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The Regulation of Normative Masculinity, Article Critique Example

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Article Critique

Introduction

This paper provides a critique of the article entitled ‘Body Parts and the regulation of normative masculinity’, by R. Gill, K. Henwood and C. McClean.  The article is based upon empirical research conducted with 140 young British males where they discuss bodily practices i.e. taking exercise, going to the gym body piercing and cosmetic surgery etc.  The analysis looks at both psychological and sociological perspectives. The research indicated that the body has achieved a new sense of identity in the postmodern age and young people are severely challenged in the achievement of development of self-identity.  (R.Gill).

The article has been divided into four sections as follows: (1) Examination of recent masculinity work from a theoretical perspective (2) A detailed study and methodological approach (3) Analysis of the five discourses where men converse on bodily appearances and (4) A short discussion and conclusion on the subject matter.

Problem Statement

The paper contends that young men engaged in varying types of body modification practices have broader sets of issues other than that of establishing self-identity. This is examined from a social psychological perspective. The objective to make relationships between individual feelings and cultural trends in social relationships.  The aim arguing that young people in a postmodern age are extremely stressed in the need for conformity as opposed to the self-esteem of individual appearance. The problem is addressed by empirical research in terms of observation and interviews over a random population size of 140 Males in Great Britain.  The problem tends to be loosely defined in terms of scientific analysis and evaluation and the development of a hypothesis is not clearly presented.

Critique of the Paper

The title of the article is appropriate but might be more expressive in terms of linkage to the problem statement. The article does not contain a clearly identified abstract but does contain an appropriate level of Introduction. In this sense the direction of the research and purpose is made clear in the introduction but there is not a well thought out and clearly defined hypothesis for the research. In this sense whether the research is inductive or deductive.  It is assumed that this is inductive research.

The illustration to the right (Fig 1) demonstrates the reasoning behind Inductive research i.e. It is a bottom up approach that deals with observation and interview that in turn establishes a pattern for the development of a hypothesis and determines a premise or conclusion that often leaves a degree of uncertainty or inconclusive.

The article is extremely well referenced using a large number of academic references; regrettably not all of them appear in the Bibliography on Page 60 (Example see Wetherall and Potter citation 1992, as indicated on Page 38 paragraph 1 ).  The article is generally well constructed in terms of retaining relevancy and staying on track including the conclusions made at the end of the article. There does appear to be a very wide and diverse literature base referred to throughout the article; this does question a degree of focus and whether all of the quoted references are truly appropriate to the research being carried out.  To some degree this tends to dilute the academic value of the research. The author may consider going through the list of inconsequential references and removing them.

The article is generally well constructed by use of meaningful headings and sub headings throughout and this aid in the navigation of the research being carried out.  There does not appear any skew towards emphasis or over emphasis and the arguments are clearly presented and well balanced throughout.  The authors have maintained an engaging style of writing and the article is very compelling and enjoyable to read. There is some argument to say that 24 pages for this type of research article is too long and that the body of the article may be collapsed to that of between 12-15 pages of tightly written English. An example of this being in the Conclusions where the authors have taken 4 pages in order to make their point. This could have been accomplished in just 1 page by being brief, concise and to the point.  There are other areas that would benefit from précis and more tightly composed use of English.

The author makes the underlying assumptions that the interviewees bore witness to the testaments made by the authors e.g. being made fun of by friends about their appearance, lack of interest in conformist lifestyles etc.  The authors stated very little about the sample group of 140 men i.e. did they come from different geographical areas, different cultural backgrounds, varying age groups etc. We are led to believe that this was a random sample but there is no way to determine if the group was skewed in a specific direction. In this sense the analysis and results may be flawed as not being truly reflective of the general populace sample. Some of these assertions are explored in greater depth here.

Examination of recent masculinity work from a theoretical perspective

It is interesting to note that the author actively pursues the study based on assertions that have not been empirically noted. For example, they claim that adverts depicting men have increased in the decade to the publication of the article but give no empirical evidence to support the claim. Nevertheless, they go on to follow the logic that this phenomenon is somehow a causal factor in many psychosocial differences which are examined. Nevertheless, it was noteworthy on part of the ideology that perceptions of male beauty could be seen as a resurgence of 19th century idealism at least to some extent. It was disappointing that the author had not taken the thinking a step further to include the Classical and Neoclassical standards and practices with respect to the male body.

A detailed study and methodological approach

Although the quality of the empiricism is never really questioned by the author. It should be clear to most behavioural scientists that this research would constitute a sort of preliminary study. Further studies would include more rigorous methods. For example, although there was some value in the observations collected from the focus groups, a strict behavioural scientist would nearly automatically see that unless it was the interpersonal behaviour that was the focus of study, a group discussion tends to confound perceptions of not only participant but also the researcher. Nevertheless, the author was able to glean certain constructs from the method based on these observations. It was noteworthy that many of these behaviours indicate an increase in rudimentary human emotional states. In other words, perhaps, the study of the superficiality in itself was not necessarily the best question pursue alone. In context, it goes to say how Western men (the presumed subjects here) are becoming obviously less traditionally masculine from the inside out.

Analysis of the five discourses where men converse on bodily appearances

These sentiments are perhaps not echoed quite clearly enough in the sample. Although it is the responsibility of the objective observer to be, well, objective, on may find it difficult to accept the underlying trend that these discussions imply. When people think of the gritty toughness that was embodied in their fathers’ and fathers’ fathers’ day, these subconscious methods of subjectively improving oneself with externalities seems to be much closer to traditional feminism. Although the author is keen to mention the impact of mind-body duality that was inherit in previous studies, it goes unnoticed that a gender-based dichotomy is ignored. It is all sort of akin to the underlying messages in the movie Fight Club (2000). As men continually attempt to reinvent and identify themselves, perhaps, the most salient method of doing so is to simply be a traditional male unapologetically.

A short discussion and conclusion on the subject matte

At least some of these insights went undisbursed on the conclusions. The impression was that the author was so focused on the biases created by the methodology and the assumptions of the study that other important interrelated factors were missed. As such, the heuristic value of the conclusion and discussion were limited. To adopt an attitude that does attempts to make no value judgements in the interest of objectivity, more insidious presuppositions subtly influence the outcome of the entire study.

Conclusion

In general terms the authors were objective in the way they conducted and carried out the empirical research. (Burney).  The interviews conducted were described in a textual narrative form and compelling way; perhaps lacking in scientific assessment and analysis that might have more adequately been demonstrated by the use of tables and statistics.   The conclusion seemed to be a bit of overkill and could have been made in a briefer, concise and more objective manner.  There is some degree of repetition in the article; however it might be argued that this is done for the point of emphasis.  The article comes under the auspices of a reputable publisher (Sage Publications).

References

Burney, S. M. Aqil. INDUCTIVE & DEDUCTIVE RESEARCH APPROACH. 2011. 27 9 2011 <http://www.drburney.net/INDUCTIVE%20&%20DEDUCTIVE%20RESEARCH%20APPROACH%2006032008.pdf>.

R.Gill, K. Hernwood and C.Mclean. “Body Projects and the Regulation of Normative Masculinity.” Body and Society (2005): 37-62.

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