Male British hedge fund employees worried about their appearance, link it to wealth

Even as women are presented with pressure in regard to their appearance, some men face similar pressure. Take this case of male employees at a British hedge fund:

We got our hands on an academic paper published last week by the British Sociological Association, which muscles into the attitudes of male traders towards their bodies, ageing and fitness, as observed at one (thus far unidentified) City-based hedge fund…

According to the study, titled, “Built to last: ageing, class and the masculine body in a UK hedge fund,” people at the mystery fund admit they get teased for not keeping fit, think affluence is linked to physical activity and exercise to offset the negative perceptions of ageing … oh and er, lie about getting work done.

“Conversations on the floor suggested that traders explicitly rejected or mocked the idea of Botox or other forms of cosmetic treatment,” goes the report.

“Yet, during interviews some mentioned dyeing their hair, having regular massages or going on an intense boot camp holiday in order to ‘fix’ parts of their body.”

The acceptable masculine appearance in this setting is interesting. But, it would then be worthwhile to hear more about how appearance gets linked to success and status within the firm. Do fellow employees perceive fit workers to be more successful? Do they get earlier promotions? Did male traders always have to be fit or get benefits from being fit or is this a relatively new phenomenon? This may be another piece of evidence that economic trading is not just about the numbers. As a number of sociological studies have found, other factors other than individual talent or intuition affect abilities in the finance industry including emotion and social networks.

Sociological study of sitcom fathers from the 1950s to today: men portrayed similarly

It is a common complaint that television sitcoms make fathers out to be buffoons or at least incompetent parents. One PhD student in sociology looked at sitcoms from the 1950s to today to see how the fathers compare:

Miller found that while family structures in sitcoms has kept up with real social change — there are more single and divorced men in the recent sitcoms, for example — the men in both eras are more likely to be similar than different.

There is almost no difference in how often men express anger or emotional attachment. And men in the 1950s were almost as likely to say they were being victimized by someone else, such as their boss, as they do in the recent sitcoms.

Men in both sets of sitcoms also show almost equal amounts of self-deprecating behaviour…

Probably the greatest difference Miller noted is that men in the recent sitcoms make fewer imperative statements, are less likely to be respectful to others, and less likely to be respected by others. It might signal a decline in male authority, but it’s also a sign of all-around lower standards of decorum and politeness, she says.

Men in the recent sitcoms are also more likely to be immature. In Miller’s recent sample, there were about five times as many incidents of immaturity as in the 1950s series. But sitcom women have also become increasingly immature.

Perhaps the real story here is the consistency of television formats: the sitcoms of the past may not really be that different from the sitcoms of today even as the characters and situations have changed slightly.

Another possible takeaway is that television probably isn’t the best place to look for examples of good behavior. I assume most Americans would readily agree with this but considering the number of hours people watch plus the cultural power shows can have, television characters end up establishing certain behaviors.

New documentary “Mansome” look at the rise of metrosexuals

A new documentary titled Mansome (see the trailer here – and features Morgan Spurlock, Will Arnett, and Jason Bateman) examines the “metrosexual revolution” in the United States:

“I don’t highlight my hair, I’ve still got a pair,” [Brad] Paisley sings in his hit, “I’m Still a Guy.”

But a new documentary called “Mansome” finds that more men care about what they look like. And for them, getting pampered the way women have for so long doesn’t mean being any less of a man…

Many men are throwing out the rigid definition of masculinity — “avoiding femininity, emotional restriction, avoiding of intimacy, pursuit of achievement and status, self-reliance, strength and aggression, and homophobia, ” Latham wrote in his 2011 Psychology Today article, “Where Did all the Metrosexuals Go?”

“There is a growing body of research showing that men are rejecting these narrow gender stereotypes and exploring different ways of expressing what it means to them to be a man,” said Latham. “One way of doing this is men’s increased focus on personal appearance.”

There could be a pretty interesting story here. I would be interested in seeing how the documentary ties in marketing and advertising to these changes. Isn’t Spurlock’s ironic moneymaking ability tied to discussing/exploiting particular social issues for marketing purposes – look no further than his documentary The Greatest Story Ever Sold. I’ve been particularly amused by the Dove commercials about “manhide.” Imagine marketers salivating at the idea of selling products to a whole other gender.

At the same time, this sort of documentary seems like it could end up being hokey and only travel in gross stereotypes rather than really tackle the profound gender issues in our society in recent decades. Spurlock, Arnett, and Bateman all have the potential to be mawkish rather than profound…so perhaps I’ll have to check out this film and report back. Thus far, the reviews at are not good: only 24% fresh.

How does this “metrosexual revolution” fit with arguments that males are encouraged to be violent in our society through means like movies and video games? Has the “gentler male” view won out?

A bigger push for men’s studies?

I’ve noted this before but here is another article suggesting that there is a bigger push for men’s studies in academia:

The male stereotype of the all-powerful protector and provider is doing a disservice to men – pressuring them to conform and ultimately, leaving many powerless to face the challenges of modern society.

That’s the thesis that binds many academics in the new area of masculinity studies, who say their examination of how the culture of maleness effects men, rather than those around them, has been a long time coming.

“Clearly it’s at a very nascent stage in its development, in the humanities and social sciences,” says Concordia University sociologist Marc Lafrance, who teaches about men and masculinity…

Synnott, who has been teaching a course on the sociology of men for 10 years, believes that the rallying cry of “male chauvinist pig” has ignored important realities that men face. “Men dominate at the top and also the bottom,” he points out.

Alas, there are no numbers or larger stories in this article to inform us of whether this is a larger push in academia or not. It would be interesting to hear people comment on whether these calls for more studies of masculinity are related to larger economic pressures where men are having more difficulty finding jobs and educational shifts where women are now getting more degrees. Because men are feeling more vulnerable today, this leads to a new interest in men’s studies?

I also wonder if there is a large number of undergraduates who would be ready to follow this course of study. Would such programs take students away from women’s or gender studies programs? Would students who don’t see the point of women’s studies programs suddenly see the value of men’s studies?

“The Sociology of Professional Wrestling” course

Even as news about the Sociology of Jay-Z course at Georgetown continues to spread, I ran into news about a sociology course about professional wrestling:

On Oct. 16, professional wrestling came to Brock University with the third annual “Brock Brawl”. The live pro wrestling event not only served as entertainment for members of the Brock community, it also represented a learning experience for students at Brock enrolled in the SOCI 3P55 course, also known as, “The Sociology of Professional Wrestling”.

Daniel Glenday, a Professor in the Department of Sociology, teaches Sociology (SOCI) 3P55 at Brock, which is the only course offered in North America that purely focuses on pro wrestling.

“The idea of this course is to ‘wise people up’ to wrestling,” said Glenday. “It’s a big part of cultures all around the world, but no one is studying it. It’s everywhere, so we should really take a look at what it means.”…

The Sociology of Professional Wrestling was first offered at Brock in 2006. Glenday said the course addresses the misunderstandings and prejudices people have towards pro wrestling, which has been criticized for its “excessive violence, sexism, homophobia and ethnic/racial stereotyping”. Glenday also hopes to dismiss the argument that pro wrestling leads to an increase in bullying by younger girls and boys.

I assume there would a lot of material to work with in this course regarding masculinity, violence, and popular culture.

Is professional wrestling still popular? I know it is still on the air but I haven’t seen many commercials for it or heard about it leaking out into the popular culture. One website suggests the October 10th Monday Night Raw pulled down a rating of 3.2 and the latest “Impact Wrestling” (Thu Oct 13) had a 0.5 rating (better than “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”). Perhaps I am in the wrong target demographic and/or am not watching the right channels.

Has the rise of football harmed male educational attainment?

With data in recent years suggesting that men are falling behind at the college level, Gregg Easterbrook suggests this may be due to football:

Women are taking more of the available slots in college at the same time boys are spending more time playing football. Are these two facts related?

The main force must be that girls as a group are doing very well in high school, making them attractive candidates for college. But perhaps the rising popularity of football is at the same time decreasing boys’ chances of college admission.

Having ever-more boys being bashed on the head in football, while more play full-pads tackle at young ages, may be causing brain trauma that makes boys as a group somewhat less likely to succeed as students. In the highly competitive race for college admissions, even a small overall medical disadvantage for boys could matter. More important, the increasing amount of time high school boys devote to football may be preventing them from having the GPA and extracurriculars that will earn them regular admission to college when recruiters don’t come calling…

Neurology aside, most likely the largest factor in the possible relationship of rising football popularity to declining male college attendance is that teen boys who play the sport spend too much time on football and not enough time on schoolwork. When they don’t get recruited, many may lack the grades, board scores and extracurriculars for regular college admission.

Easterbrook is suggesting a correlation between two pieces of data: the declining performance of men in school compared to women and a rising interest in football. (To really get at whether this is the case, we would need to undertake an analysis where we can control for other factors.)  He suggests two possible ways in which football might be having an impact: neurological damage and time spent playing and practicing the sport. Out of these, the second sounds more plausible to me.

But I wonder if there isn’t a lot more we could say about this second possible explanation. Why would high school and college males want to spend so much time playing football? Why is it such an attractive option? Perhaps this attraction to football suggests that society doesn’t present too many other attractive options to young males. Perhaps younger males lack good role models in their personal lives or in society who do other things, respectable males who would say that getting an education is an important step in order to participate in today’s society. Do we have cool scientists or academics or do we usually highlight celebrities (particularly those who are famous for being famous) and athletes? Perhaps “manliness” is now defined by football: across the positions, it requires speed (running), violence (hitting), decision-making, and competition. Plus, everyone has been playing this on Madden for years so how hard could this be?

I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too difficult to find some data regarding high school students to see who plays football and perhaps even indicates why they play.

The NFL: where having a really smart QB may be a bad thing

Part of the NFL scouting combine circus is the Wonderlic test. Alabama’s Greg McElroy, scored 48 out of 50, quite a high score. There is one commentator who suggests this may be a bad thing:

McElroy’s brainpower still has the potential be taken as a negative around the league, as explained by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio:

That said, scoring too high can be as much of a problem as scoring too low.  Football coaches want to command the locker room. Being smarter than the individual players makes that easier. Having a guy in the locker room who may be smarter than every member of the coaching staff can be viewed as a problem — or at a minimum as a threat to the egos of the men who hope to be able when necessary to outsmart the players, especially when trying in some way to manipulate them.

So while McElroy, who was unable to work out due to injury, may be really smart, he perhaps would have been wise to tank a few of the answers.

Wikipedia’s entry on this has a listing of average Wonderlic scores by NFL position according to a longtime NFL scribe. The average score for a quarterback is 24. It appears that McElroy’s score ranks amongst the highest known scores.

Football is known as having players who are warriors or gladiators. Even so, having a smart quarterback seems to me to be a good thing, rather than a negative because it might challenge the supremacy of the coach. With the complexity of offensive systems these days, particularly with the check-downs and need to read defensive coverages, a smart quarterback might help. This seems like a weird issue of masculinity: in a relatively violent sport, who gets to be smartest in the locker room?

There would be a way to possibly figure out whether this issue with the coach is real (granted that enough Wonderlic data is out there): how do Wonderlic scores compare with the number of coaches a quarterback has (and controlling for a bunch of other factors)? And more broadly, do higher Wonderlic scores translate into more victories?

The counterpart to women’s studies: men’s or male studies?

Women’s studies programs are common at American colleges and universities. And in recent years, courses about men and masculinity have increased in numbers. An article in the New York Times explores this phenomenon and the split between proponents of men’s and male studies:

Male studies, largely the brainchild of Dr. Edward M. Stephens, a New York City psychiatrist, doesn’t actually exist anywhere yet. Last spring, there was a scholarly symposium at Wagner College on Staten Island, intended to raise the movement’s profile and attract funds for a department with a tenured chair on some campus. A number of prominent scholars attended, including Lionel Tiger, an emeritus anthropology professor at Rutgers, who invented the term “male bonding,” and Paul Nathanson, a religious studies scholar at McGill University, who specializes in the study of misandry, the flip side of misogyny. Both are on the advisory board of the Foundation for Male Studies, which Dr. Stephens founded last year…

The people in men’s studies, like those in women’s studies, take a mostly sociological perspective and believe that masculinity is essentially a cultural construct and that gender differences in general are fluid and variable. To Professor Kimmel, we live in a world that is increasingly gender-neutral and gender integrated and that this is a good thing for men and women both. “That ship has sailed — it’s a done deal,” he said recently, dismissing the idea that men and women are as different as Martians and Venutians.

The male studies people, on the other had, are what their critics call “essentialists” and believe that male behavior is in large part biologically determined. Men think and act differently from how women think and act because that’s how evolution shaped them. In the most extreme formulations of essentialism, men are basically still Neanderthals: violent, clannish, sexually voracious and in need of female domestication.

The article points this out but this sounds like another episode in the nature vs. nurture debate.

But the study of masculinity does seem to be a growing field of study. I don’t know much about this particular field  but it seems to me that there has been a growing recognition that there is a wide range of male experiences. And more men seem to be interested in at least thinking about this and how their lives have been shaped by cultural expectations.

What is the “typical” role for males today? Take a sector of the media like video games. These are popular among males, particularly the younger generations, and many of these games present particular views of masculinity and the world. Should one be an soldier shooting others in Black Ops? Should one be a 13th century assassin? Should one be a puzzle solver or an athlete? There are a number of roles, realistic and otherwise, that are presented. And all of this has real consequences: with terms like “man-cession” or “he-pression” being in the news recently due to the loss of certain jobs, what happens to males matters for society.

Masculinity throughout American history

Newsweek provides a photo overview of changing ideals of masculinity throughout American history. The gallery is based on the work of sociologist Michael Kimmel and his 2005 book Manhood in America: A Cultural History. According to the gallery, we are now in the era of “The New Macho (2000s-2010s)”:

Beta Males–younger guys who treat masculinity as a winking, ironic act–are probably the most noticeable variation on masculinity today, but this piece is about the future, a time when, weirdly, Brad Pitt looks a lot like the New Macho, at least from a parenting perspective. He and his wife (Angelina Jolie) are co-breadwinners, alternating movies while the other one parents the brood. Nannies help, of course, but earlier this year, when asked to explain how she balances work and family, Jolie credited Brad as “the word that makes it possible.”

It is interesting to trace how the ideal has changed over time and how it has been influenced by larger social forces.

Reflecting on Swedish paternity leave

At Slate, Nathan Hegedus discusses his 18-month paternity leave in Sweden. Hegedus has some intriguing thoughts including the observation that “The dads act exactly like the moms” and more broadly, about how Swedish culture has seemed to prepare men for child-rearing:

I had expected great physical comedy in Daddyland—fathers covered with diaper leakage, babies covered with motor oil, men forcing resentful toddlers into soccer matches. I realize now how insensitive to my Swedish brothers this was. Swedish dads of my generation and younger have been raised to feel competent at child-rearing. They simply expect to do it, just as their wives and partners expect it of them (even though women still do far more child-related work in general). It’s eye-opening in a really boring way…

But there are deeper societal processes at work here, a shift of the very notion of Swedish masculinity. In a 2008 article in the journal Fathering, Anna-Lena Almqvist wrote that Swedish men have developed a “child-oriented masculinity.” Almqvist compared the attitudes of a selection of Swedish fathers with their French counterparts and found that, among couples with similar incomes, Swedish men emphasized the importance of parental leave and helping to raise their children. They also negotiated explicitly with their partners on child care issues. The French men did neither of these things.

While these are the observations of one man, Hegedus hints at the cultural socialization that accompanies child-rearing. It sounds like the policy decisions in Sweden have pushed men toward a new kind of masculinity that involves child-rearing, a domain that was traditionally left to women.

It would be interesting to read more about this, particularly about what this means more broadly for fatherhood and masculinity as well as how Hegedus’ experience is viewed by his American counterparts.