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Disability, Masculinity and Nationalism

Disability Masculinity Nationalism

Ideology of people is highly dependent on the rules that are dictated by the government and society. Mainly nationalism and correspondence to some definite norms according to age, gender or other characteristics are the demands to each citizen that predetermine many of his/her deeds. Interpretation of various messages and overall world perception is highly dependent on the identity and ideology that is formed by the society. Therefore, in the world, which is full of different people and stereotypes, the focus on those, who are different from others, is an urgent and timely issue. Representation of masculinity is rarely associated with the diseases or disabilities while the war and nationalism are associated with aggressiveness and strength. However, the real denotation of the issues is not always the same. Mainly the context, some definite situation can define the above mentioned issues as correct. The current paper is aimed to represent through the perspective of the movie “Murderball”, Ke$ha’s clip “Loving, Command-Defying Army Auteur” and erroneous stereotypes that patriotism, physical performance and heterosexuality are the mutually dependent categories that should characterize the responsible masculine citizens.

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As nationalism is mostly associated with patriotism, there is a great number of examples that the soldiers and the military men should be respected and valued for the great contribution they input into the life of the society. Safety, strength and masculinity are the features that characterize the army and their action for sake of the American or other national population. In the US, military culture is based on the concepts of “able-bodiedness and heterosexual masculinity” (Serlin, 2006, 158). Therefore, the military identity as well as masculine identity in the society has some definite features and rhetoric structures. Even though the rules for patriotism, masculinity and nationalism are unspoken they still exist and are strongly implemented into human minds. The clip by Ke$ha draws people to reflection on the question whether the army and military really is correspondent to the existing representation and how the population would react if the existing beliefs on it were broken. In the modern life, it is quite difficult to imagine that the army or the military men are gays and behave the way they are presented in the clip. The question whether it is “all right to be gay in the military” is a timely one and raises the issue of masculinity and strength as opposite to the characteristics that are common for gays and their behavior (Taddeo, 2010). Mainly the break of the commonly accepted views and beliefs makes the clip the reflection of the social discipline violation. Even though, in reality, the personal preferences can have no influence on performance of the duties, the open identification as homosexuality in the military can hardly be perceived as normal by the majority of people (Taddeo, 2010). Mainly the stereotypes and discipline are the factors that would not let such features to be accepted in the definite context. Even thought people can be free to have any sexual orientation, the army is not the context that allows one to display such behavior. In such a way, one can see that not the inner preferences of a person, but their open display can become inappropriate in some definite circumstances. Therefore, instead of regarding any disability or non-correspondence to some norms, it is necessary to describe the cultural moment, in which this “disability” has become a problem (Servin, 2006). If one of the main demands to the soldiers is to follow some strict order, the actions that break this order become those that make their behavior unacceptable to be defined neither as masculine, nor as patriotic.

With regard to the Amputettes example presented by Servin (2006), one should pay particular attention to the unspoken rules that govern the behavior of males in the institutional environment or in public. The same unspoken rules contribute much to the females’ perception of some actions and also shape the reaction on the inappropriate cultural phenomena. The abledodiedness and physical strength as the attributes of a good soldier were a change for the previously existing tendency to rely on fears of ethnic and racial differences. Numerous rhetorical tools like images and examples of behavior and appearance always taught people of the correct norms of superiority and real American man. With regard to a number of images related to the Civil War, one should pay particular attention the disabilities and mainly amputations did not become the signs of male strength decrease. Such veterans, whose disabilities were caused by the war action, were represented as masculine and patriotic. Out of many possible features, only the gaze filled with sadness, but not despair could show that the experience of the soldiers was really painful. Consequently, the context defined any characteristics as appropriate or not. While in some situation the disability can be defined as physical deficiency, in another one, lack of masculinity or patriotic mood can also be treated as the worst qualities that cannot be tolerated. Hence, it is important to mark out Servin’s definition of disability as “socially constructed category” that does not have one history, but has a number of different histories related to diseases, age, gender, nationalism etc. (Servin, 2006, 158). Even though all these histories can co-exist or exist separately form one another, they always need cultural context to be considered as abilities or disabilities. Social lenses and ideological mechanisms are those that make some human features to become identical for these or those labels. With the difference of the societies and cultural norms, the image of what is normal or appropriate varies. Therefore, many scholars emphasize the cultural commitment and bodily coherence as “the grandiose illusion of normalcy” (Servin, 2006, 159).

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The relativeness of disability and the difference of human perception regarding masculinity can be observed in the movie “Murderball”. The representation of the rugby players in the wheel chairs is quite surprising and breaks the generally accepted beliefs about the disabled people. While previously, the veterans were represented as the strong soldiers, the movie contributes to perception of any citizen as a strong person. The life of the rugby players shows that being disabled is not a physical characteristic of the body. Instead, it is the state of the soul and the inner weakness. People in the wheelchairs represent the moral courage and strength is the main characteristic of a real male. Instead of strong muscles or brightly manifested heterosexuality, mainly the definite state of mind is the way to be manly. The wheelchair rugby brings a communicative message not only about the above mentioned characteristics, but also about sport as the best mean of rehabilitation and “enactment of masculinity” (Lindemann&Cherney, 2008, 110). At the same time, the group of wheelchair sportsmen represents a particular communication strategy and organizational culture that enables them to perceive one another differently than they are usually perceived by the exterior world. Lindemann & Cherney (2008, 114) defined the players as invulnerable and possessing “daredevil masculinity”. Probably, specially constructed invulnerable metal wheelchairs contribute to the males’ confidence and fearlessness. However, they obviously represent that generally known representations of masculinity, nationalism and homosexuality as interdependent categories are stereotypical and depend mostly on the cultural context.

To sum up, the notions of disability, masculinity and nationalism really are interrelated. However, the modern society with the movie “Murderball”, Ke$ha’s clip “Loving, Command-Defying Army Auteur” shows that perception of these characteristics is often erroneous because of stereotypes and great role of the cultural context. Association of disability with physical damages is not always correct. Instead, the rhetorical messages of the 20th century showed that patriotism makes disabilities to be neglected or regarded as the evidence of courage. At the same time, wheel chair rugby players make people realize that masculinity is related to inner strength rather than to physical performance.