Tag Archives: gender

A Zine Called “Dresses”

Find student Andrew Pester’s zine Dresses cataloged in Special Collections & Archives by visiting archivesspace.middlebury.edu and searching the course name “Outlaw Women.” To see the print copy this summer, make an appointment  and drop by the garden level of the Davis Family Library

“The question of acceptance had a different weight for me.” ~Audre Lorde

Name: Andrew Pester

Year: 2017

Major: Dance

Hometown: Lawrence, Kansas

Collaborators: Dr. Catharine Wright’s Outlaw Women Course

Thanks Yous/Acknowledgements: Lexi Adams for helping to carry me through this.

You made a zine. What is that? And what was your motivation?

My zine is a collage of text, images, and color that express my life in a critical manner in relation to Audre Lorde’s biomythography, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. I created this zine in Catharine Wright’s Outlaw Women course, and the idea struck me after a movement-writing exploration with Maree ReMalia. I was writing in my notebook, and my narrative made much more sense in my own handwriting. I wanted the physicality of writing to be present in the work, so I decided to stray away from the traditional essay and into something more visual, the zine.

I write about a difficult interaction with my family, and I have found that I can be more true to the experience with the combination of visuals, text, and color than I can be with text alone. In creating the zine, I have found that the images restore the gentleness of motherhood that for a moment is shattered. The zine has been restorative and empowering.

How do you want users to interact with it?

I want users to absorb the text like they might absorb a photograph. There is no order in which I want the user to read the text, although the user may find a certain linearity. When making the zine, I thought about highlighting the moments that are an expression of my queer identity, those that are timeless and still live inside my body. I like to think of this zine more as a self-portrait than anything else.

Where would you like it to now live and who can help you with that?

I would be honored for my zine to live in Special Collections & Archives. I believe Mikaela Taylor and Joseph Watson can help me.

Desire and Pleasure of the (Un)Sexed Body


The “sexing” of bodies is inevitably a social process whereby certain bodies are categorized as pertaining to men, while others- to women. The “in-between” remains invisible, concealed by the widely-accepted notion that there are only two “regular” ways of existing:  either being male, or female. Within this context, social power dictates not only the assignment to sex, but also an accompanying gender and with that a whole series of roles, expectations, preferences and life choices one is pressured to adopt in order to “fit”. While concepts such as “desire” and “pleasure” and their resulting behaviors and actions may rather be seen as a concern of  the individual’s “psychology”, social power circulating around both the sexed body and its sexually unclear counterpart dictates the characteristics of desire and pleasure and their respective perception as either “deviant” or “normal”. Within this paper I will explore how the subject of pleasure and desire is construed historically in relation to sex and gender. Simultaneously, I will focus on the ideas and narratives pertaining to sexual “appetite” and “enjoyment” situating them in the sociohistorical context that made them possible.

To begin with, it is important to outline briefly how the social “sexing” of the body occurs and perpetuates itself. In “Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality” Anne Fausto-Sterling unequivocally claims that “labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision”[1]. This decision may be presented as grounded in science, yet the production of scientific knowledge itself is not unaffected by existing beliefs about gender. Indeed, throughout “Brainstorm: The flaws in the science of sex differences” Rebecca Jordan-Young demonstrates how research of sex differences and particularly “Brain Organization Theory” (the theory presupposing the existence of “female” and “male” brains, differentiated to serve complementary roles within the process of reproduction) has been flawed by unchallenged “commonsense” assumptions and neglect towards historical and cultural shifts in understanding of gender, in addition to lack of reliable data due to the quasi-experimental design of most studies [2].

Instead of being all about hormones and biologically-determined processes as researchers would have liked us to have it, sex (meant as a category) is invariably dependent on definitions and as such is largely human-made. This point is all the more important in dealing with intersex babies whose genitalia is not fully developed until puberty, yet which begins to be inspected and assessed from birth. This practice creates the risk that “doctors may remove a small penis at birth and create a girl child, even though the penis may have grown to “normal” size in puberty”[3].

Moreover, to account for the importance of socialization, Fausto-Sterling draws on stories about children, raised away from society, in the absence of other humans’ presence. These children, as she describes, do not develop sexuality because while they have the “raw material” for reproduction, they have not learned the set of meanings that predispose desire and give one “consciousness” of her “bodily functions”[4]. For sexuality to be even possible, it is not merely enough to have a certain set of genitals.

In attempting to answer the question “Who is the subject of desire and pleasure in the context of gender and sex historically?” I first need to identify the existing possibilities. Once a baby is born (that is in most of the Modern World), it is assigned into one of three categories: “girl”, “boy” or more rarely: “intersex”. Yet in most cases the “intersex” child is not allowed to exist as “ambiguous” for very long. Its “ambiguousness” is accompanied by so strong a drive to include it in either of the two “normal” categories that numerous irreversible surgeries and loss of much sensitive tissue become justified. In many cases, surgical “fixing” is guided by social, instead of medical needs: “whether it ‘looks right’ to other boys, whether it can ‘perform satisfactorily’ in intercourse”[5] ends up being more important than the penis’ function for its owner’s physical wellbeing.

I will claim then that the intersex child born with sexually unclear genitalia is altogether denied pleasure and desire. It will either be “fixed” and, theoretically, “find belonging” to either the “male” or “female” cohort of its peers, or “live always as a sexual freak in loneliness and frustration”[6], the last exemplifying the “rhetoric of tragedy” construed by parents and medical personnel, alike.

As a general “rule”, if a baby is born with a vagina or “fixed” into having one, it would, “naturally”, be assumed to develop as heterosexual and to be female-presenting. In regards to desire, late into twentieth century the grown-up woman was expected to develop a “feminine” sexuality, understood as passive (“in the absence of a partner, a ‘normal’ woman waits”[7]), sentimental and romantic longing. The “feminine” woman deemed “normal”, as interpreted by the infamous Brain Organization Theory pioneer John Money and his colleagues, would not enjoy various sex positions, would not experience erotic response to anything else, but kissing and touching, and would primarily find interest in marriage and motherhood.

Historically, the understanding of “female” sexuality underwent great transformations. In Renaissance Europe women were perceived as sexual insatiable-s, while men were thought to be more successful at restraining their urges due to their inherently greater rationality[8]. Men who “slept around” were seen as “de-masculinized” since they failed to enact the expected manly self-control. Yet, this paradigm shifted drastically in the centuries to follow and led to the advent of the Victorian ideal for a “lady”, whereby females were expected to erase their sexuality in order to gain status and respect.  Sadly, while social and political movements in the 1960s were disrupting traditional ideas about sexuality and “a revolution in birth control and the legalization of abortion increasingly separated sexuality from reproduction”[9], it wasn’t before 1980 that brain research on sexual differences began to adopt a model of female sexuality that didn’t follow the Victorian model which portrayed it as “romantic, receptive, slow to waken and only weakly physical[10]”.

The underlying assumptions in this gendered profile began to be addressed in the 1980s when a more “egalitarian” understanding of female sexuality began to emerge. Or rather, elements of “masculine” sexuality were neutralized and become “common” for both “male” and “female” sexuality.  Upon this radical cultural and scientific shift women’s sexual desire expanded to include masturbation, genital arousal (which before was considered to only pertain to men), sexual arousal, high libido, frequent sexual activity and multiple partners, to name a few[11].

In fact, sexual pleasure had a lot to do with the stereotypical depiction of women as “passive” and “passionless” which still circulates mainstream culture (and science). In “Making Sex” Thomas Laquer explains how Orgasm was used in the creation of a sharp distinction between women and men “sometime in the eighteenth century” when “sex as we know it was invented”[12]. Prior to that, sex was understood through the “one sex” model, whereby females were seen as underdeveloped males, whose genitalia were the same as men’s, yet turned on the inside[13]. Within the “female-as-male” model men and women possessed identical physiological functions. Female orgasm constituted a mandatory element in the process of reproduction. The idea that a woman would not get impregnated unless she reached orgasm was accepted as “commonsense” late into the 1800s, yet evidence was building up to demonstrate that female orgasm had little role in conception. In 1770s experimenter Lazzaro Spallanzani succeeded to artificially inseminate a water spaniel and in 1879 Mabel Loomis Todd tested her hypothesis that she would not get pregnant if her husband ejaculated inside of her after she had orgasmed, only to give birth nine months later[14].

Following this discovery and as the “two sex” model emerged, the woman’s ability to receive sexual pleasure was altogether contested. The rejection of female orgasm as unlikely served to further differentiate the sexes and justify the obsoletion of the “one sex” paradigm. According to Laquer this had at least two important dimensions: firstly, while earlier it was thought that both the man and the woman needed to orgasm/ejaculate for a baby to be “made”, with the discovery that female orgasm was not instrumental for conception, men were elevated to “creators” while women began to be seen as a mere physical “container” for reproduction (“the material cause is inferior to the efficient cause”[15]). As the Bible reads: “For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man” (Corinthians 11:8, English Standard Version). Women’s seemingly inferior contribution to reproduction justified their subordinate position in society. Secondly, the revelation of female sexual pleasure as “unrelated” to conception soon translated into larger claims about “most women’s” lack of sexual “feelings” which in turn led to the identification of a variety of characteristics now perceived as a “sign of gender”.

As evident, “Female” pleasure and desire have been the concerns of inexhaustible controversy within the scientific community and outside of it for centuries. For most of history, women have not been seen as “subjects” of desire and pleasure, but rather- “objects” of male desire, in service of male pleasure.  The male “subject’’ is the assumed subject. In choosing to limit my analyses to only “sexually unclear” and “female-sexed” bodies and their interactions with desire and pleasure, I not only exercise my feminist right to “reverse” privilege and attend to those, who have traditionally been either omitted from or exploited by scientific research, but also have a theoretical justification. For once, in describing ideas and narratives related to female sexual pleasure and desire, I am (inevitably) simultaneously, if not directly, presenting ideas and narratives about “male” sexuality since the two were most often than not seen as contradicting. The man is what the woman isn’t: “Masculine and feminine sexuality could be represented as not just distinct, but polar opposites”[16] in the view of early Brain Organization theorists and many more, even today.  We can only hope they don’t remain a majority.



  • Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books. P. 58
  • Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Laqueur, T. W. (1990). Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.





[1] Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books. Page 3.

[2] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[3] Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books. Page 58.


[4] Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books. Page 23.

[5] Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books. P. 58

[6] Fausto-Sterling, A. (2000). Sexing the body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books. P. 47

[7] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 116.

[8] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 110.

[9] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 112.

[10] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 113.

[11] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Pages 138-141.

[12] Laqueur, T. W. (1990). Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 149.

[13] Laqueur, T. W. (1990). Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 4.

[14] Laqueur, T. W. (1990). Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 181.

[15] Laqueur, T. W. (1990). Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 151.

[16] Jordan-Young, R. M. (2010). Brain storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 118.

A Bulgarian “Guyland”

This is an academic research paper written for my class “Sociology of Gender” at Middlebury College. If you have any feedback, please, use the comments section under the article! Happy reading! M.


From a sociological perspective masculinity is everything but “innate” and “ahistorical”. The definition of “manhood” is socially constructed by culture. In the words of sociologist Michael Kimmel, masculinity is “a constantly changing collection of meanings that we construct through our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with the world” (Kimmel, 2000, p. 58). “Hegemonic masculinity” characterizes normative masculinity in opposition to sexual and racial minorities and particularly- women (Kimmel, 2000, p. 58). Its construction and enactment are grounded in the patriarchal social order and its resulting mechanisms, ideology and self-perpetuating tools. The acquisition of power, seen as a natural consequence of being perceived as “properly male”, together with the fear of being judged as “insufficiently masculine” and suffering stigma and ridicule, at best, and physical violence and life threat, at worst, prompt male-identifying individuals to constantly seek homosocial approval, attempt to behave in alignment with hegemonic masculinity and continuously reject and differentiate themselves from femininity.

In “Guyland: The Perilous world where boys become men” Michael Kimmel outlines his theory for “guyland” as a stage of life in between childhood and adulthood when “the struggle to prove manhood becomes even more intense, in part because it’s no longer as easy to differentiate between men and women as it was in the past” (Kimmel, 2008, p. 42). Inspired by Kimmel’s book and detailed (even if exaggerated and border-line extreme) depiction of college-aged American males’ problematic relationships with masculinity, I decided to conduct a survey to collect and analyze data about young men’s perceptions of masculinity in my home-country, Bulgaria.


To that end, I created an online survey consisting of demographic measures (for age, location, sexual orientation and level of education), six open-ended questions aiming to cast light on one’s self-identified concepts of masculinity (What does it mean to be a “man’’, according to you? What contributes to your identification as a male? What are 3-5 adjectives that characterize a “real” man?), as well as questions exploring the relationship between masculinity and otherness (What differentiates men and women? Does sexual orientation contribute to being perceived as a “man”?), and a question requesting respondents to identify times when their masculinity has been questioned or challenged (When does your “masculinity” get questioned: in what context? How do you react? Do you need to prove yourself as a man?). Finally, there was a space for comments and feedback.

The survey was disseminated through social media (Facebook) to my social network, as well as through the help of friends and through posting on numerous groups (student groups, interest groups (such as groups for bloggers and entrepreneurs). A friend who is involved with the biggest LGBT organization in Bulgaria posted the link to the survey on their Facebook page which perhaps resulted in the high participation of non-heterosexual individuals.


The survey received a total of 48 individual responses. The target group for my study was young Bulgarian male-identifying individuals, aged 18-25. The median age of participants was 22 (see fig. 1 for age representation). Most study participants came from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria (35 respondents), the rest indicated that they lived in other major cities (a total of 8), with some living abroad (a total of 5).  My sample consisted of 54.2% heterosexuals, 29.2% homosexuals and a total of 16.6% identifying as “Other” (I had initially forgotten to include a separate category for “bisexual”, so it will be more accurate to look at bisexual and other together). In terms of education, 45.8% hold undergraduate degree, 31.3% have only Secondary education (High School), 10.4% hold Master degree and 12.5% indicated “Other”.  I coded the collected data paying attention to common themes and word usage and repetition.

Fig. 1 Age (Color codes represent ages between 18-25)


Fig. 2 Sexual Orientation (Color codes: Blue- homosexual, Red- heterosexual, Yellow- bisexual (this category was created later, so it doesn’t include all individuals identifying as bisexual), Green- other)

Sexual Orientation

Fig. 3 Education (Color Codes: Blue- undergraduate/ bachelor degree, red- master’s degree, yellow- Secondary education (High School), green- other)



A portrait of a Real Man

When requested to write down 3-5 adjectives that characterize a “real” man, the survey participants listed over 75 “male” features which nevertheless could be grouped in several categories, including characteristics of strength and ability; rationality; adherence to principles; stability; respect; care and warmth.

Foremost, perhaps unsurprisingly, a mandatory characteristic for a man is to be “strong”. Yet not just physically strong, as one participant highlighted and several others echoed. In fact, male strength is described in multiple ways: for one, “strength is being able to deal with your problems without violence”, whereby using violence is a weakness, an attempt to prove your masculinity (which in reality you’re lacking)”, for others, strength is associated with diligence and resilience at work (“men should be able to endure more work and pressure, but these days women have become more “masculine” in that sense and men- the opposite”, a survey participant wrote). A man has to be strong physically and “psychologically”: this psychological vigor includes the category of security which also appears by itself (“(To be a man is) to be the pillar of the family, to always have a solution to the emotional problems of the gentle sex…”), as well as motivation and ambition for achievement (“Men act, while women think”), whereby independence is critical to marking the real man (“to be motivated to achieve your goals, without counting on anybody”).  As evident some of the statements made explicit gender distinctions between men and women, while others did not include a specified comparison subject. Perhaps the unnamed comparison subjects are boys- the younger males who have the potential to become “real” men, but have not yet proven themselves as such.

“Real” men are honest and direct. A man is one who “keeps his word” and is therefore “reliable” (eight men specifically or solely mentioned their “word” as the most significant factor to their identification as men). Similarly, a man has to be secure and stable, to be responsible, especially in the context of family life. To that end, a number of men highlighted that “a penis does not make you a man”. Evidently, “being a man” is a form of achievement of itself, one that not even all biological men can fulfill.

Interestingly, a number of traditionally-termed as “feminine” characteristics make their way into the list, thereby creating a complex image of the Bulgarian male, as one who needs to both be evidently masculine, therefore, cultivating in himself and acting out of strength, security, responsibility, hard work and initiative, yet in the same time be gentle, empathetic, emotionally mature, caring and supportive of others (especially, beloved women, children, relatives: “(To be a man) is to follow the object of your passion- whether a man or a woman- but specifically with women: to want to create a family and to then take care of it” and “A real man has to be gentle, kind and patient with his other half, to have real feelings for her…”).

Indeed, commitment to family and love partner seems to be crucial to participants’ understanding of what it means to be a man: how one treats women and children is seen as a definite marker of whether or not he deserves the title “A Man” (“For me, the man has to be next to the people he loves until the end, no matter of what, to be ready to do anything for them” and “a man should not hurt women, not make them or their children suffer, he has to be caring and loving as he would like others to be towards him when time comes”).

Fig. 4 Most frequently repeated words in response to prompt to list 3-5 characteristics of a “real” man

Word Frequency of appearance in sample’s responses
Strong 13
Honest 12
Stable, calm, secure 11
Responsible 9
Reliable, principled 7
Caring, altruistic, 7
Diligent, hardworking 6
Understanding, empathetic 5
Fair 4
Sensitive, emotionally mature 3


Masculinity as Homophobia

My question “Does sexual orientation impact whether a man is perceived as such? Why/ Why not?” posed some difficulties in coding because at times it was difficult to tell whether respondents were ironic or not, and whether they voiced their own thoughts on the subject or outlined their perception of societal attitudes against gay men.

The majority of respondents agreed that on a societal level sexual orientation is directly linked to how a man is perceived, whereby a man who is gay is directly assumed to be less of a man. While some brought up family to account for why a gay man is not “sufficiently masculine” (“Amongst the main priorities of a man is to create family and have offspring” and “being homosexual, the individual rejects all religious and familial values; the man needs to be the basis of the family”), other claimed that for a man to be gay is “against nature” and so they are not worthy of being called “men”. While some acknowledged the social biases against gay men, noting that “(In society) homosexuality is accepted as lack of ‘masculinity” and “the characteristic to like men is immediately accredited to women”, others expressed various opinions regarding gay males’ masculinity according to their gender performance (“sexual orientation impacts whether a man is seen as such, because homosexuality often is characterized by lady-like manners and thinking”). Arguably, some claimed that they don’t perceive gay men as less “manly” because “to be a man is pure biology”, as one participant put it. Yet, another noted the existence of a prejudice that “a man who doesn’t have an active sexual life is not a man”- a requirement that affects all men regardless of sexual orientation.

Challenged Masculinity

Asked whether their masculinity has been questioned or challenged, a majority of the respondents answered with “No” or gave an abstract answer.

A couple of recounted experiences include: being caught in a sexual act with a man (“(My masculinity was questioned) when I was caught giving a blowjob at a party, I was ridiculed and considered suicide”), having homosexual friends or defending homosexuality (“My own mother questioned my sexuality when I shared that I have many homosexual friends at my college in the US and rejected the idea that their homosexuality is a psychological condition… She started wondering if I’m not defending them just because I’m homosexual, too”).

In order to be perceived as a man, one needs to assert gender-appropriate interests:

“There have been times when I’ve felt uncomfortable having to talk solely about women and cars and the related (topics) which are typical for men and that all representatives of the “strong sex” are experts in. In such situations you are just forced to repeat the words of some evident “macho” in the group, so that you don’t look too weird and unmanly”

and act as a “man” in all expected ways:

“People are slaves to their stereotypes about what a man should be like, what he should do, how he should behave, etc. Something I get across often is that being a vegetarian when I’m around strangers, I am always met with the question: “How can you not eat meet, what kind of a man are you? Even my mother has told me: “You are a man, you have to eat meat”, paradoxically, she has been vegetarian for forty years😀 I try to explain that it has nothing to do with masculinity (…) not eating meat does not make me less of a man then someone who eats 5kg of meat a day😀, but I usually find lack of understanding (…)”.

Still, coming out as gay is perhaps the biggest challenge to being seen as a man (“Since I came out to a close friend of mine, her comments (about how much of a man I am) haven’t stopped with and without reason. Interestingly, she stops when we’re with someone who doesn’t know my sexual orientation, as far as I can tell it’s a defense”).  Indeed, the homosexual participants in the survey varied in their approaches and understanding of how “masculinity” interacts with their sexual orientation.

One said that his masculinity is challenged “all the time because I don’t fit the characteristics of a ‘macho’ (I have a small and thin body), I have a different sexuality and I’m not afraid to do things typical for women like dying my hair or painting my nails, sitting with crossed legs and liking things associated with gentleness.” He continued: “I frequently receive comments like ‘What kind of a man are you?’ but I don’t feel the need to prove myself to anybody… I don’t feel it’s offensive to be associated with women and women qualities, so I don’t feel bad if it happens”. Another explained that being gay “liberated” him from having to defend his masculinity: “I haven’t had to (defend my maleness), I’m always saved by the fact I’m gay”. Yet another explicitly stated that despite being homosexual, he is not “feminine”, therefore he doesn’t have to prove himself as a man.

Discussion of findings and limitations

In “Guyland: The Perilous world where boys become men” Michael Kimmel outlines a profile of the American male in his twenties as “emotionally numb” (Kimmel, 2004, p.53) “white, middle-class, college-bound, in college, or recently graduated” (Kimmel, 2004, p. 8) young men, having a “diminished capacity for empathy” (Kimmel, 2004, p. 59). While perhaps this description overstates the impact of hegemonic masculinity over individuals and more closely represents characteristics of groups of young men in all-male environments (sport clubs, fraternities, etc.), I found that it is also strongly influenced by culture.

While the data from my study did yield a tendency to construct masculinity as a “repudiation of the feminine” (Kimmel, 2004, p. 45) and assertion of heterosexuality and reliability, it also defined masculinity in relationship to community, family and love. Aggression did not seem to partake an important role in the construction of maleness.

Before I continue with the analyses (and speculation about) my findings, I must acknowledge the limitations of my study and present a rationale for the limited generability of my data. Certainly, my sample does not represent all young Bulgarian men, since the study participants were predominantly educated males from urban settings. Perhaps youth from rural Bulgaria who have been exposed to less diversity and educational opportunities and who live in areas where patriarchal values are stronger would have more extreme positions than the ones presented here. Yet, I am confident that introducing the thoughts and experiences of my survey participants can be useful to identifying tendencies in constructing and understanding masculinity in Bulgaria.

To that end, making sense of the presented data cannot be achieved without a look at the sociocultural context of Bulgaria. An empiric sociological study on organizational culture in Bulgaria based on the methodology of Geert Hofstede (Davidkov, 2004) contended that the Bulgarian society ranks among the countries with low level of individualism (Davidkov, 2004, p. 14), whereby Bulgaria ranks 21st, France 10th/11th, UK- 3rd and USA- 1st (Davidkov, 2004, p. 13). Within this theoretical frame, a collectivist society is one where “relationships prevail over tasks”, “identity is based in the social network to which one belongs to”, and “people are born into extended families or other in-groups which continue to protect them in exchange for loyalty” (Davidkov, 2004, p. 14). Furthermore, the Hofstede model provides an empirical formula for the calculation of a country’s “masculinity” (through identification of “masculinity index”).

A country is “masculine”, if its dominant values are success and progress, whereby  conflicts are fought out and people “work to live”. Women’s and men’s roles are, thereby, clearly defined: men are tough and ambitious, while women are tender and focused on relationship-building and maintenance (Davidkov, 2004, 18). According to these and other criteria, “the definitions of masculine and feminine define us as a nation having rather feminine behavior” (Davidkov, 2004, p. 18). In a “feminine” nation the normative values are caring for others and preservation: people and quality of relationships are seen as more important than money and success and both men and women are allowed to be tender, and both mothers and fathers deal with facts and feeling (while in “masculine” nations mothers attend to feelings and fathers- to facts). In this context, one works to live and resolves conflicts by negotiation and compromise (Davidkov, 2004, p. 18).

Within this sociocultural context, the attitudes towards masculinity found in my survey fit rather well the societal norms of a collectivist, “feminine” society which prioritizes interpersonal relationships and interdependency over an individualistic, materialist and achievement-oriented agenda.  Despite moving towards more capitalist, “Western” modes of production, trade and lifestyle, Bulgarians (and highly educated Bulgarians, at that) are still deeply affected by traditional and modernized values, highlighting the importance of community and mutual care. Despite exposure to American (and more broadly- Western) television and music and changes in dating and marriage patterns, the Bulgarian young male still constructs his identity as a man in relation to his upcoming roles of a romantic partner, father and responsible member of society. His less pronounced emphasis on professional and educational growth does not exclude such orientation, yet clearly demonstrates an operating hierarchy, whereby work does not score first.



  • Kimmel, M. S. (2000). “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity”, 213-219. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice: An Anthology on Racism, Antisemitism, Sexism, Heterosexism, Ableism, and Classism. New York, NY: Routldege.
  • Kimmel, M. S. (2008). Guyland: The perilous world where boys become men. New York: Harper.
  • Davidkov, T. (2004). Where do we stand? Papeles Del Este, 8, 1-22. Retrieved April 8, 2016, from https://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/PAPE/article/download/PAPE0404120001A/25824.


I am Woman, See Me Wink: Assessing Tuesday’s Election Results

What, if anything, should we conclude from the results of the last major set of elections before the November midterms?  The Main Stream Media (MSM) and several blogs have apparently decided to interpret the results through the gender frame (see here and here and here), by highlighting women winning Senate primaries in California and Arkansas, [...]