In a previous post for XY online we discussed the Spike TV show “MANswers”, what the show insinuated about men and women, as well as its treatment of “hypermasculinity” through its focus on violence, toughness, aggression, binge drinking and dangerous behaviors. Spike TV is very specific in regards to the shows that it airs and can be described as a channel that is aimed at men, where the focal point is on “manly interests”. Spike TV focuses heavily on “hypermasculinity” which can be noticed in the names and contents of shows such as “MANswers”, “Deadliest Warrior” and “1000 Days to Die”. When involving men, the television channel promotes this “hypermasculinity”. When dealing with women the channel focuses on what we can call “emphasized femininity”, highlighting the outward appearance of women while celebrating attractiveness and women as sex objects for male pleasure.
Since 2007 Spike TV has held Spike Guys’ Choice Awards, which is fairly similar to the MTV Movie Awards. The “trophies” handed out during the Guys’ Choice Awards, known as the “mantlers” (a golden pair of antlers on a wooden pedestal) reiterate the notion that Spike TV is for men. The antlers are supposed to symbolize the stag, which is often associated with masculinity. The 2012 award show was broadcasted on June 9 and we therefore thought it appropriate to discuss this award show and the type of masculinity and femininity that it promotes.
Although using the same format as other award shows, Spike Guys’ Choice Awards has some interesting categories. Previous awards and categories mentioned that involve references to “hypermasculinity” include: “Biggest Ass Kicker”, “Most Unstoppable Jock”, “Most Dangerous Man”, “Real Sports Miracle”, “Funniest M.F”, “Top Fantasy Leaguer”, “Play of the Year”, “Guy Movie Hall of Fame”, “Guy Movie of the Year”, “Brass Balls Awards”, “Deadliest Warrior”, “Mankind Award”, “Guy of the Year”, “Game with the Most Game”, “Play of the Year”, “Most Manticipated Movie”, “GUYcon”, “Alpha Male Award” and “Manvention of the Year”. It is important to mention that not all categories are included in our description of the award show. However, there are no categories that do not focus on the type of “hypermasculinity” that Spike TV promotes.
The awards and categories that mention women and the focus on women’s attractiveness are the following: “Hottest Girl on the Planet”, “Gift From the Gods”, “Femme Fatale”, “Naughtiest Cybervixen”, “Sexiest Import”, “Fiercest Female”, “Hot & Funny”, “Hot N’ Fresh”, “So Hot They're Famous”, “Sexiest Siren”, “Hottest “Eva”, “Jessica”, “Mila” (and so on)”, “Decade of Hotness”, “Porn Again”, “Sexiest Athlete”, “Hottest Twins”, “Hotshot”, “Holy Grail of Hot”, “Best Girl on Girl Scene”, “Hotter than Hell” and “Our New Girlfriend”.
The categories are very specific and are, to say the least, encouraging of traditional and divided gender categories, which focusing on men’s strength, aggression and violence and on women’s attractiveness. Many of the categories differ from year to year but the implied messages and the type of categories have not considerably changed. The categories presented reflect the “fact” that men are interested in “guy movies”, video games and sports while women are treated as accessories and judged by their “hotness”. The Guys’ Choice Awards only recognizes one type of masculinity and one type of femininity and the award show focuses heavily, without exceptions, on hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity.
The type of man that the Guys’ Choice Awards encourage is one that is strong (“Most Unstoppable Jock”), aggressive (“Biggest Ass Kicker”), violent (“Most Dangerous Man”), heterosexual (“Our New Girlfriend”), interested in sexy and attractive women only (“Hottest Girl on the Planet”) as well as sports (“Play of the Year”), movies (“Guy Movie of the Year”) and video games (“Game with the Most Game”). No other type of masculinity is mentioned, included or awarded. Thereby, all other forms of masculinities are actively discouraged since men who do not fit the category of hypermasculinity, cannot be presented as “winners”.
Spike TV, and its award show, assumes that all men have the same interests and that all men are interested in the same type of masculine behavior. After all, the show is called Guys’ Choice Award, which implies that all men are included when in fact they are not. The name of the show, together with its selective categories, suggests that men are a hegemonic group that share the exact same interests and appreciate the same type of male role models. As we discussed in the previous post about “MANswers”, male homosexuality is never mentioned and is actively discouraged through the focus on compulsory heterosexuality. Focus is also placed on women as sexual objects, as hot and sexy accessories, not as partners or as equals. The only two categories in which partnership is ever mentioned are “Luckiest Bastard” and “Our New Girlfriend”. “Luckiest Bastard” includes men who are dating attractive women. These men are however not “lucky bastards” based on any other criteria than the attractiveness of their girlfriends. The category “Our New Girlfriend” infers ownership of the women in the category and the value of women is dependent solely on their looks.
As noted, the type of femininity that is encouraged throughout the Guys’ Choice Award is one that is hot, sexy, attractive, and submissive, but not talented. For example, the three categories “Fiercest Female”, “Sexiest Athlete” and “Hot & Funny” include talented women, but the focus is predominately on women’s appearance, not their talent. Despite the insinuation of talent, the category “Hot & Funny” only appears to acknowledge funny women who are also hot. Since this is an award show that inherently awards men’s achievements, women are only awarded if they are attractive enough. The athlete, for example, (“Sexiest Athlete”) is not recognized for her achievements in sport but for her level of attractiveness. Less stereotypically attractive (but perhaps more talented) women are thereby excluded from nomination. The appreciation of attractiveness and beauty is only encouraged for women since basically all categories that mention women emphasizes attractiveness. None of the categories that include men focus on attractiveness as the main criteria for winning. The award show thereby presents women’s attractiveness as a vital part of women’s, but not men’s, lives and successes.
Not only does the award show encourage and award one type of masculinity but it also punishes other masculinities by inferring that these other types of less traditional and stereotypical masculinities are not worth awarding but instead are excluded from attention and encouragement. Thereby, the show clearly implies which type of masculinity is the preferred and “right” one. This sends a message to men that if you act a certain way as a man you will be rewarded and perhaps awarded a “mantler”. If you do not, you are excluded from the “right” type of masculinity and from societal appreciation and respect from “real” men. For women, the award show implies that you will be rewarded and awarded by simply being attractive, sexy and hot. There is no need for talent or skill since women are evaluated solely based on their attractiveness. The award show also clearly suggests that there are, and should be, major differences between men and women. Men should be strong and aggressive while women should be attractive and submissive. It suggests that women are less talented and exist for male pleasures only; that women exist for the benefit of men as something attractive to look at. We find the Spike Guys’ Choice Award and its stereotypical presentation of gender categories troubling because it is another form of gender policing that infers the right way to be, act and look, both for men and for women.
Elin Weiss has a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies. Hennie Weiss has a Master’s Degree in Sociology. Their interests include feminism, gender stereotypes, the sexualization of women and the portrayal of women and men in media.