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masculinity

New study: Braiding hair makes men want to punch things

Zach, is that a ... purse?

When a guy feels his masculinity is being undermined, he may want to punch something. That, in any case, is the implication of a new study by two psychology researchers at the University of South Florida. As the press release for the study explains:

In several studies, [the researchers] used [the] task [of braiding hair] to force men to behave in a “feminine” manner, and recorded what happened. In one study, some men braided hair; others did the more masculine—or gender-neutral—task of braiding rope. Given the options afterwards of punching a bag or doing a puzzle, the hair-braiders overwhelmingly chose the former. When one group of men braided hair and others did not, and all punched the bag, the hair-braiders punched harder. When they all braided hair and only some got to punch, the non-punchers evinced more anxiety on a subsequent test.

Aggression, write the authors, is a “manhood-restoring tactic.”

As is the case with most experimental psychology studies, it’s not clear to what degree this result applies to the real world, rather than to a specific set of people asked to perform a specific task in a lab setting. (There are a lot of bullshit experimental studies out there.) But the logic behind this study makes perfect sense, and I’m inclined to give it some credibility. I imagine the logic applies equally well to a range of supposedly “emasculating” tasks, like holding a woman’s purse, buying tampons, or, I dunno, watching “The View.”

Of course, with the first two examples, there is an alternative solution to the problem: to not actually give a shit about idiotic masculine stereotypes. What on earth is the big deal about buying tampons, or braiding hair? I find holding a purse annoying, but I’d be equally annoyed to hold a male friend’s wallet. (I just don’t like shopping with other people.)

In the case of The View, I can’t see a solution. Pretty much any exposure to that show makes me want to punch the television. Of course, I have female friends who feel the same way. As Zach Galifianakis once put it:

I have to stop crying when I watch “The View.” It’s not because of the topics at hand, I just feel sorry for that couch.

I think we all do.

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Captain Bathrobe
Captain Bathrobe
9 years ago

Peeing standing up vs. sitting down?

Lydia
Lydia
9 years ago

Reading Playboy vs Cosmo.

However, I’m pretty sure a lot of women would also feel terribly emasculated if they were supposed to read the Cosmo. As in: “My clit is shriveling…”

@ Dave: That’s alright, I’m very sleepy too. But then again, you originally responded to Amused, so actually it’s her decision whether you getting her wrong while being very sleepy is ok or not… Oh well, maybe we should all get a good night’s sleep. Right now or later.

Men's Rights Activist Lieutenant
Men's Rights Activist Lieutenant
9 years ago

The reason for this study is the fact that men are not allowed to embrace femininity, because (my projection) they will be attempting to rise above their second-class status in this misandrist society. Women want to hang onto their power and continue spitting FFUCKINGAS ASSHOLES on the men GOD DAMN IT. I hate them. Womassfucks and femiassFUCKS are allowed to be manly (tomboys, etc.) because they are simply adopting the persona of a social inferior, and that’s okay.

Shayna
Shayna
9 years ago

The article says that the men were “forced” to braid hair. Whose hair were they forced to braid I wonder? Their own? Because that could be really frustrating and would understandably make anybody aggressive.

I am imagining a Guantanamo Bay style scenario with a poor bunch of blokes with semi-automatics trained at their heads being forced to braid the kids from Little Miss Sunshine.

Bloody stupid study. Proves psychologists really are silly billies.

Shayna
Shayna
9 years ago

@NWOslave – What about gay men? Bisexual men? Transgender men? Men who dress in drag? Men who like to dress in nappies and get spanked? Any man who might be confused about his gender? What do you define as masculinity?

katz
9 years ago

A subtler point is the role observation plays in this study (and all studies).

The men doing the braiding know they’re being observed and that their behavior is being recorded. Thus, their actions are driven not only by their desires, but by what they want to be seen doing–the image of themselves they want to present.

So their choice to punch the bag may be either inspired by a girlie activity making them want to act masculine, or by it making them want to appear masculine to the observers they know are present.

It’s difficult to ethically (and legally) eliminate the observational factor, since you’d have to observe people without them knowing.

Pecunium
9 years ago

katz: I’ve taken part in psych studies for Stanford. There are a lot of ways to mask the specific intent of the study, so the subject doesn’t know what is being measured. I can think of ways to make this something which is nominally neutral in the observation aspect.

Let’s see. If the men are each given a set of tests, of, “manual dexterity” and then they get the chance to do either a puzzle, or heavy bag after each one.

So they have braiding (some on hair, some on rope), they have sorting one type of screw from another, and they have tossing a tennis ball into a container.

The only one you vary is that half the subjects get the hair,and the other half get the rope. Each is doing the action alone in a room.

It’s not unethical to have them be observed clandestinely. No one is at risk, so the protocols are going to be pretty easy to get past the ethics review.

Then, if there is differential between those who choose the bag over the puzzle, but only in the braiding, you know something about it is related to the activity.

Then comes the problem of isolating that reaction, and showing what causes it.

Shayna: I think “forced” is the reporter choosing more exiting language to describe it.

Plymouth
Plymouth
9 years ago

Katz – I think that may be part of the point though. People PERFORM gender.

comet
comet
9 years ago
MertvayaRuka
MertvayaRuka
9 years ago

@Pecunium:

“*do you speak Russian?”

Sadly, not yet. I would like to learn, though. Perhaps if I can squeeze it into my fall college schedule.

I do have to agree with you that the article doesn’t seem to give us enough to go on. It just really sounds like it’s not so much “men are hardwired to do manly things and get angry when they’re made to do feminine things” as it is “men are constantly told that to be feminine is to be inferior so they’re desperate not to be seen as feminine ever”. Anxious masculinity causes all kinds of ugliness. It convinces men that it’s better to be reflexively violent that it is to be vulnerable. It makes them engage in stupidly territorial displays, see every perceived slight as a deadly insult that must be answered with fists and treat women as things to be acquired and kept. It’s one of the things that disgusts me the most about the MRA crowd; in their pursuit of “manliness”, they voluntarily make themselves what they claim women see them as: stupid, brutish, violent, uncaring and ultimately weak.

Pecunium
9 years ago

MertvayaRuka: If you want to learn Russian, be prepared to study like anything. It’s tricky. Some of it makes perfect sense, once you get your head inside it, but getting your head inside it is a bear.

Some of it is just memorization (verb pairs), and some of it is just plain baffling.

Rabbit
Rabbit
9 years ago

@David: I also took Russian in high school (we shared a classroom with the Japanese class, and there was a “war” between us due to their obnoxious anime drawings all over the walls, lol) and I enjoyed the heck out of it. 🙂 It sounds like it came more easily to me than it did to you, though, so that might have something to do with it.

The hardest part was disassociating the English-looking letters from their English matches, but once I mastered that it was all downhill. (I still read the “KIA” logo without the line across the “A” as “KILL” because of that class, lol)

Pecunium
9 years ago

Dave: I took it in the Army (full time, one year course, 36 hours a week of classroom, plus homework, plus study). 1/3rd of the class failed (which was about average.

I was decent at it. I enjoyed it.

It Was Hell.

Pecunium
9 years ago

Rabbit: I read it as, “Killed In Action”.

It’s the “clever” things which drive me nuts. Inverted “R”s, “H” in odd places. Toys “R” Us, drives me batty, etc.

Rabbit
Rabbit
9 years ago

There’s no history of military service on either side of my family, so military-related acronyms tend to slip by me. Or it might just mean that I’m violent and/or morbid, haha.

Yeah, that stuff drives me up the wall, too. Especially when someone is using it on the internet to look cute, like in a username or something. I used to see it a lot back when MSN Messenger was the popular thing. And MySpace. Oh, god, MySpace…

Pecunium
9 years ago

There is a record store here, “Raputin Records” which just kills me.

Korn did too. I tore into several dictionaries making sure the fact that it felt wrong was correct.

Toysoldier
9 years ago

But, again, I do think the basic premise makes sense: put men to work at a task that challenges cultural definitions of masculinity, then give them a choice between doing something aggressive and something not aggressive; if they choose the aggressive option, it suggests that aggression may well be, as the authors note a “manhood-restoring tactic.” 

But those were not the option. The options were something masculine and something feminine, and the masculine activity happened to be aggressive. In order to demonstrate that men will choose doing something aggressive (to an inanimate object, I would add) and something not aggressive one would need to test give men two masculine-coded activities, one aggressive and one not aggressive. If they choose the aggressive one, then one could make your argument.

Pecunium
9 years ago

Toysoldier: You are projecting, so (I suspect) are the researchers.

The description is that they were asked to do a task.

That task came in two versions. One with hair, one with rope.

Then they were told to do something else. They had a choice between two tasks.

There was a differential in the tasks chosen.

When they were all given the same task (hitting the bag) there was a differential as well.

Unless some of the subjects were told, “we are going to give you a “feminine” task to do, then the inference that it was the, “feminine” nature of the task (and not some other thing, such as frustration for lack of ability) is an assumption being made in the working definitions of the study.

That’s why I want to see the study, before I grant it any real credence.

PosterformerlyknownasElizabeth
PosterformerlyknownasElizabeth
9 years ago

How is putting together a puzzle feminine?

Pecunium
9 years ago

Beth: Because everything is dualism: if punching a bag = masculine, then not punching a bag =feminine.

PosterformerlyknownasElizabeth
PosterformerlyknownasElizabeth
9 years ago

Das ist stupid Pecunium. But unsurprising none the less.

snarla
9 years ago

I don’t feel sorry for the couch. It probably gets farted into considerably less than a lot of other couches.

traindodger
9 years ago

I happen to have a strong interest in evolutionary psychology, but not in the many spurious proofs advanced in its name. I believe that humans have some hard-wired “building blocks” for basic cognition that we all share to some degree, and that these building blocks serve as the seed variables for a wide range of very, very complex social behaviors that grow and flourish independently of our instinctual ones.

If anything, I happen to think that Evo Psych proves that human males and females are more or less identical, mentally-speaking. The rest comes from socialization.

p
p
6 years ago

Typical liberal male: lamenting the terrible standards of masculinity and then making fun of women for not being thin and entertaining enough, vaguely justifying your misogyny with your “female friends”. And this is the first post I’ve read on your website start to finish.

How about you just stick to reporting facts and doing actual work for women rather than oversharing and ending up reproducing the woman-hating you claim to be so against? Or is it just fun for you to “beat” MRAs at arguments?

– a fellow, unsurprised man