on Messerschmidt, is to take his theory of crime and masculinity and adapt it to femininity and crime. In their article, "Gender and crime: Toward a gendered theory of female offending," Steffensmeier. And Allan (1996), noted that professional criminologists do agree that the gender gap in crime is universal: Women are always and everywhere less likely than men to commit criminal acts. These same individuals do not agree, however, on a number of other key issues, such as is the…

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