Modern Concepts of Masculinity

Posted: 8th June 2013 by admin in Articles, Uncategorized

by swlancas

The phrase ‘hegemonic masculinity’ tends to capture a realistic portrayal of social life; put bluntly men continue to hold more economic, political, and social power more than women. As according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, globally men continue to earn 17.6 percent more on average of what women do. Men also continue to compromise the majority (96 percent) of CEOs (Catalyst 2013) and only 48.3% of medical school applicants within the United States were women. American masculinity continues to be defined by such features such as toughness, disregard for authority, and viewing the degradation of women as both humorous and necessary. However, it could be argued that masculinity is a more complex notion that could arguably be defined based on one’s individual definition of self. One could be defined as flamboyant, eccentric, and physically weak yet by one’s own self-definition could be defined as masculine. It should be considered whether the concept of masculinity should be viewed as something that can be objectively determined based on a global consensus, or whether it really can be defined from individual to individual. Perhaps as long as one is putting in a suitable amount of mental and physical effort into defining one’s own masculinity, perhaps they should be granted this title. However, measures for this would also have to be agreed upon and determined. Put tersely, masculinity is an elusive term that can be defined and framed in many ways.

Kimmel discusses the development of the marketplace men, or the evolution of men who existed to perform physical labor to men who evolved after the industrial revolution and the advent of machine labor to perform more sedentary yet arguably more mentally challenging jobs. Connell would state there are no pressures to negate femininity. I disagree with this statement as it seems as if femininity as well as masculinity can be defined in a multitude of ways, only if one is viewing masculinity and femininity through a lens of a hegemonic power structure. As Kimmel would argue “…a constantly changing collection of meanings that we construct through our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with our world” (Kimmel 1994).

Brannon also discusses homosexual men’s placement in the realm of masculinity specifically in terms of four phrases 1) no sissy stuff 2) be a big wheel 3) be a sturdy oak 4) give ‘em hell, that are crucial tests that determine one’s status as masculine. McGuffey conducts a study where he found that the majority of fathers of CSA boys were concerned that their sons had expressed an excessive amount of emotions, and therefore did not match their standards of masculinity (McGuffey 2008).

Perhaps one could be defined as masculine if they live by the standards of a long, healthy and altruistic. Whereas one could be described as feminine if they follow a more hedonistic and selfish life. Of course these definitions can always be twisted and turned, parodied, and played upon by humans to match their own self definitions of gender. As Pascoe illustrates, one’s masculinity, as well as femininity, will be defined differently depending on one’s racial, ethnic, and SES status. One’s modes of living, verbal and bodily language, as well as other aspects of their culture including food, clothing, work, and type of recreation would determine their role as either masculine or feminine and would vary depending on one’s history as well as one’s economic and geographical constraints. It should be considered how various homosexual men either define themselves as masculine or feminine, as sexual orientation seems less and less to define oneself as masculine.

Silence is another key factor discussed by Kimmel which describes how masculinity is currently perceived. Silence can be thought of as a trait that protects secrets maintained by men who hold power in economic, political, as well as knowledge domains. Secret societies such as the Free Masons who are thought to hold secrets relevant to the creation and preservation of various significant political agendas (via the appropriate social connections) could be perceived as masculine, as they are responsible for the preservation of these aforementioned groups necessary for the perpetuation of important political structures (Kimmel 1994).

Masculinity could also be defined in purely sexual terms, or one’s ability to procreate by disseminating semen into female reproductive organs, or narrowly defined purely by one’s physical health, meaning their likelihood of living a long life as well as their athletic ability or other measures of their physical prowess (amount of weight one can deadlift, how far one can shot-put, how quickly one can run, etc.). These fairly simple, antiquated, stereotyped, and somewhat limited measures could be used as the new standards in determining whether or not one qualifies as masculine. The usefulness of these narrowly defined measures could be that they provide measures of masculinity that can actually be determined objectively rather than on one’s subjective perspective which is highly individualized and potentially skewed from a global consensus. Although physical or objective measures of masculinity would have the potential to determine an objective global status. Masculinity could also be measured by one’s ability to make use of multiple forms of etiquette in a variety of different social situations. Although etiquette is not quite an objectively measurable standard as one’s ability to lift weights, one can still observe and take notes on elements of etiquette including body posture, dress, use of proper language, voice intonation, and use of various types of utensils.

Generally speaking masculinity is a complex topic that can defined from multiple standpoints, both objective and subjective in nature as well as physically and mentally speaking. Defining masculinity in alternative ways that account for certain personality traits would have to take into account the basic components and patterns of masculinity which tend to be defined by one’s ability to hold power over another.