Mourning Mayberry: Guns, Masculinity, and Socioeconomic Decline

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Mourning Mayberry: Guns, Masculinity, and Socioeconomic Decline

Category: Men|Journal: Gender & Society (full text)|Author: J Carlson|Year: 2015

This study uses in-depth interviews and participant observation with gun carriers in Michigan to examine how socioeconomic decline shapes the appropriation of guns by men of diverse class and race backgrounds. Gun carriers nostalgically referenced the decline of Mayberry America—a version of America characterized by the stable employment of male breadwinners and low crime rates. While men of color and poor and working-class men bear the material brunt of these transformations, this narrative of decline impacts how both privileged and marginalized men think of themselves as men because of the ideological centrality of breadwinning to American masculinity. Using Young’s (2003) “masculine protectionism” framework, I argue that against this backdrop of decline, men use guns not simply to instrumentally address the threat of crime but also to negotiate their own position within a context of socioeconomic decline by emphasizing their role as protector.

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