Men and Masculinities

BY PAM NILAN
Jun 13, 2012

A new book sheds light on the little studied field of male heterosexuality in Southeast Asia.

National Service is a key site for the continuing construction of Malay disadvantage and distrust in Singapore. Nevertheless, the Malay servicemen spoke about their military experience in largely positive terms that challenge the inference of Chinese men’s superiority. Their physical strength and practical aptitude were a strong source of pride for these Malay men when compared to the perceived physical weakness and scholarly orientation of their Chinese counterparts. The key theme in this chapter is race relations. It also gives a good sense of how men compensate for inferior occupational status by ascribing negative masculine attributes to their superiors.

As an edited collection, this book on masculinities in the region demonstrates an admirable consistency in the standard of writing and preservation of key themes. The reader is shown how Southeast Asian men construct their masculinities in the migrant context, in leisure and sex tourism, in the military, in race relations, and in urban gangs. The merit of the book lies in the diversity of masculine identities portrayed. Southeast Asia is a region in which gender relations are changing at an unprecedented rate. While many accounts of the changing roles of women have been produced, this book is one of few to look at the dynamic gender identities of men.

Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons, Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia, London & New York, Routledge, 2012.

Pam Nilan is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Newcastle. She is currently researching masculinities and violence in Indonesia.

This article was first published in Inside Indonesia.