Role, Definition of Masculinity Focus of Lawrence University Panel Presentation

The recent release of “Brokeback Mountain,” the so-called “gay cowboy movie,” has generated box office success, critical acclaim, a slew of Academy Award nominations and considerable discussion on what constitutes a “real man.”

A four-member Lawrence University faculty panel tackles that topic Wednesday, Feb. 15 in the Main Hall Forum “What is ‘Masculinity’? — And Why That’s the Wrong Question.” The presentation, at 4:15 p.m. in Main Hall, Room 201, is free and open to the public.

Each of the four panelists — Melanie Boyd, Paul Cohen, Randall McNeil and Monica Rico — will address the topic from a different perspective/area of expertise, followed by a general discussion and question and answer session with the audience.

Boyd, one of Lawrence’s charter postdoctoral Fellows with an appointment in gender studies, will discuss masculinity within queer theory. Her presentation will focus on the ways “queerness” is useful in highlighting the routine combining of gender and sexuality, examining the way in which heterosexuality is intrinsic to the hegemonic definition of masculinity.

Cohen, professor of history and the Patricia Hamar Boldt Professor of Liberal Studies who is developing the course, “Reel Men: Masculinity in American Film since World War II,” will review the portrayal of masculinity in post-war American film. Using Howard Hawks’ 1948 classic western “Red River” as an example, Cohen will examine the iconic gender archetypes in the movie, especially the John Wayne persona and the notion that “real men” are wholly self-willed, self-sufficient individuals who don’t need women or anyone else.

Rico, an assistant professor of history with a focus on gender and cultural history, especially of the American West, will discuss how historians have recently taken up the issue of masculinity by examining the ways social pressures to “act like a man” have evolved over time, where those pressures originate and how the ideals of masculinity shift in relation to ethnic and class identities.

McNeill, associate professor of classics whose research interests include Roman and Greek history, will discus “codes of masculine behavior” as a subject of study in the field of classics, specifically how scholars are refining their understanding of the various ways in which Roman men dealt with the expectations that were placed upon them.