Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Masculinity: is it what is used to be?

I see Masculinity as an inconsistent epoch. So is Femininity, however women are free to change at will (and do quite often).

Masculine definitions are: I can solve it. I can MAKE it happen. I am more powerful than the problem I face. I will show no weakness! Men are significantly less likely to visit their physicians to receive preventive health care examinations. Why? Too many see it as a sign of weakens.

In many cultures displaying characteristics not typical to one's gender may become a social problem for the individual. Among men, some non-standard behaviors may be considered a sign of homosexuality or femininity. Within sociology such labeling and conditioning is known as gender assumptions. These can have a powerful impact on people, and is a part of socialization to better match a culture's mores and acceptance. The corresponding social condemnation of excessive masculinity may be expressed in terms such as "machismo" or "testosterone poisoning."

Research on beer commercials show some results relevant to studies of masculinity. In beer commercials, the ideas of masculinity (especially risk-taking) are presented and encouraged. The commercials often focus on situations where a man is overcoming an obstacle in a group. The men will either be working hard or playing hard. For instance the commercial will show men who do physical labor such as construction workers, or farm work, or men who are cowboys.

Beer commercials that involve playing hard have a central theme of mastery (over nature or over each other), risk, and adventure. For instance, the men will be outdoors fishing, camping, playing sports, or hanging out in bars. There is usually an element of danger as well as a focus on movement and speed. This appeals to and emphasizes the idea that real men overcome danger and enjoy speed (i.e. fast cars/driving fast). The bar serves as a setting for test of masculinity (skills like pool, strength and drinking ability) and serves as a center for male socializing. Thereby drinking this beer you are displaying your masculinity by association.

The reverse can be true for car commercials, how many women are shown as the driver with a male passenger? Laundry commercials: men doing laundry? Dish soap, furniture polish, any cleaning products at all? Even Mr. Clean doesn’t DO anything other than display his masculine figure as a symbol of strength. The media displays a very definite icon of masculinity.

Cultural reflections on things show we can want changes, and I want to help to shape those changes. Let's make it okay for men to wear kilts, let's make it okay for anyone to be courtly and accept change. Let's make more options for more people, regardless of presentation. We can help shape this change if it is something we all believe in.

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