I suspect that many avid readers have a special book that becomes inseparable from themselves, part of their existence. Without this special book, what I call a “soul book,” a fulfilling life would be difficult. There are also books that are like family or friends—dependable, loving, present when you need them, always willing to provide help and support, but not necessarily consulted regularly or assimilated into one’s existential core. And then there are books that are acquaintances, that surface periodically at points in a reader’s life, often to exert a surprising force or influence that belies the infrequency of one’s association with them. For me, Victor Turner’s The Forest of Symbols has been an acquaintance, as I have had only three interactions with the book, each separated by a number of years. With its inclusion on CUP’s anniversary list of 150 notable publications, I have the opportunity to remember these meetings and renew my acquaintance.
A few days ago, Ithaca hosted its first Fashion week and as I strolled downtown, I encountered all sorts of enthusiastic fashionistas. Two women were sketching designs with chalk on the sidewalk, a runway rehearsal was happening at Dewitt Mall, and I thought people in general looked quite stylish. But what does clothing have to do with books?
When it comes to men’s fashion and the workplace, the research presented in Buttoned Up, by author Erynn Masi de Casanova, can help understand this relationship. Casual Fridays is an institution, telecommuting is sometimes the rule, and a decrease in formal dress codes is evident. And even though many workplaces now encourage a business casual dress code, men high on the food chain tend to prefer the traditional two-piece suit. The Boston Globe pointed out that the homogeneity in men’s work attires throughout decades shows this conformism. So why do men feel constrained in their choices about how to look professional?
Masi de Casanova interviews dozens of men in three US cities with distinct local dress cultures—New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati—and asks what it means to wear the white collar now. Her findings suggest that, aside from recent changes in gender expectations, the suit lingers as a symbol of status, gender, and class privilege.
The Conversation argued that “stereotypical men, especially older men, are thought not to actively engage with fashionable clothing.” And regardless of the incipient niche market that seem to be willing to challenge this assumption, a quick peek into the most well-known fashion shows can prove that the target for male fashion garments is overwhelmingly, young men.
Finally, the Harvard Business Review asked the crucial question: What happens when men don’t conform to masculine clothing norms at work? It turns out that when picking out an outfit, most men fear that crossing gender boundaries and traditional clothing norms will pose identity dilemmas and ultimately, lead to conflict.
All in all, men are happy to strategically blend in when it comes to dressing up for a job, the freedom provided by the business casual code resulting in anxiety. So how can we turn the tables? How to foster workplaces that allow for their male employees to express themselves, and how to get rid of traditional ideas of masculine power? Buttoned Up provides with an interesting insight into men’s feelings and explains why when at work, they embody the idea that “fashion is not really for us”.
Check out the latest review for this book!
Recommended watch for this post: Dr. Ben Barry’s “The Refashioning Masculinity Project”:
About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is originally from Uruguay and often wonders how she ended up in Upstate New York. Her dream is to own an ice-cream shop. She doesn’t have Wi-Fi at home.
You know how it is. You go to school, you get a degree, find a career, maybe you meet some cute girl . . .
Wait—what? If you’re like me, you only too often find yourself reading something like this sentence above, describing some supposedly potential universal human experience only to find out mid-message that it’s been crafted, explicitly or implicitly, by and for men (at least, straight men). From novels to scholarly texts to departmental advertisements language that is meant to appeal to people in general too often ends up excluding over half of the population. And it’s not some little thing—the exclusion is felt like an invisible punch to the gut. At least, that’s what happens to me. I’ll start reading a work of philosophy, or a [male] academic’s webpage, or really pretty much anything at all, and at some point, usually right when I’m starting to empathically nod along to the flow of the narrative, I’ll stumble across an often unintended reveal of the male-ness of the intended “you,” and I’ll get a jolt of recognition. It’s not the interpolated recognition of inclusion into the larger social narrative that I thought I was part of, but the recognition that I’m actually not included after all—that I’m an “other,” the extra category that people are too often trying but failing to incorporate into the thread of society. It reminds me that the protagonist of popular culture and academia is too often men, and that the implicated reader is male, too. In the era of #MeToo and Times Up, when the ubiquity of explicit forms of sexual harassment is becoming more and more visible (more visible, that is, only to those in power who had previously convinced themselves it wasn’t so pervasive), let’s take a moment also to consider the more invisible, even unconscious obstacles that women face while working to succeed in their chosen paths in life. As we know, language matters. Saying “he” to mean “everyone,” or “man” to mean “human,” isn’t some quaint shorthand for the universal person, to be dismissed with an eye-rolling shrug when exclusivity is pointed out. Talking about “you” when the you being talked about isn’t everyone excludes as much as it includes. This is why virtually all academic journals no longer allow the use of “he” to cover “all”—and it’s why we need to do even more to recognize the unstated assumptions that go into our words. This is as true for Black History Month as it is for Women’s History Month, reminding us as always of the fact that when we talk about one month to represent such a large amount of people it may be better than nothing in our current era, but also that the rest of the months are unmarked as belonging to straight white men.
As a psychological anthropologist I struggle with how much to fight against these issues, especially when there is so much more to think about in life. As an Ithacan I was lucky enough to grow up in a place where the truck driver driving in the lane next to me was as likely to be female as male, and where I rarely felt constrained by my gender. I was fortunate to receive an undergraduate education at a women’s college, too, where it wasn’t an issue whether and how a professor would give more opportunities to the male student than the female one next to him. But my upbringing couldn’t prepare me for the dense, ubiquitous layers of sexism in my professional life, even as I surround myself with men and women who are actively working to change it. I try to be mindful of my language in writing (choosing, for example, the still-contentious single “they” instead of “he” or “he or she”). I point it out when a man says something a woman just said and is listened to more. And I stop my students mid-sentence if they ever accidentally talk about “man” when they mean people. In my work on Buddhism in Southeast Asia I write about gender as one among many of the factors that influence how people are understood, trying when I do to avoid the liberal feminist assumptions that may not play out the same ways I’m used to with informants. Yet I often take pause with the idea that because I’m a woman I should spend extra, precious time on women’s issues when men, simply, just don’t have to.
In the end, Women’s History Month reminds us all to do our part, in whatever ways we can. It reminds us to speak up for equality and diversity, to not stand by when small and large obstacles are put in the way of our own or anyone else’s success, and to advocate for change in whatever ways we’re able. From questioning our assumptions about who the “you” is that we’re writing for, to drawing attention to the many insidious ways that words work to cause harm—in everything from women’s name changes at marriage to the feminized voices responding to A.I. commands to whatever we each find important and possible to address—this month is a time to remember that we can each call attention to gender inequalities, in whatever ways you and I can. Maybe that can be how it is.
J.L. Cassaniti is the author of Living Buddhism: Mind, Self and Emotion in a Thai Community, and Universalism Without Uniformity: Explorations in Mind, Self, and Emotion. Her new book Remembering the Present: Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia is out this month.
Cornell University Press has just published Hearing Allah’s Call: Preaching and performance in Indonesian Islam. Anthropologist Birgit Braeuchler interviewed the author, Julian Millie, of Monash University, about his new book.
Birgit Braeuchler: Your preparation for this book included fourteen months listening to Islamic sermons in West Java. I imagine there must be many preachers there, simply because there are so many Muslims in that part of Indonesia—about forty million in a province not much bigger than the island of Hawaii. But let me ask . . . the title of your book emphasizes performance. Why is that concept such a big part of this project?
Julian Millie: I work with colleagues at the State Islamic University in Bandung. A couple of years ago, students in the Islamic predication program helped us do a survey about the features that made preaching successful amongst West Javanese audiences. They went to their home villages, and came back with their reports. According to almost all of these surveys, a sermon was successful if the preacher was able to hold the audience’s attention for its duration . . . In other words, the students regarded a captivating sermon as a successful one. Continue reading “Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well”
Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance is a new series forthcoming from Cornell University Press. It will be edited by anthropologists Ilana Feldman, Will Garriott, Kevin Karpiak, and Sameena Mulla. Download the flyer for more information.
Sage House: We’re very happy to launch the new monograph series, Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance here at Cornell University Press. To begin, tell me about Police/Worlds. What does the title mean? What is the series focus and what makes it different from other series?
Sameena Mulla: We’re glad you asked, because we chose the title Police/Worlds to invite that question. You see two very recognizable terms, “Police,” and “Worlds,” with some punctuation between them; their relationship is not exactly clear, and that’s what we hope to explore in the series. We want to publish books that explore policing in many different contexts. That means not just traditional organizational settings—
Kevin Karpiak: What’s sometimes glossed as “Policing as the men in blue.”
SM: —but also in policing more broadly, as a set of everyday practices. Thinking of the many worlds of policing suggests different geographic, historic, and also cultural contexts.
Will Garriott: For the past few years, a group of us have been working on issues of police and policing in anthropology. For example, the blog Anthropoliteia has been a central place to develop the anthropological focus on policing. And this has put us in conversation with scholars of police in neighboring disciplines. It’s provided us with a particular perspective on issues such as crime, security, and governance. We’ve found this to be a very productive space. We hope the series will reflect this. Continue reading “Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance”
Cambridge Professor Embedded in Afghanistan Military Hospital
Explores the Courage, Compassion, and Comic Tragedy of Modern War
“There is a massive propaganda industry, embraced by all institutions from schools to the press and churches, that seeks to deny the stark facts de Rond chronicles. This is why the British Ministry of Defense did not want the book published. De Rond shines a light on a reality we are not supposed to see. It is a reality, especially in an age of endless techno war, we must confront if we are to recover the human.”
—Chris Hedges, author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
We weren’t supposed to read Mark de Rond’s new book Doctors at War.
A high-ranking medical officer in the British Ministry of Defense insisted de Rond write this book, and do so without fear of censorship. However, upon its completion, the ministry told de Rond it would oppose the book due to his exceptionally candid and true-to-life account of a trauma surgical team at work in the “world’s bloodiest” field hospital, Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan. Despite such pressure, Mark de Rond has chosen to publish the book.
Doctors at War tells of the highs and lows of surgical life in hard-hitting detail, bringing to life a morally ambiguous world in which good people face impossible choices, and in which routines designed to normalize experience have the unintended effect of highlighting war’s absurdity. Mark de Rond, a professor of organizational ethnography at Cambridge University, lifts the cover on a world rarely ever seen, let alone written about, and helps rebalance popular and overly heroic, adrenaline packed tales of what it is like to go to war. Here the crude and visceral coexist with the tender and affectionate, as do pleasure and guilt, kindness and cruelty, courage and cowardice, and the profound and pointless. In sum, it provides a unique insight into the lived experience of war from the point of view of good people forced to make difficult choices in an absurd environment.
Purchase Doctors at War today on our website and receive a special 30% discount. Use promo code 09CAU6.
For more information please contact Jonathan Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with Mark de Rond:
Continue reading “Doctors at War – A Modern Nonfiction Update to M*A*S*H”