Masculinity is described by denying any semblance of softness, emotion, femininity, or any characteristic associated with women and femininity. In Greek mythology, Heracles is synonymous with Apollonian masculinity.
Masculinity (manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behaviours, and roles associated with boys and men, which is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex, and differing standards of what masculinity or manhood means, across different cultures and historical periods, therefore, Masculinity is an integral aspect for both genders, as males and females can exhibit masculine traits and behaviours, indicating the fluidity of masculinity.
Traditional traits viewed as masculine in western society include;
Male bravado (machismo) is a form of masculinity that emphasizes power and is often associated with a disregard for consequences and responsibility. Virility is similar to masculinity, but especially emphasizes strength, energy, and sex drive.
Some other definitions of masculinity;
- An avoidance of femininity.
- Restricted emotions, or being restricted to express emotions.
- Robotic Sex – disconnected from intimacy, without healing.
- A pursuit of achievement and status.
- Self-reliance, independence.
- Strength and aggression.
- and lastly, homophobia.
These norms reinforce gender roles by associating attributes and characteristics with one gender. Yet masculine energy affects both genders!
A traditional family in western culture consists of the male/father as breadwinner and the mother as homemaker. Despite women’s increasing participation in the paid labour force and contributions to family income, men’s identities remained centred on their working lives and specifically their economic contributions, thereby, by passing the household and the labour needed to keep the household running smoothly. Masculine men assume the role of a provider role, because in today’s culture, masculinity is often measured by the size of one’s pay check/economic contribution to the family as opposed to the true nature that masculinity offers.
The importance of socialization and genetics in the development of masculinity is still debated among scholars today. Social conditioning plays a major role, psychologist – Jung and psychoanalyst Freud both believed that aspects of ‘Feminine and Masculine’ is subconsciously present in all human males (Animus). Masculinity may be influenced by biology, but in reality, it is also a social and cultural construct where many aspects of masculinity are assumed to be natural, linguistically and culturally driven. The phrase ‘boys don’t cry, and ‘Man up’, are familiar because for aeons, as a society, we have put these expectations on young boys, further embedding the masculine culture.
Fathers have a powerful influence on their sons, passing on to them the cultural norms for social behaviour along with family traditions. Society and peer pressure further compounds the masculine mould.
On the nurture side of the debate, it’s argued that masculinity does not have a single source. Although the military does promote a specific form of masculinity, it does not create it. Hair is linked to masculinity through language, stories about boys becoming men when they begin to shave, fathers encouraging their sons to participate in ‘Male dominated sports,’ the added pressure from their fathers and the expectation they place on their sons – to continue the family name, to provide labour, to build a career. Overlooking an important aspect of healthy development – emotions!
In Western culture, female masculinity is associated into identities such as ‘tomboy’ and ‘butch’. Although female masculinity is often associated with lesbianism, – expressing masculinity is not necessarily related to a woman’s sexuality, because the animus is fluid between genders. Yet masculine women are often subject to social stigma and harassment, although the influence of the feminist movement has led to greater acceptance of women expressing masculinity in recent decades, it still has a long way to go.
Women have had to tolerate the harassment and stigma that has haunted them for entering into a masculine environment, yet men are more reluctant to express or even embrace, the feminine that they hide inside, for fear of ridicule from friends, family and society in general.
Women with stereotypically masculine personality traits are more likely to gain access to high-paying occupations than women with feminine personality traits, and the women who do have a higher balance of masculine traits can be seen in the corporate world, acting as heads of companies and other important roles. Evening out the imbalance of the two genders, further consolidating the fact that masculine energy affects women also!
Women who participate in male-dominated sports, are sometimes mocked as being masculine. Even though most sports emphasize stereotypical masculine qualities, such as strength, competition, and aggression.
The downside to masculinity is that males are more at risk with their health, physically, mentally and emotionally! And an unfortunate side effect to this, is the fact that men die younger!!
- 25% percent of men aged 45 to 60 do not have a personal physician, increasing their risk of death from heart disease.
- Men between 25 and 65 are four times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than women and are more likely to be diagnosed with a terminal illness because of their reluctance to see a doctor.
- Reasons cited for not seeing a physician include fear, denial, embarrassment, a dislike of situations out of their control and the belief that visiting a doctor is not worth the time or cost. Some men give little thought to their health and the long-term consequences, in favour of recklessness.
- Sadly, suicide is the leading cause of death for males could masculinity be part of this problem? Or could this be centred around the emotions and lack of understanding around nurture and caring. The reasons for this spike in suicides is worthy of debate, because suicide is internal emotional pain, and due to the conditioning of masculinity that has been projected to boys, during the formative years by family conditioning, the internal conflicts around their masculinity, creates an inner struggle, between the expectations of peers and culture as opposed to leading their own path, away from previous childhood programming and being a man in their own right.
Where stereotypes may have remained constant over time, the value attached to masculine stereotypes has changed; it could be argued that masculinity is an unstable phenomenon, that’s never ultimately achieved! Due the innate aspect of the animus, masculinity is therefore expressed through aggression and violence as opposed to revealing a defenceless vulnerable emotion. Then there is the added pressure from social norms, associated with masculinity. On top of that, there is the emotional aspect of men appearing to be emancipated should they discuss their feelings and emotions, when socializing in society preferring to brush aside any emotional aspects avoiding discussion, due to not wanting to look, or appear weak and vulnerable!
Studies carried out on men with spinal-cord injuries help us to look behind masculinity and look at the core issues they face after a catastrophic injury. Men who have experienced an injury have spoken of their experiences and report how they adapt their self-identity to the losses associated with such injuries; which could lead to feelings of decreased physical and sexual prowess with lowered self-esteem and a loss of male identity. Feelings of guilt and overall loss of control are also reported from their experience.
Masculinity and the need for men to present themselves this way, offers them a protective barrier away from intimacy and nurturing. Yet a lack of trust towards women can also restrict a mans urge to show his vulnerability and tender side, further confabulating the conflict within. In the long term, they risk dying of a broken heart, because they were too afraid to open their heart for fear of their own vulnerability and femininity to allow themselves to be emotional and to be seen.
In domestic abuse scenarios, men abuse for a plethora of reasons, and societal constructs are integral, yet what stands out the most is the need for men to be the dominant partner in the relationship – which leads to controlling, violence and aggression, because an innate aspect of masculinity is to maintain control, at all times! These men execute control, over their wife and family, consequently losing control of themselves in the process. They ultimately fail in their ability to be a mature, responsible man because they lost all control!
Domestic Violence may be a women’s social issue, yet men are the leading gender of abusers, with 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 10 men, experiencing abuse, therefore domestic violence could effectively represent ‘a masculine problem,’ that will only change, when men come together and agree to stop such barbaric behaviour against their women, and vice versa –
Humanity will make a huge leap forward. When the two teams or genders, decide to come together, to resolve and remove abuse and control from intimate relationships!
Masculinity is an integral aspect of being male, but does it really need the additional violence? Or is this energy, the unstabling factor that disrupts and destroys relationships, because of one party needig to be ‘in control!’ Unconsciously, somewhere in the depths of their minds, men understand and know that they need to learn to control their own aggressive outbursts, achieving this is another concept altogether. The true test of a man is to be in control without being controlling. Yet what we seem to see is men being too controlling, to ensure they don’t lose control!!