Masculinity in Transition

2023
Author:

K. Allison Hammer

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Locating the roots of toxic masculinity and finding its displacement in unruly culture

Masculinity in Transition traces the roots of “toxic masculinity,” showing that while toxic strains of masculinity are mainly associated with straight, white men, trans and queer masculinities often reiterate similar patterns of behavior. Arguing that these malignant forms of masculinity can be displaced, K. Allison Hammer’s bold rethinking lays bare the underlying fragility of normative masculinity.

"A major intervention into masculinities studies, Masculinity in Transition brilliantly and consistently pushes the field toward a critical understanding of masculinity as a complex gender formation. K. Allison Hammer undertakes nuanced readings of a wide array of texts to offer a new understanding of masculinity and the ways in which it both serves and subverts hegemonic social, sexual, and racial hierarchies."
—Christopher Breu, author of Hard-Boiled Masculinities

Masculinity in Transition analyzes shifting relationships to masculinity in canonical works of twentieth-century literature and film, as well as in twenty-first-century media, performance, and transgender poetics. Focusing on “toxic masculinity,” which has assumed new valence since 2016, K. Allison Hammer traces its roots to a complex set of ideologies embedded in the histories of settler colonialism, racial capitalism, and political fraternity, and finds that while toxic strains of masculinity are mainly associated with straight, white men, trans and queer masculinities can be implicated in these systems of power.

Hammer argues, however, that these malignant forms of masculinity are not fixed and can be displaced by “unruly alliances”—texts and relationships that reject the nationalisms and gender politics of white male hegemony and perform an urgently needed reimagining of what it means to be masculine. Locating these unruly alliances in the writings, performances, and films of butch lesbians, gay men, cisgender femmes, and trans and nonbinary individuals, Masculinity in Transition works through an archive of works of performance art, trans poetics, Western films and streaming media, global creative responses to HIV/AIDS, and working-class and “white trash” fictions about labor and unionization.

Masculinity in Transition moves the study of masculinity away from an overriding preoccupation with cisnormativity, whiteness, and heteronormativity, and toward a wider and more generative range of embodiments, identifications, and ideologies. Hammer’s bold rethinking of masculinity and its potentially toxic effects lays bare the underlying fragility of normative masculinity.

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K. Allison Hammer is assistant professor and coordinator of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Southern Illinois University.

A major intervention into masculinities studies, Masculinity in Transition brilliantly and consistently pushes the field toward a critical understanding of masculinity as a complex gender formation. K. Allison Hammer undertakes nuanced readings of a wide array of texts to offer a new understanding of masculinity and the ways in which it both serves and subverts hegemonic social, sexual, and racial hierarchies.

Christopher Breu, author of Hard-Boiled Masculinities

How might we understand masculinity if we turn toward culture rather than biology? In compelling case studies, Masculinity in Transition insightfully examines normative masculinity's associations with the phallus, domination, and impenetrability. However, K. Allison Hammer also brilliantly uses these sites to uncover remakings of masculinity that center care, porosity, and unruly alliances—uplifting models for the precarious now.

Amber Jamilla Musser, author of Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance

Contents

Introduction: Rejecting “American” Manhood

Part I: Challenging Phallic Supremacy

1. “She’s a Pistol”: Female Phallicism

2. “When I Was a Boy”: Boi/Boyhood and the Unworking of Masculinity

Part II: Challenging Conceptions of the Nation

3. The “Not (Quite) Yet” of a New Collectivity: Feminist Masculinity and the American Western

4. Virtue Is Divided: Unruly Alliances in Willa Cather and Gertrude Stein

Part III: Challenging Masculine Impenetrability

5. “Skin of His Hand against the Skin of My Back”: HIV/AIDS Self-Writing and Film of the 1980s and ’90s

6. “A Man Is a Worker”: Economic Penetrability, Labor Abuses, and Landlessness

Conclusion: Toward the Future of Masculinity and Relationality

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index