Sasha Baron Cohen Foils Tough Guise

Cohen arrives for the Australian premiere of his new film "Bruno" in SydneyBy Hansel Choi

Growing up in a boy’s school I sometimes succumbed to hyper-masculine poses. Yeah, that was me, along with plenty of other guys. Silly, overblown showcasing.

And then I grew up and wondered why. Why do we do it? Why do we do it even for strangers we don’t know or care about? People we’ll never see again?

After taking some gender courses, I’ve got some clues.

Growing up there’s plenty of pressure from dads and moms and friends. But it’s more like the pressure of “how not to be.”

Don’t be fem. Don’t be gay. 

Everyone seems to value masculine behaviors. Girls can be tomboys. But boys can’t be sissies. At least not without getting tortured.

Guys look to other guys – not women – for cues on how to “do manhood.” We don’t look to women because what would they know? And we’ve been taught to devalue them and their traits, anyway. We’ve got to prove we’re men by projecting the opposite of womanliness.

So guys can grow up to be — or at least act — pretty misogynistic and homophobic.

Especially in groups: We’ve got an audience and we’d better prove our toughness until both the audience and us guys are convinced we are manly.

So what happens when that plan is foiled, courtesy Sasha Baron Cohen?

One character Mr. Cohen plays is “Bruno” — a satiric persona used to exploit homophobia — on The Ali G show.

On one episode Bruno comes upon five guys on Spring Break in Miami. He tells them he’s doing a TV show and asks them to spell out “P-A-R-T-Y” and then chant “Party” in unison. The macho men perform with gusto, complete with raised arms, “gang signs” and body-builder poses. But Bruno keeps insisting it’s not energetic enough. So the guys keep topping themselves —swaying, jumping, running, shoving and screaming. In the last round one guy even jumped from a trailer truck while yelling out “Y!”

As an encore, Bruno tells them to show their asses.

“You want to see some ass-cheeks?” Demands ringleader, Jim, “We’ll give you some ass-cheeks!” Practically delirious, the guys moon the camera.

Finally, Bruno tells Jim to say “hi” to everyone.

“Hi, This is Jim from Daytona Beach, Florida!” he blusters.

“No,” Bruno corrects, “Say hi to the Austrian Gay TV show”.

“Gay TV? What do you mean Gay TV? There is no f-ing Gay TV involved in this,” bellows Jim, as he rips off the tip of Bruno’s microphone.

Funny how performing for a crowd, and showing off your ass, is just fine – until the context changes.

The hyper-masculine poses — the antithesis of femininity and homosexuality — were made to impress both women and men (who could only envy their celebrity spotlight).

But it turned out that they were performing for (and submitting to?) a gay audience, falling all over themselves to please and even show some skin.

It’s enraging.

Especially when hyper-masculinity is merely a projection of the fear of being equal or being identified with “lesser-thans.” Like women and gays.

Hansel is a former student who wrote this as a final gender studies paper at the University of California, San Diego, where he recently graduated. I edit it down from 3500 to around 500 words. I’m posting with his permission.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Doing Dumb Stuff to Prove Manhood
It’s Ok To Be A Tomboy But Not A Sissy. Why?
It’s Not Easy Being A Man

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 25, 2014, in feminism, LGBTQ, men, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. This was just too funny…

    I don’t know why feminine values are not valued as highly as masculine ones. Personally, I value so-called feminine traits more than masculine ones, but even my wife recognizes that I have quirks…

    Maybe feminists and others should implement a feminine values “affirmative action” program until society starts to give equal value to femininity.

    • Thanks.

      As the world became more patriarchal (I’ll write about that soon) we started valuing men and masculinity over females/femininity.

      Cultural feminism seeks to celebrate f/f. But you’ve got a good idea there.

  2. There used to be a World Femininity Day ( http://www.worldfemininityday.com/index.html ), but I think it lasted all of three years. I think it was a great idea and something that should be promoted and encouraged to continue.

  3. I love that there is beginning to be discourse about how men too shouldn’t be forced to submit to ideas of what masculinity should look like rather than what it is for each male and female. While I think words give meaning, sometimes they also limit. Interesting post by Hansel.

  4. Why would guys be happy doing something that would make them ridiculed and made fun of? Yeah think of how much those guys will get teased or picked on back with their buddies or women and men messing with them after seeing them pose for “Austria gay tv”.

    The aspect of the video camera recording this sets a man up for others to see and him to look bad. Plus they probably had real fear that it was going to be sent to a gay channel or something. And sacha baren isn’t doing much against masculinity, because his effeminate action is done out of comedy, so joking about feminity. It’s natural for a straight guy to not want and be upset if he’s going to be posted on a gay channel, especially when he was just parading around being flamboyant and definitly if he’s mooning or showing his ass to the screen and geared toward gay men. I’m sorry but straight guys don’t want to be used for masturbation or potentially masturbation material to gay men especially set up or tricked into it.

  5. That’s not masculinity. That’s plain dumbness. Being loud and obnoxious in matter of fact has nothing to do with masculinity. But that’s what the media are trying to sell.
    Being masculine requires being gentleman as well.
    It’s very strange how the image of the “man” has change in the media over the years.
    Now days there are movies like American Pie and shows in the MTV.
    Compare that to Gary Cooper, Gary Grant, Paul Newman movies

    • I agree completely. I’m sure Hansel would agree too.

      Too bad that so many guys aren’t also in agreement.

      • I remember reading an article, or essay, on how the image of how the man should be has changed. We can see how is portrayed in the movies. Once it was the hard working man, that showed respect to the others and deserved the respect of the others, a man of actions and not (loud) words, like Clark Gamble, Humphrey Bogart.

        Now the “ideal” man is the selfish, loud, manipulative, disrespectful, show off, doing-stupid-things, immature, pretend-to-be “tough” guy.
        Now days women have supposed equal rights with men, but where is the respect?
        In those old classic movies, even though women didn’t have equal rights with men at that time, at least they had more respect.
        I am not saying that it was better or worse then than it is now days, but now days there is no respect at all
        Why now days, young men have to pretend to be loud and tough guys?
        What ever happened to the idea of being a gentleman?

      • Good question. Luckily, A lot of women and men are trying to change all this.

  6. According to this TV show, we can see that there are still discriminations to women or gays clearly. The guys who have the high masculinity like the men in the show have are pretending themselves as “real men” for scaring the equality among men, women, gay, and feminists even if they are unconscious. I think that this kind of the masculinity is the evidence of devaluing everyone except “the high-masculinity men”, and they show their disrespects to others because they thought the show was for a crowd. I really hate this. I consider that once they did, they should not have gotten angry about it to protect their masculinity or their ranks even if the context changed.

  7. “Sexually pleasing men puts these men in the place of women. And since women are devalued, That’s a big problem. Women in the same position — learning that they have been performing for women — probably won’t upset –probably because they won’t feel more devalued after learning about it. And it’s not that women are aware of being devalued. But you can see their acceptance of it in various ways, Such as the example I just gave. Or things I write about in these posts”

    It doesn’t bother women, because of a couple things. Guys generally seem to be more homophobic than women are about other lesbians. Perhaps because of culture or innate, but women either are more likely to have bi tendencies or more connected to each other. I mean look how women relate to each other and how affectionate women are to each other, which would look strange if straight men behaved the same say. Therefore, such stuff isn’t seen as lesbian tendences but women just being women, wherease guys acting such ways, kind of “gayish”.

    I thinm it’s cuture but also nature too as it seems women, not alll, but women have a nurturing aspect to them, as being child bearers it makes sense. So this crossing over to relation with other women. Another reason it doesn’t bother women, because like you said, women are trained to see other women as sexy, so why would women be appalled performing for the gender that is “sexy” after all?

    And the biggest point I make is the difference. Straight women won’t feel bothered as much either because of the visual nature of men versus women. She probably isn’t going to feel objectified by lesbians or these lesbians want to ravage her. Plus simple anatomy and men vs women’s brains. Women don’t have dicks simply and obviously, yes there are tools, but still. So a woman posing for lesbians probably isn;t going to feel that the lesbian’s gaze is intrusive or perverted or not like a man’s. Men knowing how men think and how perverted guys can be, obviously are bothered when that perversion is turned on them from the sex they don’t want (men)

    Women will probably more likely find it flattering. Then again, it’s not going to bother women, because women seem to appreciate other women’s bodies more so than straight men do for men, homophobic men or not. Dudes bodies don’t bother me and I can acknowledge a good looking guy or one whose got a good built. but it’s not that interesting to me. Seeing paint dry is more interesting than a man’s body and thats how it is for most guys. Guy’s are fascinated, move, or breathe taken by another man’s body no matter how fit. Wherease, you see straight women who say how “hot” or gorgeous or just like so moved and such a very strong visual admiration, wherease, straight guys can be impressed, but not like how many straight women are or can be,

    For straight guys its. “yeah he’s ripped, but ok umm, I want to see some tits (regarding women of course)”

    • Please be more succinct next time. I can’t guarantee I will answer comments that are this long.

      First, the male aversion to homosexuality is not innate.

      Patriarchal cultures tend to fear homosexuality in men, but not egalitarian societies. And as our society has gained equality between the sexes male homophobia has gone down drastically.

      Male homosexuality is feared by patriarchal men because gay men are seen as taking on female traits: behaving more feminine and having sex with men. The difference between the sexes becomes blurred. How can you have male dominance if men are kind of like women — if it’s all a blur? And you can’t have a male head in families that are lesbian or gay. So that also decreases male power. So no wonder these guys felt so threatened at the thought of inspiring homosexual thoughts.

      I don’t see how the female sex drive, being more repressed and less strong, is relevant here.

  8. I am awarding you the Sunshine Award. For details, please view this post http://wp.me/p41c99-MI Take care, Sage

  9. Even though most or many gay men talk and act like your regular straight man. The flamboyant gay man is a stereotype and there are plenty of straight guys who realize there are many masculine gay men. I had the other paragraph that I think was more important that you left out. I think the biggest point is anatomy. Basically put. Maybe a few lesbian women look at nude images of women bent over and think of fucking them doggystyle with a strap on. But women even lesbian women don’t seem to just step into that aggressive thought from a picture simply and sex. So a straight woman doesn’t have to feel disturbed about such actions, then again, seeing how women are built, sex that way is obviosly normal with men.

    Straight guys though can and think of baning a girls ass in a sexy picture bent over. Gay guys, being very visual can get the same reaction seeing a similar pic of a guy. And I’m pretty sure, like I said, that’s very disturbing for a straight man to have a pic from being tricked and showing his ass., And being told that it’s for gay tv. So his ass pic now set up submissively that gay guys will jerk off too and thinking of fucking, and the man set himself up in a submissive position for gay men. A straight guy doesn’t want to be masturbation material for gays anyway but especilly not in a submissive way. Simply put a man posing the same way for a gay mag vs one for straight women to look at, is more submissive for the gay one. Simply for the fact that women’s don’t have dicks and aren’t visual like that, wherease, gay guys do obv and can be as aggressive toward men as straight men to women.

    • If you think you’re better point is in a second post, Maybe you should let me know. Because I don’t post anything I don’t read and I don’t read comments that go on too long.

      Who knows? Maybe what you’re saying could contribute to this matter. But I suspect that even if the guys had not mooned the camera that these guys would have been infuriated at performing for a gay audience. Being at the beck and call of a demeaned group of people — who are demeaned in part because they dare to take on female characteristics, whether it is having sex the way women have it or taking on more feminine emotions or expressions.

  10. Tiffani Bartlett

    I don’t get it… if you know who are you as a person, why do you have to try and prove it to people? Its just funny to me how this group of guys will do anything stupid to make it on TV. Even when it means to pull their pants down and give everyone a peak of their backsides, but once they find out it is for a gay TV show its not all fun and games anymore. Jim gets mad and offensive. How does this make any sense? Maybe next time before making a fool of yourself ask if its worth it!

  11. I think there is a more direct reason for why it is more acceptable for a woman to be lesbian than it is for a man to be gay. A woman being a lesbian does not necessarily take away her femininity, at least from the popular perspective. Is just two woman being very nurturing to each other. However, when a man is gay, their masculinity is taken away. A man who is gay is not perceived as rough and tough anymore because their homosexuality makes their nurturing side much more vocal. When a person looks at a heterosexual man, they are not focused too much on their sexuality but instead on other achievements. When a man is identified to be gay, it is difficult for others to not focus on the man’s sexuality because it is considered a “radical” sexual orientation. It is as if the gay man is suddenly objectified like any woman because they become more associated with their sexuality than they are with other things. It must suck for woman to always be associated with their sexuality.

  12. As a man, I am tall, big and masculine looks. However, I have somewhat feminine aspects like acting charming in front of a girl friend. My girlfriend likes when I act charming or begging to her in that it can make her feel that i am emotionally closer to her. Likewise, being feminine should not be underestimated than being masculine. Being feminine can be one of the ways to have better understanding of women and girls so that we can maintain good relationships with them. Like what the article says people feels favor for women being like tomboys while people feels reluctance for men being feminine or sassie. There are no specific reasons for people to think that man should not act like woman. Although it would be difficult to change people’s general conception on being feminine, being feminine should be treated as good as much as being masculine.

  13. The boys actions were both interesting and hilarious. These guys had no problem making fools of themselves just to prove how much “fun” they are having on spring break. It was interesting to see how each time they were asked to do it again the guys became more aggressive. They began pounding their chests, pushing each other, screaming louder etc. They saw nothing wrong with their actions, they were just being “cool guys” having fun on spring break. I saw that they had a sort of “boys will be boys” mentality that I believe perpetuates this tough guise act. But when it turns out that this is all for a gay TV show the man becomes very angry. His anger is a also mingled with fear, the fear of being seen as an object of pleasure for men. A role that is exclusively identified and assigned to women in our patriarchy society. I think this video shows how stupid and dangerous this tough guise act is.

  14. Who knows? Maybe what you’re saying could contribute to this matter. But I suspect that even if the guys had not mooned the camera that these guys would have been infuriated at performing for a gay audience. Being at the beck and call of a demeaned group of people — who are demeaned in part because they dare to take on female characteristics, whether it is having sex the way women have it or taking on more feminine emotions or expressions.

    yeah because they know doing so will make them the butt of jokes, as its a good way to prank or mess with straight guys. Trick them into doing something thats seen as being enjoyed by gay men. But I still think it’s worse for a man to think a gay man is lusting over him because of him bring tricked than simply a man doing something flamboyant and it being seen as gay. For example back in the 90s when playgirl was out and seen as an alternative and before the news of the real subscribers or most subscribers (gay men). A man celebrity, a straigt guy posed for it, being naive I guess and thinking probably a female audience was going to look at it. But then got busted or teased so bad by his guy friends, when learned that the majority demographic looking at it was gay men. And him getting busted on hard for it as a result and his humiliation and being bothered that he unintentionally used his body being posed for masturbation material for gay men. The last thing a straight man wants to do.

  15. This post actually has me laughing pretty hard. I have thought about this issue time and time again and have difficulty understanding why I used to think the way I did. And why I think the way I do now. My guess is that this happens to be a bit of a double standard. But we all succumb to these in one way or another (in reference to the double standard).
    But being Asian, I think the culture and a strict religious upbringing had us succumb to gender roles that were very typical. Personally, it was time and growth, studying and maturity that played a large part in my decrease of misogynistic and homophobic behavior. But it seems like many people never actually go through the phase that allows them to give it some real thought. They just hate it because they were brought up to hate it (whatever “it” may be). And they love it just because they were brought up to love it (again, whatever “it” may be).
    I was too scared to watch the movie that was mentioned in this blog post. I am not sure why, but watching the fear and hatred may be the main factor.

  16. Dear Prof,

    Thanks so much for posting the article here, as well as your kind editing! I’m sincerely honored!

  17. Breanne Esplana

    I can see it from both sides. I can understand that a guy wouldn’t want to be sexualized to another man, if that was not their preference and they were completely unaware of what the footage was for.

    However, I agree that it is wrong for them to have such a strong reaction. The anger of having your image used for something completely separate than what you thought it would be used for, I understand, but the anger of being associated with the term “gay” is ridiculous. It is as if, another man seeing their image is wrong, but a woman being able to see their bare bottom would be totally acceptable. I loved your reply to one of the comments about how once they find out it is for Gay TV, it all of a sudden makes their actions feminine, therefore, below that of what a man should be.

    Plus, they should have asked what it was for before performing so they didn’t get taken by surprise. Even if it was for a regular TV channel, showing your butt on camera is just a poor choice in general.

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