In 2010, Don Waters set out to write a magazine story about a surfing icon who had known his absentee father. It was an attempt to find a way of connecting to a man he never knew. He didn’t imagine that the story would become a years-long quest to understand a man who left behind almost nothing except for a self-absorbed autobiography for his abandoned son.
These Boys and Their Fathers touches on Waters’s early life with his single mother—and her string of dysfunctional men—and his later search for and encounters with his father, but it quickly expands into a gripping account of the life of a 1930s pulp writer, also named Don Waters, with whom Waters becomes obsessed. This wildly original book blends memoir, investigative reporting, and fiction to sort out difficult aspects of family, masculinity, and what it means to be a father.
Refrains about financial hardship are ubiquitous in contemporary Nigeria, frequently expressed through the idiom “to be a man is not a one-day job.” But while men talk constantly about money, underlying their economic worries are broader concerns about the shifting meanings of masculinity, amid changing expectations and practices of intimacy.
Drawing on twenty-five years of experience in southeastern Nigeria, Daniel Jordan Smith takes readers through the principal phases and arenas of men’s lives: the transition to adulthood; searching for work and making a living; courtship, marriage, and fatherhood; fraternal and political relationships; and finally, the attainment of elder status and death. He relates men’s struggles both to fulfill their own aspirations and to meet society’s expectations. He also considers men who behave badly, mistreat their wives and children, or resort to crime and violence. All of these men face similar challenges as they navigate the complex geometry of money and intimacy. Unraveling these connections, Smith argues, provides us with a deeper understanding of both masculinity and society in Nigeria.
While much attention has been paid in recent years to heterosexual prostitution and sex tourism in Brazil, gay sex tourism has been almost completely overlooked. In Tourist Attractions, Gregory C. Mitchell presents a pioneering ethnography that focuses on the personal lives and identities of male sex workers who occupy a variety of roles in Brazil’s sexual economy.
Mitchell takes us into the bath houses of Rio de Janeiro, where rent boys cruise for clients, and to the beaches of Salvador da Bahia, where African American gay men seek out hustlers while exploring cultural heritage tourist sites. His ethnography stretches into the Amazon, where indigenous fantasies are tinged with the erotic at eco-resorts, and into the homes of “kept men,” who forge long-term, long-distance, transnational relationships that blur the boundaries of what counts as commercial sex. Mitchell asks how tourists perceive sex workers’ performances of Brazilianness, race, and masculinity, and, in turn, how these two groups of men make sense of differing models of racial and sexual identity across cultural boundaries. He proposes that in order to better understand how people experience difference sexually, we reframe prostitution—which Marxist feminists have long conceptualized as sexual labor—as also being a form of performative labor. Tourist Attractions is an exceptional ethnography poised to make an indelible impact in the fields of anthropology, gender, and sexuality, and research on prostitution and tourism.
"Drawing upon census data, trade periodicals devoted to stenography and court reporting, the writings of educational reformers, and fiction, Srole allows us to better understand the roles that gender and work played in the formation of middle-class identity. Clearly written and thoroughly researched, her book reminds us of the contradictions that both men and women faced as they navigated changes in the labor market and sought to realize a modern professional identity."
---Thomas Augst, New York University
Transcribing Class and Gender explores the changing meanings of clerical work in nineteenth-century America, focusing on the discourse surrounding that work. At a time when shorthand transcription was the primary method of documenting business and legal communications and transactions, most stenographers were men, but changing technology saw the emergence of women in the once male-dominated field. Carole Srole argues that this shift placed stenographers in a unique position to construct a new image of the professional man and woman and, in doing so, to redefine middle- and working-class identities.
Many male court reporters emphasized their professionalism, portraying themselves as educated language experts as a way to elevate themselves above the growing numbers of female and working-class stenographers and typewriter operators. Meanwhile, women in the courts and offices were confronting the derogatory image of the so-called Typewriter Girl who cared more about her looks, clothing, and marriage prospects than her job. Like males in the field, women responded by fashioning a gendered professional image---one that served to combat this new version of degraded female labor while also maintaining traditional ideals of femininity.
The study is unique in the way it reads and analyzes popular fiction, stenography trade magazines, the archives of professional associations, and writings by educational reformers to provide new perspectives on this history. The author challenges the common assumption that men and women clerks had separate work cultures and demonstrates how each had to balance elements of manhood and womanhood in the drive toward professionalism and the construction of a new middle-class image. Transcribing Class and Gender joins the recent scholarship that employs cultural studies approaches to class and gender without abandoning the social history valuation of workers' experiences.
Carole Srole is Professor of History at California State University, Los Angeles.
Photo: A female stenographer working for an actuary in 1897. Courtesy Metlife Archives.
In this path-breaking history of manhood and masculinity, Angus McLaren examines how nineteenth- and twentieth-century western society created what we now take to be the traditional model of the heterosexual male.
"Inherently interesting. . . . Exhibitionism, pornography, and deception all have their place here."—Library Journal
"An appealing wealth of evidence of what trials can reveal about the boundaries of men's roles around the turn of the century."—Kirkus Reviews
"It is difficult to imagine a better guide to the most notorious scandals of our great-grandparents' day."—Graham Rosenstock, Lambda Book Report