Dealing with Modern Masculinity in Crisis
The 20th century has been the century of revolution. Our lives have been transformed drastically over the past 100 years. Science and technology have changed the way of living and society and cultures haven’t been left unaffected as well. Men who used to enjoy dominance and vitality in the society because of their masculinity have been left searching for a role in modern society. This issue has been termed as the ‘modern masculinity in crisis’ theory. Dealing with modern masculinity in crisis is being discussed heavily by sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists. Let’s look into this matter by defining the terms and then comparing masculinity in the past and contemporary era.
Manhood and Qualities of Manhood
Defining manhood might be a difficult task since manhood is not something physical or related to anatomy or age but a particular set of qualities. Manhood is a definite and distinct concept and someone being termed unmanly carries a certain stigma in our society and culture. It means that he lacks the basic qualities expected of a good/decent man. ‘Man up’ and ‘be a man’ indicates that the person being referred to lacks the qualities or character attributed to manhood. Womanhood is not as stressed with inherent moral expectations while manhood certainly is, and it is necessary to understand in considering what makes a man.
Manhood can’t be expressed or described by listing certain character qualities because of the wide range of cultures and societies which form and affect it. The list below is, however, a compilation of some of the most important widely practiced and culturally expected qualities of manhood according to cultural anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists who have studied the nature of manhood across diverse cultures and time.
- Strength and Courage: Power and strength are manly traits and highly desirable in men. Strength and courage are essential qualities attributed to men much more than women. A man is expected to face difficulties with courage and fearless resolve.
- Provide and Protect: Men from as early as the beginning of time have been the ones protecting and providing for their families. This is considered as his duty and he doesn’t skip out on this duty. Even if he never marries, he’s expected to do this for his family and even provide for others in various ways.
- Assertiveness and Independence: Men are known to dominate and assert themselves in western society. Working independently seems to be a distinguishing feature where they can assert themselves as leaders or prominent performers.
- Leadership: “Men are born leaders” is a common understanding. This is quite applicable to our society since most people are quite skeptical in assigning a leadership role to women and consider it a male’s position. This does not negate women in leadership but speaks to what is still the norm.
- Sex appeal: Attraction and appeal to the opposite gender is also considered an important virtue of manhood. It’s important to mention here that having multiple sex partners and a womanizing nature isn’t a desirable masculine character, but positive vibes and due sex appeal is certainly looked-for in males. Read on to address this.
Masculinity Characteristics and Healthy Masculinity
Men and women are born different. Defining masculinity explicitly is a hard task since the definition has many perspectives and it relates to many eras. Men are however characterized by some traits and habits which form the concept of masculinity. These masculinity characteristics aren’t strictly specific to men and can be adopted by women but these characteristics and traits over time have developed the meaning of masculinity. The traits related to masculinity are discussed below.
Masculinity can be negative or positive. Machismo is a form of masculinity considered to be negative as it emphasizes power and is often associated with strength, energy, and sex drive. Such masculinity is sometimes referred to as toxic male masculinity.
Healthy Masculinity is characterized by traits and habits opposite to the toxic masculinity characteristics. It means being honest with oneself about your own feelings, needs, and desires. It involves treating others with the kindness and respect that you deserve. Healthy masculinity means not using your size, strength, or power to get what you want from others. Some of the healthy masculinity characteristics are as follows:
- Honesty and Moral Strength: These qualities are expected from every human being but they have a certain masculine definition as well. A man is expected to do what is right and call out others who do not. Temptation presents itself to every man, but the decisions and actions he takes in light of it significantly determine his manhood.
- Self-Control: Controlling your temptations stands out in the qualities of manhood. A man ought to control his strength, appetite, independence, language, and power – and respect them. He urges others to do the same.
- Respect: It is the most desired trait in a man since a man with no respect for women, elderly people or fellow beings can’t attain the level of mature manhood. A good man shows respect for himself and those he meets, regardless of their station.
- Loyalty: Manhood requires a man to be loyal to his family, friends, and others who are close to him, even at a great price to himself.
Toxic Male Masculinity
Toxic masculinity explains the attributing of harmful habits of “maleness” to manhood. It doesn’t necessarily mean that masculinity is bad or that it is bad to be a man. However, it does point out some traits which are wrongly associated with masculinity and are presented in forms such as toxic/negative masculinity or machoism, etc. These habits/traits are very harmful or toxic for women and even for men since they affect their mental, physical, emotional, and relational health adversely.
Toxic masculinity can be seen in our society in ways such as the notion that it’s “unmanly” or “weak” to express one’s feelings or to cry; the idea that manliness is all about the number of women you have had sex with; or the idea that men should get into fights with one another to express their dominance, etc.
What is Masculinity in Crisis?
Masculinity has been in crisis in one way or another both past and present. In the past, men were considered as too strong or sturdy to show any emotion or sign or weakness, leading to mental and emotional problems. The modern era allowed for some space, but in some ways men are being deprived of even the just manhood or manly image they deserve by denying the inherent difference between men and women.
Modern Masculinity in Crisis
Men once enjoyed the role of the sole breadwinner or provider through hard work, and felt proud in providing and protecting for his family. Some men used their assertiveness and independence negatively, but most males used it wisely. The changing labor market, deindustrialization, and innovation in industries by technology has allowed more women to enter the labor force, significantly reducing its emphasis on physical strength and thus lesser contribution by and importance of the role of men in modern society.
British sociologist John MacInnes summarizes the origin of crisis precisely in saying that the crisis arises from the “fundamental incompatibility between the core principle of modernity that all human beings are essentially equal (regardless of their sex) and the core tenet of patriarchy that men are naturally superior to women and thus destined to rule over them”.
How to Deal?
Dealing with modern masculinity in crisis is a hot topic nowadays. Better check supplemental options to enhance manhood. Not many can find a just answer that satisfies both parties completely, so we’ll leave you with a piece of advice in this matter. Male and female genders need to strike a balance: while men must engage in a process of intentional self-growth and commitment to change in order to promote healthy masculinity, women must not be too hard on men and must allow the part of masculinity with which nature endows them. Healthy masculinity must be our aim, for the betterment of men, women, and the cultures they inhabit.