Redefining Masculinity

With all of this talk of the new woman, it only makes sense that society would begin to contemplate the new man. Newsweek attempted to transform a worn down male identity into a modern lifestyle. Though this may have been the goal of “Man Up!”, I felt personally insulted by this story. The message it sent to me was much less appealing, and frankly, quite narrow-minded.

According to this article, masculinity can only be defined within the domain of an archetypal American household. The modern man defines himself, as always, by his home, his wife, and his 2.3 children All the article suggests that men do is start to look after the kids some more. I have more faith in men than that.

To be a modern man, apparently six-pack Joe (dare I even use this banal paradigm?) just has to put down his bottle of beer and make sure that little Suzie isn’t choking on whatever it is children asphyxiate on these days. What kind of model is this for the modern man? Is it really progressive to essentially tell men to be who they have always been? The opening line states “guys need to embrace girly jobs.” Progress cannot be achieved if masculinity is being defined by its correlation to female gender roles, and gender reform cannot take place when we still assume these traditional positions. A man’s evolution can only happen when he begins to cultivate a true sense of masculinity that is related to who he is as an individual. Reinventing the masculine identity is not making yourself more feminine; rather, it is striving to become you.  Viewing yourself in an inverse relationship with femininity will not change a thing.

Newsweek suggested that the homosexual, or otherwise non-hetero population did not fall under this new definition of masculinity. I think that it is truly heinous to even imply that a new definition of masculinity has arrived if the sole criterion has not changed. This article limits masculinity to the typical heterosexual male, and does not even begin to consider everyone else that is out there (just a blanket statement for every type of person who identifies with the male gender). Also, if one follows this logic, if heterosexual males are the only men entitled to masculinity, then the heterosexual household is the only correct model that exists within this narrow mindset, taking away the legitimacy of homosexual couples and their families. Instead of rallying for progress, this article insists that men preserve their conservative views on masculinity with renewed fervor.

This terrifies me to be completely honest. I don’t really want to live through the 4th Great Awakening. This article is an attempt at conserving antiquated values through sugarcoating them with taking on women’s responsibilities. One can even point to the author’s flippant use of the phrase ‘coming out,’ and declaring oneself to be a father that needs to participate in the running of the household. Though the idea is great, it diminishes the power of the coming out experience, something that hurts me on a personal level. These men don’t have to radically change the way society will view them, they simply have to pick up some of the slack at home. This masculine institution blatantly rejects the homosexual male, and everyone who identifies with this gender.

By the end of this essay of ideas, the authors end up advocating “decorative masculinity.” It is deemed a form of escapism, in which men can assume the role of hunter, or Tarzan, or other stereotypical macho roles. “When the actual substance of their lives felt tight,” men should escape into a dream world instead of attempting to effect actual change in their lives where they could live with a fulfilling masculinity, and not a forgery. If men need to hide behind old idols of masculinity in order to feel manly, then masculinity in its current form is inherently false. Newsweek tells me that masculinity is escape from, well, masculine responsibilities, which is an intrinsic contradiction.  Men should not uphold a code that does not satisfy them, and we should aim to live lives that we can bear while still maintaining an adapted masculine model.

Though I found a good bone to pick with this piece of writing, it was informative nonetheless. It had interesting information about the current job market and the male/female ratios and how women have successfully infiltrated that market over the past several decades. Corporations are also recognizing the new responsibilities that a father has in the home, and many are offering a paternity leave so that fathers can spend time with their newborns. I laud what has been done to make men and women’s lives more equitable. I just question the idea of masculine progress that is presented here.

For men to advance, it has to be a change within the male community, and it cannot be a reaction to the changing needs of women. Also, a new masculinity requires that the definition of this identity be expanded to include every type of man, and all households in America. Inter-gender relations are still improving, but men seriously need to reconsider their premises. The article states that the “New Macho” is a paradox. It is a paradox because men are expected to change socially without transforming emotionally. The desired effect cannot happen without the appropriate cause.

Alec also writes for his own blog: B.A.M. Be A Man

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Alec A
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