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THE VOICES OF MEN: THE SHAPING OF MASCULINITIES IN THREE SUBCULTURAL

CONTEXTS

by

Thomas F. Matta

A Dissertation Presented to the

FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

In Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

(Sociology)

May 1996

Copyright 1996 Thomas F. Matta

 

 

UMI Number: 9636358

Copyright 1996 by Matta, Thomas Francis A11 rights reserved.

UMI Microform 9636358 Copyright 1996, by UMI Company. All rights reserved.

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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA THE GRADUATE SCHOOL

UNIVERSITY PARK LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 90007

This dissertation, written by

Thomas Francis Matta

under the direction of h…is Dissertation Committee, and approved by all its members, has been presented to and accepted by The Graduate School, in partial fulfillment of re­ quirements for the degree of

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Dean o f Graduate Studies

Date …A . P . ..2.5,..1.996 ….

DISSERTATION COMMITTEE

Chairperson(

 

 

ABSTRACT Much of the research in men’s studies to date has focused on the shaping of

masculinity o f white middle-class men. This study uses life cycle and social constructivist perspectives to explore the subjective experiences of men from varied subcultural contexts.

A theory that has received much attention in feminist and men’s studies circles is Chodorow’s (1978) The Reproduction o f Mothering, which reconceptualizes psychoanalytic notions of personality development to more fully include the impact of the structure of parenting on that process. Chodorow postulates that, due to the Industrial Revolution’s virtual removal of the man from the world of the family, boys’ and girls’ psychological development varies greatly in their paths to gendered beings, resulting in men defining and over-valuing their own separateness. Simply, this results in men who have relational deficits and a lesser capacity for empathy and nurturance than women have. With feminist object-relations theory in mind, this study explores the shaping of masculinities within three subcultural contexts.

A total of thirty in-depth personal narrative interviews were conducted with men from three subcultural contexts. Class was held relatively constant as the men interviewed were from urban and rural working-class backgrounds. The interviewees included men who were members of Amish communities, as well as men from the African-American working-class in Pittsburgh and white working-class men from Erie County, Pennsylvania. In listening to men’s subjective experiences from varied life circumstances and subcultures, embedded in a particular sociohistorical context, the plurality of masculinities was informed and expanded.

Through the interviews with the men from these three subcultures, feminist object-relations theory was further informed and extended. The interviews suggest that gender-making, definition and maintenance is a much more fluid and dynamic process than previously postulated in the feminist object-relations literature. The psychoanalytic concept of ego boundaries was reconceptualized utilizing a systemic framework and redefined as a process of expansion and contraction, with contraction socially constructed as masculine.

ii

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEDICATION………………………………………………………………………………………………….. vii BIOGRAPHICAL CONSIDERATIONS…………………………………………………………… ix ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ……………………………………………………………………………… xiv

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………. 1 Expanding to a Plurality of M asculinities………………………………………………… 2 Chodorow’s Reproduction of Mothering and the Relationally Deficient

M ale ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 4

CHAPTER 2: METHOD AND E N T R E E ………………………………………………………. 13 Securing Interview R espondents…………………………………………………………… 13 Interview P ro cess………………………………………………………………………………….. 18 Data Analysis and Interpretation…………………………………………………………… 19 Methodology—A Rationale for the In-Depth In terv iew …………………………. 20 Limitations of the Study ………………………………………………………………………. 23 Developmental Salience………………………………………………………………………… 25

CHAPTER 3: AMISH SUBCULTURE …………………………………………………………. 31 The History of Amish Families …………………………………………………………… 33 Education, Employment and In c o m e …………………………………………………….. 35 Fertility and Births Out-of-Wedlock …………………………………………………….. 36 Rites of Passage: Baptism, Marriage and Parenthood …………………………. 37 Amish Men: “Men of F a ith ” ……………………………………………………………….. 40 Masculinity as a Developmental Process and Gender S c h e m a ……………… 43

Time Orientation ………………………………………………………………………. 45 Ideological Dimension—”The Basic Pulpit of Life” ………………….. 47

Farming …………………………………………………………………………. 50 Education ………………………………………………………………………. 51 Publications……………………………………………………………………. 53

Social/Relational Dimension………………………………………………………. 58 Affective Processes…………………………………………………………. 58 A Language of Nurturance……………………………………………… 60 Acknowledging Dependency Needs Through Spatial

Metaphors …………………………………………………………. 61 Relationships as a Male Responsibility…………………………… 64 Humility, Male Vulnerability, and Confession………………… 66 H arm ony…………………………………………………………………………. 69 Layering Value Lessons Into One’s Being …………………….. 70 Restraint as Part of the Amish Masculine Definition-

Renouncing the Sword 74

 

 

Community Mentoring ………………………………………………….. 77 “Stand-Bys”……………………………………………………………………. 79

Elder M en to r………………………………………………………. 80 Elder/Peer Mentor ……………………………………………… 82 Peer/Elder Mentor ……………………………………………… 83 Peer M entor…………………………………………………………. 84

Environmental D im ension …………………………………………………………. 85 Skill Building and D e-Skilling………………………………………. 85

Psychological D im ension…………………………………………………………… 90 Ego Boundaries ……………………………………………………………… 90 Family Identification………………………………………………………. 91

Patriarchy and the A m ish………………………………………………………………………. 95 Summary ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 100

CHAPTER 4: BLACK WORKING-CLASS SUBCULTURE…………………………… 103 The History of Black Families and the Pathology/Resiliency Debate . . 104 Black Families in a Broader C ontex t………………………………………………….. 109 Education, Employment, and Incom e………………………………………………….. 110 Fertility and Out-of-Wedlock Births ………………………………………………….. I l l M arriage………………………………………………………………………………………………… 112 The Urbanization of Black Families ………………………………………………….. 118 The Strengths in Black Fam ilies…………………………………………………………. 119 Black Working-Class Men and Families of the Greater Pittsburgh Area 123 Black Working-Class Men: “Men of H o n o r” …………………………………….. 128

Masculinity as a Developmental Process ………………………………… 136 Time Orientation—”Here Today, Gone Today” ………………………. 139 Ideology—”Endure Things A Little Farther” ……………………………. 141

The Black Church ………………………………………………………. 141 S torytelling ………………………………………………………………….. 144

Racism and Demoralization of the Black Working-Class Male . 146 P overty …………………………………………………………………………. 149

Doing Something Vital—The Black Working-Class Work Ethic . 150 Danger on the Job ………………………………………………………. 153

Masculine R o le s ………………………………………………………………………. 154 Men as Co-Providers . . . . …………………………………………… 155 Men as C o-Protectors………………………………………………….. 157 Men as Stem, Nurturant Authorities ……………………………. 159 Power Differentials …………………………………………………….. 162

Relational Issues ……………………………………………………………………. 163 Affective Processes………………………………………………………. 163 A Language of Respect—”It’s Just Not Recognized” . . . . 163 The Impact of Deindustrialization on Intergenerational

M entoring…………………………………………………………. 166 Sustaining Relationships ……………………………………………… 170

iv

 

 

W om en……………………………………………………………… 170 Isolation and Alienation…………………………………….. 172 Friendships ………………………………………………………. 175

Hustling ………………………………………………………………………. 176 M ilestones……………………………………………………………………………….. 177

Summary …………………………………………………………………………………………… 178

CHAPTER 5: WHITE WORKING-CLASS SUBCULTURE………………………. 183 European Migration to Pennsylvania………………………………………………….. 185

Scotch-Irish Em igration…………………………………………………………… 186 German Emigration ……………………………………………………………….. 188 Irish Em igration………………………………………………………………………. 191 Polish Em igration……………………………………………………………………. 192 Italian Emigration……………………………………………………………………. 194

The Conservative Ethos of Erie C oun ty ……………………………………………… 198 Labor History ……………………………………………………………………………………. 199 Indentured Servants and Redemptioners……………………………………………… 199 Further Exploitation of Emigrant L a b o r ……………………………………………… 201 Exploitation of a Worker’s Wages ……………………………………………………. 203 Protest M asculinity…………………………………………………………………………….. 204 The Development of Industry and a Working-Class in Erie County . . . 205 Present-Day White Identity as a Function of Class …………………………… 207 Embedding Family Life in the History of Capitalism, Class, and Status 208 Classes as Status G ro u p s ……………………………………………………………………. 210 White Working-Class Men: “Men at W ork”………………………………………. 212

Masculinity as a Developmental Process and Gender Schema . . 216 Time Orientation ……………………………………………………………………. 218 Ideology—”Work is the Greatest Thing Man H as!” ………………….. 219

Asceticism……………………………………………………………………. 222 Independence ……………………………………………………………….. 224

Relational Issues………………………………………………………………………. 225 Affective Processes………………………………………………………. 225 A Language of Distance ……………………………………………… 228 Isolation and Loneliness ……………………………………………… 229 Patriarchy and Power ………………………………………………….. 230

Mentors ………………………………………………………………………………….. 232 Extended Family Mentors …………………………………………… 232 Community M en to rs……………………………………………………. 234

Work-Related Is su e s ……………………………………………………………….. 237 White Working-Class Careers in a Rural Setting ………… 237 De-Skilling of Youth and Devaluation of Manual Labor . 238

A Creative Response to the White Working-Class Dilemma . . . 239 Summary …………………………………………………………………………………………… 241

v

 

 

CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSION ………………………………………………………………………. 245 Major Themes in the Construction of Masculinities in the Three

Subcultures……………………………………………………………………………… 245 Chodorow R ev isited …………………………………………………………………………… 255 The Mystery of Masculinity ……………………………………………………………… 258 Internal Dimensions ………………………………………j 259

Reconceptualizing Ego Boundaries as an Expansion/Contraction Phenomenon ………………………………………………………………… 259

Ego Boundary Formation and D evelopm ent……………………………. 261 Expansion and Contraction………………………………………………………. 263 Ego Boundary F unctions………………………. 264

Social Dimensions …………………. 265 Identification P rocesses…………………………………………………………… 265 Disidentification Processes………………………………………………………. 271 Ego Boundary N orm ing…………………………………………………………… 277

Amish Ego Boundary Norming by P e e r s …………………….. 277 Black Working-Class Ego Boundary Norming by Peers . 278 White Working-Class Ego Boundary Norming by Adults 279

A Stage Model of Contracting Ego Boundaries………………………. 281 The Socialization o f Ego Boundary Contractions Into Masculine

D efin ition …………………………………………………………………….. 288 Sport as Boundary Contraction Simulations ……………………………. 291 Healthy Ego Boundary Contractions ………………………………………. 292

Different Patterns of Expansion Contraction Processes in the Three C on tex ts ………………………………………………………………………. 293

The Amish Context and Ego B oundaries………………………………… 294 The Black Working-Class Context and Ego B oundaries…………. 295 The White Working-Class Context and Ego B oundaries 298

Patriarchal Liabilities …………………………………………………………………………. 299 Alternative Masculinities Offered by the Great Wisdom Tradition of

C hristian ity ……………………………………………………………………………… 300 Implications for Future Research…………………………………………………………. 301 In Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………. 302

APPENDIX A: HUMAN SUBJECTS FORM FOR IRB ………………………………. 304 APPENDIX B: CONSENT FORM …………………………………………………………….. 308 APPENDIX C: PRESENTATION TO IRONWORKERS LOCAL XYZ ____ 310 APPENDIX D: INTERVIEW GUIDE…… ……………………………………………………… 311

BIBLIOGRAPHY…………………………………………………………………………………………… 313

vi

 

 

DEDICATION

This study is dedicated to the two most influential people in my life. Big Jim,

my grandfather, was a great inspiration to me. My cherished memories include him

singing, telling stories, lifting the front end of an automobile, or greeting me with his

indomitable acceptance as I walked through his door. “Well, how do you do!” was

the common refrain to welcome his grandchildren or other visitors. His rather large

stature was a reassuring presence. It was nothing for my Grandpap to eat a dozen

ears o f corn or a bushel of tomatoes, so I’ve been told. Breakfast with Grandpap was

a nourishing ritual that included more than the food offered: eggs over easy, plenty

of pepper, home fries cooked in bacon grease, a bottle of ketchup, a slice of ham,

Welch’s grape juice, and toast piled as high as I’d ever seen. At times I remember

him standing over a rather large stew pot making fresh vegetable soup, singing Old

Dan Tucker, Sally Dear, or The Preacher and the Bear. Over twenty-five years

later, I ’m still Big Jim’s grandson in my hometown. The unspoken words behind his

presence were, “Leave a mark, son. Whatever you do, give it your best.”

This is for you, Grandpap!

“Full of pep, full of steam, if she were a boy she’d make the team.” This catchy

prose lies beneath my mother’s high school graduation picture in her yearbook. That

spirit, my mom’s spirit, is very much alive within me. She was an extraordinary

woman.

 

 

I was nine years old when we moved back to the Pittsburgh area, and I have

many memories about my mother and the people in her life. One such memory is a

vivid recollection of an elderly black woman who lived nearby calling me to her

side. She said, “So you’s Ruthie’s boy. Let me get a look at you. You pretty good

looking for a white boy. Tell your mom, I sure do miss her, honey. Tell her to come

see me. I ’ll put a fresh pot of coffee on. Just like ol’ times.” My mother taught me

to sing, love the Lord, and believe the best in people. I can still see her dancing to

Aretha Franklin’s Respect.

My mom had all kinds of endearing expressions. If she wanted a kiss, she’d

point at her cheek and say, “Heh, come here. Give me a sidewinder!” If she wanted

to tell you how proud she was of you and wanted to make sure it didn’t lead to

conceit, she might say, “Just remember. I knew ya when you weren’t a scrap of

nothing!” Or if she thought one of her children was being mildly disrespectful, she’d

comment, “I can still get up on a chair and hit ya.” When great distances made

contact more difficult, she’d say over the phone, “I hug ya to my heart!”

September of 1985, I got a call to fly out to California. My mom was dying.

Only four or five months earlier my mother’s aunt died, and at the wake we all sang

hymns and Negro spirituals, lots of spirituals. My mother made an off-handed

comment, “When I go, I hope the Lord sends me out singing, just like that!” Each

time I went into my mom’s hospital room, I sang to her. She was in and out of

consciousness and couldn’t respond. But when she seemed conscious, she cried.

“Heh, Mom, I miss you. I hug you to my heart!”

viii

 

 

BIOGRAPHICAL CONSIDERATIONS

There are experiences in a person’s life that can be described as defining

moments; they help to formulate, refine or reformulate a person’s worldview. These

moments may be experiences of success or tragedy; they may be positive, negative

or something in between. But these experiences or moments “leave an impression,” as

many of the men interviewed reported. One such moment in my life contextualizes

part of my rationale for exploring working-class men’s masculinities.

When I was finishing my sophomore year in high school in 1969, a celebration

was planned to commemorate the 38 years of my grandfather’s employment as a

custodian at our local high school. Along with his responsibilities as custodian, he

was also the trainer for the football team. When I was a young boy, I spent a week

nearly every summer with my grandparents. It was a marvelous adventure to roam

the halls of Scott High School, helping scrape gum off every possible hiding place.

An even bigger adventure included accompanying him to the school at 2:00 a.m. to

turn on the football field’s sprinkler system.

My favorite place was the football locker room. As I reflect on it now, it was a

place for masculinity-making. My grandfather, various coaches, teenage players and

school personnel would hang out there and talk about all facets of life; this was a

rich, ongoing discourse. Just as the pulpit is considered a sacred place for imparting

religious ideology, the locker room in this instance imparts hegemonic working-class

masculine norms.

ix

 

 

The celebration ritual was a male-only retirement dinner with almost 500 guests

in attendance. It was an evening of folklore and storytelling—many o f the stories true,

but certainly embellished—about my grandfather, Big Jim. As I reflect on it now over

twenty-five years later, what impressed me most was the capacity of a working-class

man to leave a mark in his world. The public acknowledgment of my grandfather’s

life and contribution is truly the exception.

Most of these kinds of men live their lives in obscurity. Understanding their

struggle at the subsistence level of life offers rich insights to the dominant culture. I

would like to think that each of the thirty men included in my study left a mark. And

even if it was just for a moment, they were held in high esteem, prominent and

acknowledged.

My familial roots are white working-class, embedded in the former industrial city

of Pittsburgh. This biographical context at times created dilemmas in the proper

social distance necessary for sociological inquiry and analysis. My childhood and

adolescent working-class experiences were many times brutal, fraught with male

tirades and violence. The Amish men in the study were in stark contrast to my

biography; they seemed to possess so much male tenderness and warmth. As a

result, I found myself wanting to “go native.”

An anecdote provides some insight. In my effort to gain rapport with a particular

Amish community, I felt obliged to honor a request to bring my family for a visit.

Following the bucolic visit, my nine-year-old son made an enlightening comment that

x

 

 

summarized my temptation to “go native.” He stated, “Hey, Dad. When I grow up, I

want to be an Amish boy.”

Social distance was also complicated by the similarity between the Amish and

me. As a person of faith, my similar Christian belief system provided rapport with

the Amish. But accessing certain personal struggles or disclosures concerning social

problems such as domestic violence was particularly difficult. Because o f the

numerous declines by Amish men to participate in the interviews, I found out that

certain questions (i.e., first sexual experience) were too personal and could not be

asked.

To keep the appropriate distance between the Amish and me, I had to make a

conscious effort to limit my contact to the project at hand. Therefore, beyond the

interviews themselves I only made one family visit and attended one church service

with my participants.

I spent my childhood and adolescence in Pittsburgh, and knew the steeltown

communities in the area. This helped curb the social distance and enhance my

rapport with the black working-class men in the study. Having grown up in an

integrated neighborhood provided me with a familiarity in conversation, as I co

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