Although music is, for all intents and purposes, an abstract arrangement of sounds, it can “represent” masculinity. If, as feminist cultural critic Judith Butler claims, gender is performance, a behavior learned and practiced since birth, then the music created and consumed by American men, like other conduits of culture, can reinforce gender norms by embodying “masculine” qualities. Throughout America's history, men (who usually excluded women from public music making) have indeed created music to enforce and reinforce the dominant models of masculinity of their time and culture. At the same time, music has also offered reactions against and alternatives to the mainstream versions of masculinity in music.

Colonial Music

As early as the colonial period, music provided important markers of American manhood. Among white colonists, whose notions ...

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