Becoming Pretty Boys: Embodied Experience of Heterosexual Males Pursuing Feminine Appearance and Manner

Authors: Mu-Chih Shih*, National Taiwan Normal University
Topics: Gender, Cultural Geography, Asia
Keywords: pretty boy, embodiment, performativity, materialization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The term “pretty boy” often refers to man who has feminine (or perhaps effeminate) appearance and manner. The images of pretty boys differ within various cultural and geographical contexts. Men who embody the pretty boy persona are often criticized for lack of manhood. Nevertheless, pretty boy is still a flourishing trend. My concern is that although at first glance, the pretty boy trend might indicate the gradual acceptance of femininity by men, that men are no longer constrained by traditional masculinity identities, does such phenomenon truly hold the potential of undermining masculine ways of thinking and frees men from the shackle of patriarchy? I choose heterosexual males as research subject for straight men are usually considered the privileged groups of patriarchy, and it seems that they risk of forfeiting such privilege when choosing to become pretty boys. But is it really the case? Can the practices of pretty boy be ally with feminist thinking? Or is it just a mask that wickedly appropriates femininity in order to hide away its patriarchy nature in beneath? With these questions in mind, this paper aims to build on an analytical structure for the practices of pretty boy. First, I would like to share my encounter with pretty boy and feminism that leads me to purpose the subject matter in this paper. Second, I draw on insights from “embodiment” conceptualized by Longhurst and “performativity as materialization” by Butler to develop my approaches toward the constructions of pretty boys’ bodies.

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