Publication Date

Summer 8-2013


Men and Masculinities





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This article examines religious practices in the United States, which govern modesty and other dress norms for men. I focus both on the spaces within which they most collide with regulatory regimes of the state and the legal implications of these norms, particularly for observant Muslim men. Undergirding the research are those ‘‘gender equality’’ claims made by many religious adherents, that men are required to maintain proper modesty norms just as are women. Also undergirding the research is the extensive anti-Islam bias in American culture today. The spaces within which men’s religiously proscribed dress and grooming norms are most at issue—indicated by First Amendment legal challenges to rights of religious practice—are primarily those state-controlled, total institutions Goffman describes, such as in the military and prisons. The implications of gendered modesty norms are important, as state control over religious expression in prisons, for example, is much more difficult to contest than in other spaces, although this depends entirely on who is doing the contesting and within which religious context. In American society today—and particularly within the context of growing Islamaphobia following the 9/11 attacks—the implications are greatest for those men practicing ‘‘prison Islam.’’