Masculinity in “Broad City”

In Dude, You’re A Fag, C. J. Pascoe describes masculinity as the assertion of dominance in situations, showing that you have power over others, and general competence. Most often, the use of the word “fag” is triggered from someone demonstrating incompetence in some area or the lack of ability in a situation. This use of the word “fag” is to promptly highlight the person’s lack of masculinity. Although masculinity can often be tied to the male body, it is not essential to possessing the quality of “being masculine.” This is shown through Pascoe’s interviews with females at the high school who were either seen as masculine by the rest of the high school community or saw themselves as masculine. These girls often dressed in masculine ways and shunned traditionally feminine qualities.

However, Pascoe never explored the possibility of masculine traits appearing in truly feminine women. Since the integral traits of Pascoe’s definition of masculinity are not directly tied to masculine appearances, this idea should not seem so impossible as to not explore it in the book.

The popular TV series, Broad City, is often described as feminist, since it features two confident women living their lives in New York City. I think these women possess the qualities of masculinity, such as asserting dominance in situations which demand it, and showing their abilities to cope with situations and be competent. However, these women do not outwardly express physical signs of masculinity, such as wearing masculine clothing or presenting their bodies as anything other than female.

When asked the question, “do you see yourself as a masculine person?”, I do not think either of these women would say yes, despite the distinct masculine attributes of their personalities. Often times they will use masculine language with each other, such as calling each other “dude,” but they also are always aware of their femininity, asserting power in themselves and other women based on their female body attributes. In the first clip, Abbi and Ilana demonstrate masculine qualities while presenting themselves in a feminine way, by wearing dresses, makeup and flattering hairstyles. Ilana asserts her dominance and shows that she is competent, (more competent than the host of the party), by convincing him that she brought a bottle of wine, while in reality she didn’t care enough to do so. Abbi also intends to assert her dominance by asking for a promotion in her job.

In the second clip, Ilana wears feminine clothing that exposes her midriff and highlights her chest, but also asserts her dominance in a very tangible way in that she has her employees call her “Ms. Wexler,” and overdramatically gives them orders in a somewhat condescending manner. It should be noted, however, that this is a caricature of Ilana’s character, and she normally would not be so borderline disrespectful, even though her employees enjoy having her as a boss. This situation serves as a satirical analysis of authority and in some ways, masculinity itself.

Do you think that these traits of masculinity must always be paired with some form of physical representation as well? If these are the defining traits of masculinity, what then are the defining traits of femininity? Should Pascoe find a different definition of masculinity if these traits can be found in outwardly nonmasculine women?

 

References:

Dude, You’re A Fag by C. J. Pascoe

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