Masculinity and it's social constructs


Tonington
#1
After posting and reading some of the comments on the gender segregation thread, I thought I might post an essay I wrote a few years back for an anthropology course I took. It's not too long as far as essays go, about 1500 words. So, here it is:


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the social and cultural significance of the construction of masculinity.

The separation between sex and gender is a recent distinction. It is very important to recognize the differences between the biological and social meanings which create this separation. Sex is the biological differences between males and females. This includes the differences in genitalia, and the roles of each in reproduction. Gender, is the societal classification of masculine versus feminine. Thus, gender is a result of cultural and social views, based on society’s views of sex (Nanda and Warms, 2002).

There are four main concepts when dealing with masculinity. In studying the related topics of male identity, manliness, manhood and men’s roles, most reports will fit into these categories. The first is anything that men think or do, is by definition, masculine. Secondly, anything that men think or do in the name of being a man, is masculine. The third is that some men are going to be assumed to be manlier than other men based on existing notions. The fourth and final concept or category is, anything which is womanly, cannot be masculine, and masculinity is anything that women are not (Gutmann, 1997).

Throughout this paper, there will be an emphasis on the achievement of masculine ideals. These ideals are, being a good father, a good athlete, male bonding, becoming a good man and being a “real” man.

Being a good father is central to the idea of masculinity. There have been many studies done on the variety of fathering experiences. In Ireland, men are brought up to feel deficient as fathers and awkward around young children (Scheper-Hughes, 1979). In a more recent work by Scheper-Hughes, she wrote of fathers in an urban Brazil shantytown. Fathers as she wrote, are the men who provide infants with powdered milk. This milk is affectionately known as “father’s milk” (Scheper-Hughes, 1992). These examples show the differences cross culturally in the different views men have of masculinity and the roles of a father.

Success in competition and sports is a large factor in the evaluation of a man’s masculinity. So much so, that in New Zealand where rugby is the sport, not being able to play the sport is devastating to the men there. Being born with haemophilia is devastating to the father-son relationships there. In many cases, participation in rugby is a family tradition, and breaking that tradition is a point of sore content (Park, 2000). Mothers in New Zealand would indicate that other team sports would suit fine, but among the fathers and sons, there is agreement on the fact that rugby is the only way. The rise of rugby as a symbol of masculinity in New Zealand goes back as far as 1905, with the creation of the national team, called the All Blacks (Sinclair, 1986). The sport of rugby is played with relatively no protective gear. The men playing are fast, big, powerful men. Even men in peak physical shape succumb to injury easily in this sport. Rugby, in New Zealand has come to be a symbol of the dominant, hegemonic masculinity there (Park, 2000). It is not so very different in Canadian society either. Men dream of coaching their sons in hockey and playing the sport with them as they grow up. Recently there has been a call from many in the sports community to lower the age at which kids may start body checking. Some say it is so that they will learn how to check properly so as to decrease injuries to the young boys. Others believe that it is nonsense, and will just make the sport more violent. In women’s hockey, checking usually results in a penalty. This could be seen as a way to keep the checking to the big masculine males, not something that a woman should be doing.

Male bonding is a strong enforcer of masculinity. The term male bonding was first used by Lionel Tiger in 1984. He used the term to describe the times that men need away from women, to enforce feelings of camaraderie. Male bonding is an activity which has evolved over thousands of years - with biological roots – for the purpose of creating and maintaining alliances (Tiger, 1984). Male bonding also allows for men to gather and have an outlet to gage their own masculinity.

State institutions can play a role in the development of masculinity. In Bolivia, young men from the rural areas are placed into the military by conscription. The majority of these young men are members of minority groups ( Gill, 1997). Like minorities in other armies in history, they are the infantry who will be in the line of fire, while the dominant group members of their society remain out of harms way. Despite this fact, many young men are eager to serve. Military service becomes a step in which young males can develop their manhood; it symbolizes ones power and instills in them a courage needed to survive life’s frequent challenges (Gill, 1997). On page 529 of Gill’s article, she argues:

"The state, through the institution of the armed forces, conjoins key concepts of masculinity and beliefs about citizenship that are claimed by many of the poor as they simultaneously accommodate to domination and assert their own interests vis-à-vis each other and the dominant society. In this way, conscripts are not only men but civilians too, and all notions which are non-masculine are ridiculed and slighted."

Being a good man is vastly different than being good at being a man. Being good at being a man implies an excellence in performances considered masculine, while being a good man can be thought of as merely being born male (Gutmann, 1997). Striving for masculinity isn’t avoiding traits deemed as feminine; rather it is men achieving what only a male can achieve. A man’s identity is not solely based on his anatomy, it is also an accumulation of traits and characteristics which men work on for most of their lives.

In today’s cultures, there are many assumptions and conceptions of what a real man is. On television, they show us commercials of men with large bodies and rippling muscles. There are programs with men who have deep voices and make grunting noises while adding motorcycle engines to their lawn tractors. An almost universal concept, the concept of a “real” man, has led men to believe that the “real” men are daring, heroic, aggressive, proven to be virile and controls women.

Young children growing up observe gender stereotypes from adult culture, then practice, re-invent and reproduce them, incorporating them into their play habits ( Kikvidze, 2003). Kids will grow up thinking that this is what they must become, and it will be reinforced as they grow older and learn more about the social world. The need to test or prove manhood is known as the manhood puzzle (Nanda and Warms, 2002).Manhood is viewed as a precarious position, in which men are always being tested. This leads to the hyper masculine construction of “machismo”. This macho is seen as essential to the role as a male, the role of protector, procreator and provider to one’s family (Nanda and Warms, 2002).

In conclusion, the social constructions of masculinity take different forms, not only from society to society, but also from one institution to another. The way in which man becomes a more masculine man is very important to the individual and to the society. Inside the view of masculine, is everything that is important and in some instances trivial, to the lives of men. It includes the fears of being a good husband, a good father and a good provider for the family. It also includes the will to be seen as a strong individual, competitive and powerful. In short, it is all ones fears and hopes.
 
karrie
#2
I try very hard to make sure that for my kids, these sorts of role generalizations are not reinforced. But, when they occur naturally, I don't try to deny nature either.

My son plays Barbies with his sister. He sees his dad do the ironing, and help with dishes and cooking. But, he also goes to a boys' playgroup, which is oriented to the shorter attention spans and higher energy of boys in the 4-6 age range. When he's there however, he bakes cookies, and does crafts, just, in a way that appeals more to his specific interests.

The idea of a 'manly man' is a funny one to me, as so often, I view them with an air of suspicion. Living in High Level, there was a group of men who would go out hunting and fishing on a regular basis. They owned their own planes, and would fly to NWT once or twice a month. The would head into the bush and set up camps as soon as hunting season was coming on, and wouldn't take the camp down until hunting season was over. And never would they allow women to go. No women allowed whatsoever...... is anyone here familiar with the term 'on the down low'? That's all I could think *lol*.
 
karrie
#3
*sigh* sorry tonington.... I had meant to say as well...

Thanks for sharing your essay, I enjoyed it.
 
L Gilbert
#4
Anthropology and psychology of genders is interesting fersher.
I'm pretty strong, strong-willed, etc. yet I'm not very competitive. I played quite a few seasons of rugby but it wasn't to win, the game was just fun for me. Yet I have a friend who is extremely competitive in chess and a *****cat concerning everything else. Her and I both got quite a charge out of those macho type he-men doods always having to hunt for trophy game, play the toughest sports, etc. I have a cousin who is fairly small but somewhat sticky. She whupped most boys in high school at wrist wrestling and fixes her own vehicles. Another cousin is 14 years old, about 180 cm tall and about 98 kg. Been a hockey nut since he could pick up a puck. He's fairly shy and reserved, though.
 
Tonington
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

*sigh* sorry tonington.... I had meant to say as well...

Thanks for sharing your essay, I enjoyed it.

You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure if I were to write that essay today, there would be more topics I could choose from, there really wasn't much on the topic when I did my literary searches.

The times are a changing now. Manliness and what not evolves, likewise so does femininity. Way more papers on feminism.
 
karrie
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

The times are a changing now. Manliness and what not evolves, likewise so does femininity. Way more papers on feminism.

ah yes.... still many many many papers on feminism. Quite frankly, when it comes to feminism, I'm fed up with a large majority of it. In my experience, there's no freedom to be who I want to be, because feminism has declared that I am worthless because I don't want to be who they say I should. That, and I'm not willing to raise myself up by walking over men. Equality is all well and good, if what you are striving for is to raise everyone to a better level, not to beat one gender down to make the other look better.

Humanism is the order of the day in my opinion.
 
tamarin
#7
We're in a big transition period. It's nice that we have these brains and the means to tinker, through legislation, with long established gender roles and behaviour. But biological imperatives are deeprooted. Not easily unlearned.
Feminism has had its kick at the can and given how screwed up young women are today it's on the way out. To be replaced by heaven knows what.
Western society believes in submission and subjugation through legislation. The West will 'rule' you to death. It doesn't mean it's right. Or smart. It's our own little peculiarity.
It's not unlike spanking a dog every time it pees on your bush. You're going to get an awfully sore hand by the time you think you're successful.
 
Curiosity
#8
In spite of being reared in a house full of diva females....I absolutely love being a woman.....

That said...I also love men...all kinds of men who have all kinds of interests....

I love that we are equal these days and will not move an inch to help anyone gender group who enjoys putting down the other.

And if that makes me old fashioned - hooray - because I think it is one of the little quirks nature pretty much got right.... different genders of the same species....
Last edited by Curiosity; Jan 25th, 2007 at 06:50 PM..
 
MikeyDB
#9
Curiosity

Are you a proponent of asexual reproduction?
 
Curiosity
#10
Ah no MikeyDB

I meant that I celebrate our differences as long as both genders strive to maintain an equality in relationship between the two.

Asexual reproduction - bah what a bore it would be!

I think that little "ceremony of necessity" has it just right thank yew and I wouldn't change a thing!
 
hermanntrude
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by CuriosityView Post

Ah no MikeyDB

I meant that I celebrate our differences as long as both genders strive to maintain an equality in relationship between the two.

Asexual reproduction - bah what a bore it would be!

I think that little "ceremony of necessity" has it just right thank yew and I wouldn't change a thing!

amen
 
marygaspe
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by tamarinView Post

We're in a big transition period. It's nice that we have these brains and the means to tinker, through legislation, with long established gender roles and behaviour. But biological imperatives are deeprooted. Not easily unlearned.
Feminism has had its kick at the can and given how screwed up young women are today it's on the way out. To be replaced by heaven knows what.
Western society believes in submission and subjugation through legislation. The West will 'rule' you to death. It doesn't mean it's right. Or smart. It's our own little peculiarity.
It's not unlike spanking a dog every time it pees on your bush. You're going to get an awfully sore hand by the time you think you're successful.

It seems to me that we have been doing a great dis-service to our men.We use the courts to try and make them into male women, in a manner of speaking. Frankly, I think it will turn against us as men in our society begin to get back their, excuse the pun, balls and begin to remember what it is to be men again.
 
sanctus
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by marygaspeView Post

It seems to me that we have been doing a great dis-service to our men.We use the courts to try and make them into male women, in a manner of speaking. Frankly, I think it will turn against us as men in our society begin to get back their, excuse the pun, balls and begin to remember what it is to be men again.

There is a small, but growing movement of men who feel the same way as you do. It is not so much that one wants to embrace the stereotype of the 1950's Ricky Ricardo version of a man/husband, but more that many of us men realize we must be honest with what we actually are as males. We are not, and never will be, women. We are not better than women, but we are not like them. It is time we stop this reverse sexism and once again allow men to be men.
 
karrie
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by sanctusView Post

There is a small, but growing movement of men who feel the same way as you do. It is not so much that one wants to embrace the stereotype of the 1950's Ricky Ricardo version of a man/husband, but more that many of us men realize we must be honest with what we actually are as males. We are not, and never will be, women. We are not better than women, but we are not like them. It is time we stop this reverse sexism and once again allow men to be men.

Within my age group, those who are launching a backlash against radical feminist ideas is anything but a small group. Take me for instance. I am feircely loyal to my husband, and he is feircely loyal to me. We are a team in all things in our lives, from child rearing to earning the income. Yet, he is portrayed as an unthinking neanderthal, and I as an oppressed, stupid, lazy woman, in common media because we chose to marry and start our family early, and valued the opportunity for me to stay home and raise my children. I am bright, energetic (or was until fibromyalgia started eating that away), and I think women are equals to men... to be painted in a bad light by feminist literature simply because I wanted to stay home and enjoy my children while they were young, has been a source of constant irritation to me. And to have my husband, who seeks my opinion on everything, who hires women to do 'mens' jobs within his company, who encourages education and enlightenment of all people, be painted by feminism as an oppressor simply because we fell in love and chose to marry, gets under my skin immensely.

As much as it should NOT be expected that we fulfill a gender role, it should NOT be expected that we live outside of it either.

I will have an essay to post soon, I'm in the process of writing it, which discusses the limitations that the feminist movement put on my choices. It wasn't a freeing thing for me. I think it needs to be followed up with a movement pushing for equality and freedom of choice for all humanity.

Wow, look at me rant... *lol*
 
mapleleafgirl
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Withi
As much as it should NOT be expected that we fulfill a gender role, it should NOT be expected that we live outside of it either.

I will have an essay to post soon, I'm in the process of writing it, which discusses the limitations that the feminist movement put on my choices. It wasn't a freeing thing for me. I think it needs to be followed up with a movement pushing for equality and freedom of choice for all humanity.

Wow, look at me rant... *lol*

cant wait to read it. hey, heres a question. our next door neighbour is a stay at home dad cos his wife makes so much money/ everybody on our streets says hes lazy or askes him why hes babysitting his kids. why is it wrong for a man to be a homemaker cos if it was his wife that stayed home theyd talk about how dedicated to her family she was.
 
Tonington
#16
Wow, nice responses.

The whole issue I think is the hung up on labels, differences and wants. For every different personality type, we are writing new books, creating new labels to distinguish a set of people. Differences are highlighted, and choice is irrelevant. What one person wants may be very different from another group or even that of their own group. Everyone talks about how political correctness has run amok, and this is a key area I believe we are moving backwards.

Choices like Karrie's lose meaning when she is tucked neatly into some compartment. There is no reason to hold one choice here above another. Mothers or any other parent who lives home and takes a genuine influence in raising their kids should not be scrutinized so. A mother, a father, a same sex parent, anyone who chooses this option is doing our future generation a huge favour. Differences should be shown to be a good thing, and isn't that what most parents tyr to enstill? I can't speak for veryone but I know that is what my mother did.

We've been ingrained to notice differences by media outlets. It wasn't so long ago that kids were separated based on a variety of our societies institutions. Now instead of having separate school classes across the board by gender segregation and racial prejudices, we are neatly trying to package bahaviours, disallowing behaviour regardless of choice or otherwise and deeming what is acceptable for a man or woman.

If one boils it down to corporate deviance, it becomes apparent where this PC road has taken a wrong turn.
 
karrie
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by mapleleafgirlView Post

cant wait to read it. hey, heres a question. our next door neighbour is a stay at home dad cos his wife makes so much money/ everybody on our streets says hes lazy or askes him why hes babysitting his kids. why is it wrong for a man to be a homemaker cos if it was his wife that stayed home theyd talk about how dedicated to her family she was.

Wow, here it's often the opposite. Stay at home dads are applauded for flying in the face of convention, and stay at home moms are repeatedly asked "when are you going to start work?" "what could you possibly be doing all day?" "doesn't it bother you to that he makes you stay home?" A stay at home dad is seen as simply being dedicated, but full of choices, options, and education. I feel for your neighbor if he's getting such negative talk about him. That's not right. When my hubby and I talked about having kids, we were adamant someone would stay home. He offered, but, I can't make the kind of money he can in the oilpatch (mainly because I'm not willing to work in the oilpatch *lol*), and I had always wanted to stay at home to raise my kids.
 
karrie
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

We've been ingrained to notice differences by media outlets. It wasn't so long ago that kids were separated based on a variety of our societies institutions. Now instead of having separate school classes across the board by gender segregation and racial prejudices, we are neatly trying to package bahaviours, disallowing behaviour regardless of choice or otherwise and deeming what is acceptable for a man or woman.

If one boils it down to corporate deviance, it becomes apparent where this PC road has taken a wrong turn.

The PC road has been one that has had an ill effect on gender, but as you point out there are other areas that used to be segregated but no longer are, and it has had a negative impact in some of those areas too. Here, due to some of the cultural differences in upbringing, first nations students are simply not on track with caucasian and asian students in the public school system. There's been a push by many of the leaders to re-segregate the schools, and there already supplementary programs in place, so that first nations children can get an education better tailored to their way of learning. Trying to pretend that everything is all equal, 100% the same across racial lines, has resulted in so many children being given a half a__ed education. It's extremely frustrating.

*Edit*... poor wording on my part, I do feel all things are equal between races, but not so for cultures. DIfference in the way we are raised account for differences in learningand other skills. If all races were raised in 100% identical enviros, all races would be 100% the same.
Last edited by karrie; Jan 27th, 2007 at 12:11 PM..Reason: explain poor wording
 
talloola
#19
I have four daughters.
#1 - Married, no children arrived, loved to be in the workplace, and now they have successful
business.

#2Needs to work, needs personal financial power, only stayed home for "maternity leave", would not
be a very good stay at home mother.

#3 - Works part time, and is a "wonderful" flutist, plays in group functions, and musical productions.
Arranges her work "around" her children's time at home.

#4 - Insists on being at home and does "home schooling".


So, everyone has to arrange their lives according to their own desires, (and partners's of course),
there is no "rule" for everyone

There are very few husbands who would stay at home, but for those that do, if it works for their
families, then go for it.

I apologize for jumping from masculinity to "my daughters", but my point is, how the family decides, who is
going to stay home, or not, and if it is the husband/father, that's just fine.
(Did I squirm out of this situation OK?)
Last edited by talloola; Jan 27th, 2007 at 04:44 PM..
 
Curiosity
#20
Talloola

It appears by your message your daughters have their lives planned as they would want it to be and this is beneficial for them and their families....

What stands out here of course if your omission of the partners and their wishes.... which I think is
the core of the topic....what masculinity has become in our society....

Marriage to me has always been a team both adults arriving at decisions in which they have to sacrifice as little as possible regarding their own abilities and desires....

Do you assume the husbands are fulfilled, or are making that assumption through the fulfillment of your daughter's ability to have their own needs met.
 
talloola
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by CuriosityView Post

Talloola

It appears by your message your daughters have their lives planned as they would want it to be and this is beneficial for them and their families....

What stands out here of course if your omission of the partners and their wishes.... which I think is
the core of the topic....what masculinity has become in our society....

Marriage to me has always been a team both adults arriving at decisions in which they have to sacrifice as little as possible regarding their own abilities and desires....

Do you assume the husbands are fulfilled, or are making that assumption through the fulfillment of your daughter's ability to have their own needs met.

Yeah, I didn't go into detail, as I don't like to drag on and on,but none ofthose partnerships would
have succeeded without a "two way" partnership, so be assured there was harmoney in all of those
decisions, although in the case of my 4th daughter, she would not have done it any other way, so
it's a good thing that it was a "happy" decision for both of them, as she was, (as I was) a mother
who would not go to work and leave her childen with "anybody".
 

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