Apr 14
Ccook's picture

Hyper-Masculinity: Society's Set Up

Masculinity. It’s a word charged with preconception and delusion. Its definition - possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men - is straightforward. It was when I looked at the synonyms produced by my google search that I became alarmed. Strength, Ruggedness, and virility, all (apparently) are synonymous to the meaning of manhood. Really, it’s not surprising. But it should be. We live in a culture today where the warped social construction of masculinity and what it means to be a man has been accepted as a permissible reality. Boys are raised from infancy with the incessant repetition of the same three lies; being a “real man” comes with physical prowess, economic success, and sexual conquest. The demand to “be a man” has become one of the most insidiously destructive phrases in this society.

    Andrew Reiner addressed this prominent problem in his article “Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest,” published in the New York Times on April 4th. Reiner explores “the hallmark of the masculine psyche - the shame over feeling any sadness, despair or strong emotion other than anger,” and how it negatively impacts men, and our society as a whole. The pressure to “earn your Man Card,” Reiner writes, leads to men approaching education and institutions of the like with “studied indifference.” And this indifference is, without a doubt, studied. Boys aren’t born with apathy more inherent than girls. But, for whatever reason, we have chosen to label the act of caring - both for other people and personal success - as unmanly. And this choice has led to the escalation of indifference - where emotional suppression, insensitivity, and even aggression are characteristic of many men, and the mask of this alternate persona must be adopted in order to survive.

    What Reiner fails to address is exactly how we “socialize this vulnerability” out of men - and why. He accurately states that “tough-guy stereotypes die hard,” but why have we cultivated them to begin with? Until we can learn to acknowledge, address, and move beyond these stereotypes, males will continue to fall into the ultimate societal trap: the encouragement of hyper-masculinity (of which women are equally at fault) as a survival tool, and its ultimate condemnation when it leads to delinquency, insensitivity, or even crime, later in life. In this way, changing the meaning of masculinity affects more than the male population trapped in its definition. It benefits society as a whole. But it has to coalesce with a changing mentality surrounding women for progress to really occur, and these benefits to really be felt. Much of the basis for what men are told to hide, or criticised for showing, is founded in the characteristics that are negatively associated with women. Emphasizing that masculinity and femininity involve a spectrum of characteristics, most of them overlapping, is important in overcoming the misconception of what is “manly.” By reinforcing the concept of fundamental equality - that all people are created equal and that one sex should dominate another - it becomes more apparent why the characteristics of one sex should not and can not be celebrated while the others’ is suppressed.