He Thinks He's Down
176 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
5 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Jun 2020

He Thinks He's Down

White Appropriations of Black Masculinities in the Civil Rights Era

UBC Press

The end of the Second World War saw a “crisis of white masculinity” brought on by social, political, and economic change. In He Thinks He’s Down, Katharine Bausch explores the specific phenomenon of white men appropriating black masculinities to benefit from what they believed were powerful black masculinities. It reveals the intricate relationships between racialized gender identities, cultural appropriation, and popular culture during the Civil Rights Era.

Drawing on case studies from three genres of popular culture – literature, fashion, and film – Bausch untangles the ways in which white male artists took on imagined black masculinities in their work in order to negotiate what it meant to be a man in America at this time.

Through this negotiation, the power and privilege of whiteness and of masculinity was reinforced. While Norman Mailer’s and Jack Kerouac’s literature, Hugh Hefner’s fashion features in Playboy magazine, and Hollywood Blaxploitation films may have engaged enthusiastically with tropes of black masculinity, Bausch finds they did little to change the racial and gendered stereotypes that perpetuated the power of white male privilege. Indeed, Bausch argues, white men’s use of black masculinities drained black men of their political and racial agency and reduced them once more to little more than stereotypes.

This book will appeal to scholars and students who focus on culture, race, and gender. It will also attract mainstream readers interested in popular culture and cultural appropriation.

Katharine Bausch is an award-winning instructor in the Pauline Jewett Institute of Gender and Women’s Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She has published several articles on the relationships between gender, race, sexuality, popular culture, and history, including on the subjects of appropriation, film, and Hip-Hop. Currently she is focusing her work on the methods and pedagogies of contemporary gender studies.

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