Consumerscapes As Enclaves of Masculinity

Starting with the ideas put forward by La Cecla, who argued for a Mediterranean approach to masculinity, we investigate the nature and the role of masculinity enclaves by following an interpretative approach and by observing male consumer behaviour in France and Italy. Nowadays, enclaves of masculinity seem to be predicated on ephemeral micro-aggregations that are often associated with particular consumption spaces and moments. We identify a few elements of masculine enclavisation: high level of concentration, contiguous emotion, limited reciprocal imitation, a loss of concentration due to the presence of women and a division of space along gender lines.



Citation:

ANTONELLA CARU BERNARD COVA ELISABETH TISSIER-DESBORDES* (2004) ,"Consumerscapes As Enclaves of Masculinity", in GCB - Gender and Consumer Behavior Volume 7, eds. Linda Scott and Craig Thompson, Madison, WI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: .

"Certain never to account for anything other than the projection of a reality, and in fact of my own reality, I am not afraid to say that my subjectivity could be used to inject a bit more objectivity into our world".

Pascal Dibie, 1998

INTRODUCTION

Whereas science viewed itself just a few decades ago as a unique and universal way of studying phenomena, today it is generally accepted that understanding is enhanced when a plurality of angles of attack is used. This trend towards a proliferation of singular attitudes towards a given phenomenon can be found in all human sciences (Dibie 1998), including management and marketing.

Indeed, a topic that motivates numerous researchers in marketing and consumer research today is how they can best account for the discipline’s fragmented and pluralistic nature (i.e., its sub-division into a multitude of different currents, schools of thought and even paradigms) whilst avoiding the pitfalls of absolute relativism. Marketing and consumption theories have everything to gain (Brown 1993 and 1995) from a widespread acknowledgement of the existence of a myriad of local sub-theories that are capable of offering a variety of insights into one and the same phenomenon. As is the case in the so-called ‘exact’ sciences, researchers in marketing and consumer research are increasingly willing to accept paradigmatic pluralism (Dholakia and Arndt 1986) in those theories and methods that they will be using to analyze a particular phenomenon (Hirschman and Holbrook 1992).

One of the dimensions of this pluralism is the geographic and/or territorial embeddedness characterizing any one of these sub-theories or schools of thought.

These are marketing and consumption orientations that have a touch of the Scandinavian, European or even the Japanese about them. Along similar lines, Stephen Brown recently coined the phrase "Celtic marketing" (www.sfxbrown.com): "for the past few years, I've been toying with the Celtic Marketing Concept. I won't explain what it is, except to say that it stands in marked contrast to the Anglo-Saxon model of Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control"... Another identifiable trend is a vaguely organized one that consists of affirming how relevant Mediterranean thinking is to marketing (Cova and Cova 2002).

The present text aims to apply a Mediterranean vision to the analysis and comprehension of a given consumption phenomenon, and more specifically to its masculine dimension. Yet even though it is widely acknowledged that culture constitutes a crucial factor in the construction of masculinity, few studies (Benslama and Tazi 1998, Welzer-Lang 2000, Duret, 1999) have incorporated cultural differences as one of their key elements. This is not so much a cross-cultural approach as an interpretative one in which the Mediterranean vision is summoned to try to offer an alternative view of the masculine consumption phenomenon as it is currently unfolding in Northern and Southern Europe and in the USA.

A MEDITERRANEAN VISION OF ‘GENDERED’  CONSUMPTION

There is a discourse developing in Southern Europe today that is driven by its resistance to feminist studies. The focus here is on how hard it is to be a man, i.e., on the difficulty of building one’s masculine identity in our postmodern societies! The task is a difficult one. Often neglected or rejected by human sciences, such a task would involve broaching this whole area of discussion from an angle that is not rooted in masculine domination alone. Around the Mediterranean basin, the Italian anthropologist Franco La Cecla (2002) is the leading figurehead for this discourse.

In La Cecla’s words, "a certain academic viewpoint today maintains that we can only talk about masculinity if we apologize for doing so" (La Cecla 2002, p. 27), as a result of the historical weight of male domination. "It is clear that our era is not overly interested in discussing analyses of the nature of masculinity, nor in the nature of masculinity itself. Society is too overwrought with the anxiety and anger that masculinity has caused. "Masculinity has become an enemy to be conquered" (La Cecla 2002, p. 35). It is the enemy to be slain because of the macho’s image and because of machismo, to wit, because of the excessive masculinity being conveyed by models that in turn comprise an entire collection of "brutal manners" (La Cecla 2002, p. 44), thereby helping to reinforce the negative image of masculinity. As a result, we know almost nothing about masculinity today, with women’s studies and other queer studies occupying, in La Cecla’s opinion, the entire space of what is called gender studies.

"Today we talk about that which is ‘masculine’ by minimizing it, by turning our backs on it in a vengeful, angry or even ironic manner (‘excuse me’; ‘I’m not sure that we should be talking about this’). This is clearly a misunderstanding, in other words, the ‘masculine constuct’ finds itself in a permanent space of misunderstanding … Faced with women’s self-studies, men seem like weaker younger brothers, lagging far behind in terms of their awareness" (La Cecla 2002, p. 36). So what does masculinity really mean? Accepting that there is nothing innate about this state, we can ask what type of situation constitutes, by definition, that of being a man? This is the problem that La Cecla raises. Masculinity, like femininity, is a quality that one can assume with varying degrees of intensity. In practice, it is never complete or total. La Cecla then goes on to define masculinity as a range of techniques applied to oneself, and more specifically body techniques, using Mauss’s 1936 concept of a broad range of body competencies (attitudes, gestures, exclamations, mimesis, etc.). Here "masculinity, construed in its full intensity, means doing something, participating in a field of action where identity does not mean ‘I am’ but ‘I want, I act, I do’ " (La Cecla 2002 p. 39). In this vision, masculinity is constructed both through and around people’s experiences.

"Experiencing one’s own masculinity or femininity is like feeling pain. It’s a way to feel one’s body, with all of its fearsome innate biological, physiological and anatomical characteristics, as the same time as one feels the vast symbolic ‘work’ that every society constructs around this body" (La Cecla 2002 p. 34). In other words, the masculinity experience is found in a place located beyond what we are conscious of or what we can voice. But how to devise an anthropology of masculinity in this case? This might involve observing those places and social instants where masculinity is being affirmed – the most straightforward example of which is a group of men in conversation. "In its anthropological dimension, being a man is a game that is won in the trenches. It is played in the spatial dimension of a genuinely masculine presence, and it carries on endlessly.… You become ‘a real man’ when you are surrounded by other men and find yourself in special places that are expressly dedicated to the rituals of masculinity". (La Cecla 2002, p. 188). You become a man only by spending time in a place that ‘turns’ you into a man, i.e., a space that excludes other identities, especially feminine ones. These are enclaves (Firat & Dholakia 1998) where masculinity is enacted, places that can foster the sorts of reciprocal and circular imitation mechanisms that make it easier to learn male body techniques. Here La Cecla is highlighting the need for separation and therefore the existence of spatio-temporal enclaves where men can live and relive their experience of masculinity. Although the author believes that men have to interact with women sometimes if they are to construct themselves, occasionally they must also enter exclusively male company and enclaves of masculinity. This is how he analyzes Southern Italian marketplaces, where men meet up, talk things over, contact one another and sometimes even embrace, thus collectively developing the construct of what a man should be by offering models and points of reference. Note that young men adopt the same gestures and postures as their forefathers.

Last century may have been marked by the plethora of spaces characterized by gender segregation (i.e., certain British golf courses or men’s clubs that bar women; sporting or social activities like hunting, French bowls and football, all of which are largely dominated by the male sex), but most spaces have since been desenclavised. The advent of a consumer society (marked by a lack of discrimination at the point-of-sale) and female working patterns have undermined these masculine spaces. Women now operate in the business world and in academia, even if a glass ceiling still exists to a large extent. They also account for a not insignificant proportion of spectators at football matches, they go to bars, golf clubhouses, etc. Few places have remained "purely" masculine.

Do any such places exist at all now, i.e., enclaves where a predominantly male construction of identity can take place? Does modern man look for such places, to construct his masculinity there via a circular imitation of gestures and postures? What role does consumption play in these enclaved spaces? Are there any commercial zones functioning in the same way as enclaves of masculinity do? The following study will try to answer these questions.

USING DISCOURSE ANALYSIS TO UNCOVER PLACES OF MASCULINITY

A first phase based on semi-directive exploratory interviews of eight men and enacting La Cecla’s hypotheses helped to develop an initial representation of how enclaves of masculinity (and modern men’s quests for such enclaves) have changed. The sample did not purport to be representative of any particular cross-section of Latin Europe’s male population. It only aimed to be significant, i.e., to centre on males who were still in the process of constructing their masculinity, thus who were between the ages of 18 and 35 or else who found themselves in a phase of de/re-construction (i.e., after a divorce). We also tried to achieve modicum of geographic diversity in the Mediterranean world (Paris, Milan, and Marseilles) and in terms of social status (students, employees, professors). Interviews were conducted by the three authors, an approach that injected gender and nationality variations into the equation. Note that the authors include a French woman, an Italian woman and a French man of Italian background.

(INSERT TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE)

 

 

Denial of the existence of enclaves of masculinity and of a search for enclaves.

Places were not seen as being gendered, although some are frequented more by men than women.

+ "There’s nowhere I’d go without Sandrine ([his] girlfriend); not to concerts, they’re for girls and boys alike…I mean, at the beginning of an outing I might be with the girls but we don’t do everything together, like shopping….".(Sylvain)

+ "Enclaves like that don’t exist anymore, now all you have are brief, temporary, partial instants, since women are always around, even during male moments.." (Florian)

With places that are deemed to be more masculine in nature, a female presence becomes desirable:

+ "Since I am in Engineering School I don’t at all miss places where there aren’t any girls, in fact I’d prefer having more around". (Antoine)

+ "I’ m not looking for groups of men, I get along better with women". (Eric).

 

Only a few enclaves seem to have survived

Places where a team sport like rugby or "playground soccer" is being played, or else compulsory education sites (sports halls, changing rooms, army barracks [although these have started to disappear], etc.), constitute the final male bastions.

+ "I did a college sports course for five years. All day long I used to hang out with the football crowd, in groups of 20 to 30. I was an attacking midfielder, then a central defender…But it was a mixed sex college. We used to talk about women/girls in a really macho way, but I didn’t feel like I was being myself at those times, in fact found it quite embarrassing…The college was out in the country and people doing sports were the ‘stars’ that girls used to admire, meaning that the girls were adhering to a macho world…People were conscious how manly footballers were when they were playing. This had nothing to do with courage however, since there is nothing scary about football, unlike rugby". (Eric).

+ "That reminds me of changing rooms in a sports hall or fencing classes when I used to do that as a sport. Maybe a few women would be hanging about but the men got along much better with each other". (Andrea)

Places are not defined by gender but gender involves spatial and temporal distribution

Even where the sexes mix, certain gender-based divisions subsist. People do not necessarily occupy the same space, i.e., gender groups are created.

+ "At a party, just as it’s starting, guys will hang out together and the girls will stay with each other. Afterwards we mix it up. Why? Probably because of what we’re interested in. First off it’s ‘hey, how you doing?’... Guys talk about cars but that bores me totally! Girls talk about clothes, but I don’t know anything about that either! So I jump back and forth between the groups". (Sylvain)

+ "In bars, guys will be chatting at the counter and the girls will be at a table, sitting down and trying to make themselves comfortable. People communicate more at the counter, everyone talks with everyone. At a table you only talk with the people sitting next to you" (Sylvain)

Girls and women can be physically present or not very far away, but either they don’t contribute "to the experience’, they constrain the expression of masculinity, they reinforce it by acting as a willing audience or they act like men themselves.

+ "Bars, pubs, beer halls, these are the places where you see your friends. It’s a time to be with your male friends but that doesn’t mean women are excluded. Their role is simply to be there, we appreciate them but they’re not what makes things tick (for example, at a football match). They don’t really contribute to the evening". (Stefano)

A female presence can be necessary, however, since men require a willing audience.

+ "It’s a negative if there are no girls with us. We always consider their presence as a positive factor. We generally don’t look for time alone with other men – although it can happen that at a friend’s house there will only be men around" (Filippo).

As such, masculinity is also constructed by the way that women look at men.

Justifications for an enclave: passion or the need to act like an animal

First modality: sharing a passion or a group activity (like hard rock) is something serious that precludes a woman’s presence de facto.

+ "More than women, men need to be alone with other men to share their deeper interests and activities: the friendship connection is a bigger thing for men than for women. You can see this when a mixed group of friends meet up, it’s the women who will move towards the men standing in the centre. In Marseilles there’s no getting around football or the sacrosanct pre-dinner anis, but women don’t like it so the men are the only ones to doing it. We’ll be there drinking our Pernod, although at friends’ houses you sometimes get people offering whisky and pizza snacks". (Jer(me)

+ "There is one environment where we are alone with other men, it’s our rock group. The band is a passion for us and women really aren’t invited. When we want to do something right, it’s better if no women are around. Nobody can come when we practice." (Filippo)

+ "I couldn’t really say if men and women act the same way in a bar. That depends…for example, is there a foosball table? If so all the guys have a go and the girls complain… I know very few girls who play football or who are any good at it!" (Sylvain).

Second modality: the need to ‘mess about’, ‘to chill’ and ‘to let yourself go’, unleashing one’s own masculinity to the point of ‘turning into an animal’, becoming ‘inhuman’, almost ‘macho’. This can involve taking long train journeys without washing oneself, watching football on TV in a pub, playing table foosball … all of which are activities that are proximate to masculinity’s cathartic dimension. This second modality corresponds to a twofold need for a male ‘release valve’ in a life where there is too much mixing with the opposite sex. It also reflects the occasional need to confront masculinity, i.e., other males.

+ "I watch footy on TV at home with my girlfriend because she likes it but when I go down the pub to see a match she won’t come because we don’t act like humans… We change our personality depending on the circumstances and the persons we are with …But these are different sides of the same person… It’s a bit like when I was doing my military service – in the army you’re a different man". (JTr(me)

+ "But that (football) is where you see the "greatness of the male soul" (laughs): People yelling and shouting. To be frank, my reaction isn’t only positive. It’s the animal in us that comes out. Blokes together, it’s a bit animal-like. With girls, they’re always chatting or being nasty to each other. Rugby is the same thing as football, even though people say it’s more civilized. They’re just as dumb as footballers, they’ll beat you up for no good reason, nah, they’re no smarter than anyone else…".  (Sylvain)

+ "Yeah, affirming your masculine side it’s the animal coming out, the instinctive side, when you’re amongst men. Not especially to talk about sex, girls also talk about sex in fact, but they do it differently".(Sylvain)

Where enclaves were mentioned, they were seen as something archaic but necessary: "The enclave is an anachronism that we run up against every now and again." (Eric).

Women represent civilization to a certain extent. When they are present there is a need to control one’s impulses. Men start to behave ambivalently: the presence of women is something desirable since it allows men to show themselves in their best light, or at least in what society deems to be their best light - but men seem to require some time to decompress afterwards.

Behavioural imitation and identified referents

Few explicitly referred to (and identified with) celebrities and the media (except where there was a metallaro, e.g. heavy metal type of tribal belonging). Relatives and friends were mentioned more often.

+ "My impression is that the only man I’ve ever imitated was my Dad". (Florian)

+ "Boy scouts and school friends played a major role for me in learning about masculinity but so did my family and my father. At my age, friends are very important. You choose your friends, not your family. These are mostly school friends (from year 9) = ‘my band of pals’ plus the people I meet down the newsagent’s". (Jerome)

+ "Watching my older brother and asking him questions! Like should you wash before or after shaving? What’s better for the skin? He’d grunt ’Before! If not you’re shaving just like me!’. I don’t cut myself anymore, so it’s OK now".(Sylvain)

A few interviewees mentioned celebrities or tribes of heavy metal fans:

+ "I really like Ricard anis a lot more than Pernod as I’m a big fan of Paul Ricard, because of the way he treats his workers. Paul Ricard was a great boss, I would love to be like him". (JTr(me)

+ "I choose clothes for myself but also to imitate heavy metal singers" (Andrea).

The influence of women

Interviewees often acknowledged women’s influence on the construction of masculinity:

+ "In certain cases, my choices were influenced by my girlfriend more than by my male friends. I admit that her way of thinking is more interesting and original". (Andrea)

Women were deemed capable of learning to act in a certain way:

+ "I don’t know how I learned to do a tie knot! No one ever taught me! I just tried. Well, my mother tried to teach me". (Sylvain)

They help with clothes shopping:

+ "I don’t usually waste time clothes shopping. But if I window shop it’s with women because my male friends aren’t at all interested in talking about shopping". (Filippo)

Consumption’s role in the construction of masculinity

Masculinity is actually learnt through a wide range of diverse stimuli, pertaining to objects of consumption, the media, advertising, etc.

+ "I can read Men’s Health to find out what it means to be male in our society, not in terms of sexual identification but as a way of identifying things like style (activities, clothes, what to read, intellectual stuff)…". (Stefano)

+ "Nowadays you learn this less in groups and more by seeing what’s going on around you, especially on TV…I’ve always thought that the rugby friendships you see on TV are very impressive". (Jer(me)

+ "Clothes can also be a symbol of masculinity. Our outfits are heavy metal (this is how Andrea defines himself) and related to the way warriors used to dress. They’re clearly symbols of masculinity. It’s true that this style was born to be a symbol of masculinity; men were the ones to create it. But nowadays women also dress this way, there are even a few women singers who have proven that they can play music at the same level as the heavy metal guys and they have been accepted".. (Andrea)

FROM ENCLAVE TO ENCLAVISATION

In general, what we seem to find nowadays is that enclaves of masculinity are predicated more on ephemeral and highly localized micro-aggregations than on enclaves (construed in the traditional sense of the term). This means that the construction of masculinity in our European societies could be analyzed in the light of the neo-tribal trend that has been detected both in sociological studies (Maffesoli 1988) and also in consumer behaviour research (Cova 1997) over the past 15 years. Maffesoli links post-modern tribalism to the rise of the imaginary of re-rooting, as much for the return of supposedly archaic values as for a renewed sense of community. The crux here is not any one individual, but instead a person’s participation in a collective movement. "There has been a shift from individuals with stable identities, exercizing a function in contractual groups, to persons who are playing a variety of roles in affectional tribes" (Maffesoli 2000, p. XVII). The post-modern society is depicted here as a network of societal micro-groups within which individuals go through strong emotional bonds, experiences and common passions. In post-modernity, what is crucial is not the story we develop through our contractual bonding with one another, but the ephemeral fate we experience jointly. All of this gives meaning to the collective dimension (and to the untamed aspects) of our existence, causing individuals to lose themselves in a multitude of social entities. Sporting, musical and religious gatherings can drive this merging, as can social confusion. As such, all post-modern individuals belong to a whole host of micro-groups, where they might fulfil very different roles and wear a variety of masks. Acting as "the male" can be one of the roles that the post-modern individual tries to play from time to time within his neo-tribe of machos. The animal/macho nature of this role is especially pronounced (and all the easier to affirm) since it constitutes a transitory state for this individual. Here we find ourselves in the area of gaming and poker-playing – but also catharsis and ritual. Furthermore, this macho game can also serve as a counterpoint to passions that are mainly shared by men, essentially relating to pursuits like football (Derbaix, Decroop, Cabossart 2002), bowling, rugby and hard rock…whether they are involved as spectators or as actors. Here passion is the primary glue holding the group together, with its animal/macho nature merely being juxtaposed upon the passion to heighten the moment’s anachronistic and tribal dimension. Lastly, in a transitory but less tribal manner, men like to be alone to talk things over (for example, when they get the opportunity during an otherwise mixed-sex party). These three post-modern types of masculine enclavisation are not mutually exclusive – quite the contrary, they can be interrelated within one and the same situation.

(INSERT FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE)

Figure 1 adapts La Cecla’s hypothesis to the post-modern condition. Note that none of the interviewees mentioned any reconstruction of the traditional enclaves (a la Promise Keepers in the United States). Furthermore, these micro-instants of masculine enclavisation are often associated with a particular zone of consumption, whether a bar, pub, bowling alley or a sporting or musical activity/event. To account for this, we will fine-tune our anthropology of masculinity by focusing on those zones of consumption that underpin the transitory enclavisations which generally accompany sporting or musical activities or events - thereby helping to catalyze masculine aggregation.

 

AN ETHNOGRAPHIC APPROACH TO THE ENCLAVISATION OF MASCULINITY

The present report’s first section necessarily involved listening to men talk about the conceptions they have of places of masculinity and about how they analyze their relationships with other men and with women in such places. With a topic of this nature, however, interview techniques soon encounter their limits. There are two main reasons for this: it is very difficult to speak with a third party about this kind of subject, since it relates to interviewees’ deepest identity; plus much of the learning we do is carried out at a subconscious level, specifically when imitation or vicarious learning mechanisms are at stake. Rarely are interviewees aware that a circular imitation has taken place, i.e., that they have been adopting new gestures or postures.

+ "With my friends from the mountains it is hard to really say how we influence each other. We’ve known each other since we were all very young. Maybe at a subconscious level there have been a few reciprocal influences but I find it hard to discuss them explicitly or to assess them objectively" (Andrea).

Moreover, this is a topic where interviewees find it difficult to transcend the dominant discourse. Men in France systematically stress the importance of equality between men and women, plus the need for the two sexes to mix (Kaufmann 1992; Kimmel and Tissier-Desbordes 2000). Furthermore, women were the ones conducting some of these interviews, and this accentuated the phenomenon of social desirability. A few men were reluctant to talk about masculinity because they were afraid of any assimilation of maleness with machismo.

+ "We want to be a man and at the same time not be macho" (Eric).

+ "Masculine gestures? You mean macho ones (laughs)!" (Antoine).

For this reason, it was also essential that we use an observation method to transcend a mere discourse level of analysis and focus on actual facts. In line with Pe±aloza’s thinking in this regard (1999), we considered visual ethnography to be well adapted to in situ behavioural studies and to analyses of physical characteristics, spaces and spatial proximities.

Our observation phase involved notes as well as visual and aural observations. This allowed us to go "beyond the ocular- based system of knowing, emphasizing the other senses, especially hearing (the acoustical eye)" (Denzin 1997)

The visual observation materialized in photographs taken during participant observation situations. Inasmuch as photographic analysis is strongly grounded in the culture in which it is being carried out (Denzin, 1997), certain consumption spaces were chosen due to the fact that they were perceived as environments conducive to masculine enclavisation in the Mediterranean cultural context under consideration here.

By pursuing an exploratory approach to the hypothesis of enclavisation in masculine consumption, we have tried to increase the number of situations in which it becomes possible to apprehend this phenomenon. This is not the same thing as applying a sampling strategy to these situations or to the individuals living through them, in an attempt to achieve some kind of average result (frequencies). Instead it is a strategy geared towards a proliferation of situations (occurrences), being seen here as the best way to develop more detailed questions for future research work.

For reasons of feasibility, we deliberately avoided neo-tribal macho enclavisations, concentrating instead on observing any enclavisations found:

- in consumption spaces during a sporting event (a pub in Paris during a football match between Marseilles and Real Madrid, a pub in Paris during a football match between Marseilles and Paris and a pub in Paris during an Australia-England rugby match);

- in consumption spaces where a sporting activity is on offer (a bowling alley in Paris);

- in consumption spaces where no event is taking place (an Irish pub in Paris).

The purpose of this non-participant observation was to hone in on the phenomenon of enclavisation in its neo-tribal form of passionate and/or ephemeral and parcellized involvement. During these observations, specific consideration was given to the interaction between men in such places, to men’s reciprocal imitations, to the similarities in their poses, to their interactions with any women present in these locations and to women’s roles there. The main characteristics shared by the enclavisations we observed were as follows: unsurprisingly, a very strong predominance of men; the formation of small groups of men (from 2 to a maximum of 6) with just a few individuals standing by themselves; the fact that women were constantly positioned at the periphery of the commercial space; the infrequent presence of man/woman couples; a spatial organization geared towards the event itself in the case of pubs with a giant screen showing of the match; an internally organized security service ensuring that no one individual disturbed anyone else’s ability to watch the event on TV (by standing up, changing places or positioning themselves differently); and actual consumption, of the event itself (requirement that a ticket be purchased to enter the pub for certain matches), of an activity (bowling) or of drinks and meals (largely dominated by beer).

The sum of this ethnographic work allowed us to highlight six key elements for masculine enclavisation in consumption spaces:

+ Situations characterized by high levels of concentration. Whereas the interviews gave the impression that men’s shared passions naturally translate into a no holds barred attitude and even into an animal-like behaviour, the observation method revealed postures of concentration more than it did animal attitudes. Men possibly feel less of a need to express their supposedly animalistic side and more of a need to feel free to give themselves up to their passion when no women are present (seeing as in most cases women are foreign to this passion). At all times men concentrated better when they found themselves in men only groups as opposed to mixed groups. Does this mean that men perceive themselves as being more animalistic/macho than they really are? The fear of appearing "macho" may explain this gap between discourse and practice. It is also possible that a zone of consumption forces a number of social conventions on people, preventing them from partaking in certain otherwise outlet practices. For example, there is a great difference between the way people (with the notable exception of extreme club supporters) watch a match on TV in a pub and how they behave in a stadium, where they adopt more of a warrior/animal-like expression, featuring ritual clothes, chants, etc.

(INSERT PHOTO 1 ABOUT HERE)

+ Contiguous emotion... Within one and the same group, the types of concentration we observed translated more into a contiguous type of emotion than into a shared variant thereof, as per Maffesoli’s meaning of the term (1997). This involved the exchange of a few sentences, shouts, complaints, hand-clapping but above all the fact that everyone was looking in the same direction... Some men had even come alone and interacted minimally yet joined in with the rest of the group when things got exciting. There was little communication between the various groups, except for everyone shouting together at crucial times in the match. This was true throughout the event, although at halftime and during injury timeouts the level of concentration fell to leave some room for a few small conversations. Everything seemed to indicate that television plays a social mediator’s role, serving as the fulcrum of a triangular man-TV-man relationship.

(INSERT PHOTO 2 ABOUT HERE)

+ Limited reciprocal imitation. As regards reciprocal imitation, similarities could be observed in people’s postures of concentration and during times of rejoicing. At a more detailed level, a few micro-gestures of imitation could be identified, concerning for example the way individuals would make themselves feel at ease in a group (in the same pub three friends would all be in shirt sleeves whereas at the neighbouring table all three men would still have their coats and ties on and at the counter two men would be talking with their overcoats still on even though they had arrived more than an hour previous) or ways of greeting one another (a simple shaking of the hands or an embrace between man). Imitation was much less obvious in terms of product consumption: most people drank beer but there were no groups in which everyone consumed the same type or brand. Similarly, cigarette consumption allowed for distinctions to be made between groups of smokers and non-smokers without any specific brand characterizing any one group.

+ Objects that bring men together. Asides from the sporting event that was the key element in the evening’s proceedings, micro-events were created within each small group of men. These events would revolve around highly technological objects, like a 3G phone or a palm pilot. This was especially true for groups with the youngest men, who seemed to be using these objects as prostheses for their identity, i.e., as extensions of their ids, even when women were present.

+ Situations characterized by a loss of concentration due to the presence of women. The intrusion of women would cause a shift from inter-male concentration to a lack of focus because of the mixed nature of a group. In general, the presence of a woman would modify the level of concentration of a group of men. For example, in one pub showing a match, the only mixed sexed group (comprised of two men and two women) sat at a table positioned so that the men could watch the TV, with the women turning their back to it. One woman chattered throughout the match, completely disregarding the evening’s sporting theme and always trying to gain the attention of the two men sitting across from her. The men tried on many occasions to focus on what was happening on TV but she constantly got in the way. By so doing, she was making a negative contribution to the evening for these two men. In other instances, however, women became an object of male seduction. Here we would witness more of an exhibition of men’s macho/animal side, with men adopting unnatural and forced postures different from the ones they adopted when only men were around. In short, the atmosphere appeared more relaxed and the concentration less intense when there were one or two women in a group.

+ Division of space along gender lines... A commercial space is a place for practicing segregation between the sexes. In a pub, the men would occupy the counter and the tables in the middle of the room with a TV view of the proceedings. The women never sat at the counter and would occupy tables located towards the back of the room or in a way that made it difficult for them to watch the event (i.e., tables situated below the TV screen). By so doing, they were positioned in certain cases so that they could not see the event but could be seen by those (men) who were watching it.

(INSERT PHOTO 3 ABOUT HERE)

Masculine enclavisation, as defined in the interviews and observed in this non-participant manner, comprises a specific instance of the consumption experience. Remember that the consumption experience can be defined (Firat and Dholakia 1998) as an immersion in a theme-oriented, enclavised and secure environment. Men find themselves in enclaves of masculinity comprised of zones/moments of consumption - environments tinged by themes that are in fact passions for these men (i.e., a football match in a pub) and which feel safe since men feel secure with only having other men around (they can watch and listen without any risk of being disturbed). The presence of women actually undermines this perceived safety of being amongst men only, unless the women take a back seat (sometimes literally, in a pub), thereby preserving the integrity of the masculine enclave. This is because immersion can be achieved more successfully with an absence of foreign bodies (Firat and Dholakia 1998). Certain moments/zones of consumption encourage this masculine immersion. These instances are organized around men’s passions/activities and not around the consumption of so-called masculine products. Such passions/activities are experienced intensely and usually without any animal behaviour occurring. They can appear as the expression of a communitarian ideal of post-modern man seeking to free himself from the isolation he knew in the past: "he’s not isolated because he participates, be it in reality, in his imagination or at a virtual level, in a vast and informal community" (Maffesoli 1997, p. 66). However, we also note the existence of a sort of paradoxical behaviour during the event, one that causes men to seek the company of other men, but not necessarily to seek any interaction with them. They are prepared to show their emotions whilst standing alongside other men, and even together with them, but this is done without any obligation of a social contract and therefore comprises a sort of soft tribalism. Here we should question whether a sharing concept is an appropriate way of describing the emotion that one feels when standing in proximity to other persons, in the same pub or stadium watching the same event - even though in most cases no verbal communication takes place, or at best a few non-verbal expressions (smiles) or very limited verbal ones (pithy statements, strong affirmations without any expectation of a response). Here we would like to offer up the concept of contiguous emotion as a way of defining this attitude that is a so ubiquitous in masculine enclaves and which can be contrasted with the shared emotion one finds in a so-called tribal sociability activity. Through observation we detect the figure of men seeking contiguous emotion in an atmosphere that makes them feel secure because it is almost exclusively male.

The present study partially substantiates La Cecla’s 2002 hypothesis that there have always been male consumption enclaves where reciprocal imitation is practiced amongst men. However, such enclaves have changed from the forms that La Cecla once discussed. They are limited in time and space and usually motivated by a shared passion like a sporting activity or event. In these enclaves (or "enclavisations", since they usually involve processes rather than static states), men experience a contiguous emotion requiring a certain degree of concentration. Women are not absent but they are relatively marginalized. Men are not as animal-like as they believe themselves to be.

LIMITS AND FUTURE RESEARCH

The Mediterranean view that we have adopted in the wake of La Cecla’s writings (2002) to account for masculine consumption phenomena has led us to look for masculine consumption enclaves... A dual-level exploratory study (semi-directive interviews followed by photographic ethnography) allowed us to devise a repertory of more elaborate questions relating to the masculine enclavisation of consumption and its role in the construction of postmodern masculinity:

- Due to the lesser role played by the traditional enclaves that typify Mediterranean culture (and the scant attention paid to the search for other enclaves), the existence of new ephemeral and partial enclaves has started to become apparent. This raises questions as to the existence of types or typologies of enclaves other than the ones we have highlighted here.

- Do passionate enclavisation and the fragmented/ephemeral enclavisation of masculine consumption represent two distinct types of enclavisation ?

- If the customer goes into a marketplace to affirm his own identity, does this also involve a construction of his masculinity? Does the market provide support for such enclavisations (i.e., the bar during a football match) or is it their main object?

- Are places of consumption replacing the traditional enclaves? Are such places necessarily related to a leisure activity?

- In these places, what kinds of experiences are particularly being sought out for the construction of masculinity?

- Which products play a specific role in the construction of masculinity, thus becoming objects of connection and imitation?

- Is the enclavisation of masculine consumption comprised of shared or contiguous emotions?

- Has imitation maintained a specific role in the construction of masculinity or has it blended into reciprocal imitation phenomena pertaining to other aspects that may be more generation, passionate, etc. in nature?

Care should be taken when considering the generality of our findings in light of the limited nature of our respondent samples. Given that our samples were limited to French and Italian males, it is unclear whether similar results would be obtained from other Mediterrean participants. Also, longer interviews might have revealed additional insight into the personal and private lives of our respondents.

 

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TABLE 1

INTERVIEWEES PROFILE

First name

Age

Profession

City

Antoine

18

Student in engineering

Paris

Florian

19

Student in humanities

Paris

Sylvain

35

Office employee

Paris

Stefano

30

Associate professor

Milan

Eric

34

Lecturer

Paris

Jer(me

31

News agent

Marseilles

Andrea

21

Student in engineering

Milan

Filippo

23

Student in engineering

Milan

 

FIGURE 1

CHANGING ENCLAVES OF MASCULINITY

 

PHOTO 1

HIGH LEVELS OF CONCENTRATION

 

PHOTO 2

CONTIGUOUS EMOTION

 

 

 

PHOTO 3

DIVISION OF SPACE ALONG GENDER LINES

 

DSC00574.JPG

Authors

ANTONELLA CARU BERNARD COVA ELISABETH TISSIER-DESBORDES*



Volume

GCB - Gender and Consumer Behavior Volume 7 | 2004



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