Men Writing Men

  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik


Such was the impact of second wave feminism that the 1980s saw the invention of the term ‘crisis in masculinity’. However, as Michael Roper and John Tosh have pointed out, the phenomenon is not new: ‘Masculinity is always bound up with negotiations about power, and is often therefore experienced as tenuous’.1 One of the effects of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s was to focus the spotlight on gendered social practices and on sexuality. Thus by the 1980s there was a growing popular understanding that gender was not synonymous with the biological body, that gender and sex are not synonymous. This is nicely illustrated in a comic vein by the popular satirical television series, Spitting Image, which portrayed the then prime minister, Mrs Thatcher (otherwise known as ‘The Iron Lady’ and ‘Attila the Hen’, to quote two of her more repeatable nicknames), dressed in a man’s suit. Topped with the three-dimensional caricature that was the latex head of the Spitting Image puppet, this representation of Mrs Thatcher became equally as familiar to the British in the 1980s as the dulcet tones and gentle visage of ‘the lady’ herself.2 Along with similar puppets, ‘she’ was manipulated to participate in scenes of public and private life in which her weaknesses and strengths alike were ruthlessly satirized. In addition to adopting male dress, ‘Mrs Thatcher’ was shown behaving in a far more masculine manner than her male Cabinet colleagues.


Gender Identity Sexual Desire Masculine Manner Country House Wave Feminism 
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  1. 1.
    Michael Roper and John Tosh (eds), Manful Assertions: Masculinities in Britain since 1800 (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 18. Roper and Tosh cite the experience of male office clerks in the late Victorian period and the development of the Boy Scout movement in 1908 as other example of the modern era.Google Scholar
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    ‘The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there’ (L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between [1953; Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970], p. 1). McGrath’s Spider (1991) and Asylum (1996) are both set in the 1950s and Dr Haggard’s Disease (1993) is set just before and during the Second World War. Martha Peake (2000) is an exception to these mid-twentieth-century settings, the action taking place in the 1770s.Google Scholar
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    ‘So-called “homosexual panic” is the most private psychologized form in which many twentieth-century western men experience their vulnerability to the social pressures of homophobic blackmail; even for them, however, that is only one path of control, complementary to public sanctions through the institutions described by Foucault and others as defining and regulating the amorphous territory of “the sexual”’ (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men [New York: Columbia University Press, 1985], p. 89).Google Scholar

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© Avril M. Horner and Susan H. Zlosnik 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik

There are no affiliations available

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