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During the first half of the twentieth century, men were often associated with images of industrialization

Masculinity is manly character. It specifically describes men and boys , that is personal and human, unlike male which can also be used to describe animals, or masculine which can also be used to describe noun classes. When masculine is used to describe men, it can have degrees of comparison—more masculine, most masculine. The opposite can be expressed by terms such as unmanly, epicene or effeminate.[1] A typical near-synonym of masculinity is virility (from Latin la:vir, man);[1] and the usual complement is femininity.[1]


[edit] Literature review

[edit] Ancient

Cicero wrote that "a man's chief quality is courage."[2]

Ancient literature goes back to about 3000 BC. It includes both explicit statements of what was expected of men in laws, and implicit suggestions about masculinity in myths involving gods and heroes. Men throughout history have gone to meet exacting cultural standards of what is considered attractive. Kate Cooper, writing about ancient understandings of femininity, suggests that, "Wherever a woman is mentioned a man's character is being judged — and along with it what he stands for."[3] One well-known representative of this literature is the Code of Hammurabi (from about 1750 BC).

  • Rule 3: "If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death."
  • Rule 128: "If a man takes a woman to wife, but has no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him."[4]

Scholars suggest integrity and equality as masculine values in male-male relationships,[5] and virility in male-female relationships. Legends of ancient heroes include: The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Such narratives are considered to reveal qualities in the hero that inspired respect, like wisdom or courage, the knowing of things that other men do not know and the taking of risks that other men would not dare.

[edit] Medieval

Jeffrey Richards describes a European, "medieval masculinity which was essentially Christian and chivalric."[6] Again ethics, courage and generosity are seen as characteristic of the portrayal of men in literary history. In Anglo Saxon, Beowulf and, in several languages, the legends of King Arthur are famous examples of medieval ideals of masculinity. The documented ideals include many examples of an "exaulted" place for women, in romance and courtly love.

[edit] Masculine physical attributes

Some research has indicated that a number[clarification needed] of heterosexual women may be aroused by broad chins, high cheekbones, and find large eyes as the most attractive, though there are cultural differences in those preferences. Some research has also indicated that women recognize a good body as indicative of a man of discipline and self-control.

Although the actual stereotypes may have remained relatively constant, the value attached to the masculine and feminine stereotypes seem to have changed over the past few decades.

[edit] Biology and culture

Direct competition of physical skill and strength is a feature of masculinity which appears in some form in virtually every culture on Earth. Here, two U.S. Marines compete in a wrestling match.

Masculinity has its roots in genetics (see gender).[7][8] Therefore while masculinity looks different in different cultures, there are common aspects to its definition across cultures.[9]

Some gender studies scholars will use the phrase "hegemonic masculinity" to refer to an ideal of male behaviour which men are strongly encouraged to aim, which is calculated to guarantee the dominant position of some men over others.

[edit] Western trends

According to a paper submitted by Tracy Tylka to the American Psychological Association (APA), in contemporary America: "Instead of seeing a decrease in objectification of women in society, there has just been an increase in the objectification of both sexes. And you can see that in the media today." Men and women restrict their food intake in an effort to achieve what they consider an attractively thin body, in extreme cases leading to eating disorders.[10] Thomas Holbrook, also a psychiatrist, cites a recent Canadian study indicating as many as one in six of those with eating disorders were men.[11]

"Younger men and women who read fitness and fashion magazines could be psychologically harmed by the images of perfect female and male physiques," according to recent research in the United Kingdom. Some young women and men exercise excessively in an effort to achieve what they consider an attractively fit and muscular body, which in extreme cases can lead to body dysmorphic disorder or muscle dysmorphia.[12][13][14]

[edit] Development of masculinity

A great deal is now known about the development of masculine characteristics and the process of sexual differentiation specific to the reproductive system of homo sapiens. The SRY gene on the Y chromosome interferes with the process of creating a female, causing a chain of events that leads to testes formation, androgen production, and a range of both natal and post-natal hormonal effects.

A construction worker in 1942.

There is an extensive debate about how children develop gender identities.

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,. Within sociology such labeling and conditioning is known as gender assumptions, and is a part of socialization to better match a culture's mores. The corresponding social condemnation of excessive masculinity may be expressed in terms such as "machismo" or "testosterone poisoning."

The relative importance of the roles of socialization and genetics in the development of masculinity continues to be debated. While social conditioning obviously plays a role, it can also be observed that certain aspects of the feminine and masculine identity exist in almost all human cultures.

The historical development of gender role is addressed by such fields as behavioral genetics, evolutionary psychology, human ecology and sociobiology. All human cultures seem to encourage the development of gender roles, through literature, costume and song. Some examples of this might include the epics of Homer, the King Arthur tales in English, the normative commentaries of Confucius or biographical studies of the prophet Muhammad. More specialized treatments of masculinity may be found in works such as the Bhagavad Gita or bushido's Hagakure.

Another term for a masculine woman is "butch", which is associated with lesbianism. "Butch" is also used within the lesbian community, without a negative connotation, but with a more specific meaning (Davis and Lapovsky Kennedy, 1989).

[edit] Pressures associated with masculinity

In 1987, Eisler and Skidmore did studies on masculinity and created the idea of 'masculine stress'. They found four mechanisms of masculinity that accompany masculine gender role often result in emotional stress. They include:

  • the emphasis on prevailing in situations requiring body and fitness
  • being perceived as emotional
  • the need to feel adequate in regard to sexual matters and work

[edit] Risk-taking

The driver fatality rate per vehicle miles driven is higher for women than for men. [15] Men drive significantly more miles than women, so, on average, they are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. Even in the narrow category of young (16-20) driver fatalities with a high blood alcohol content (BAC), a male's risk of dying is higher than a female's risk at the Same BAC level. [16] That is, young women drivers need to be more drunk to have the same risk of dying in a fatal accident as young men drivers. Men are in fact three times more likely to die in all kinds of accidents than women. In the United States, men make up 92% of workplace deaths, indicating either a greater willingness to perform dangerous work, or a societal expectation to perform this work.[17]

[edit] Health care

Men are significantly less likely to visit their physicians to receive preventive health care examinations. American men make 134.5 million fewer physician visits than American women each year. In fact, men make only 40.8% of all physician visits. A quarter of the men who are 45 to 60 do not have a personal physician. Many men should go to annual heart checkups with physicians but do not, increasing their risk of death from heart disease. Men between the ages of 25 and 65 are four times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than women. Men are more likely to be diagnosed in a later stage of a terminal illness because of their reluctance to go to the doctor.

Reasons men give for not having annual physicals and not visiting their physician include fear, denial, embarrassment, a dislike of situations out of their control, or not worth the time or cost.

[edit] Media encouragement

Portrayals of idealized masculine physique in the media, like their female counterparts, are controversial for what some see as promoting an unrealistic or unachievable ideal. Here, the Carlson Twins model clothing.

According to Arran Stibbe (2004), men's health problems and behaviors can be linked to the socialized gender role of men in our culture. In exploring magazines, he found that they promote traditional masculinity and claims that, among other things, men's magazines tend to celebrate "male" activities and behavior such as admiring guns, fast cars, sexually libertine women, and reading or viewing pornography regularly. In men's magazines, several "ideal" images of men are promoted, and that these images may even entail certain health risks.

[edit] Alcohol consumption behavior

Research on beer commercials by Strate (Postman, Nystrom, Strate, And Weingartner 1987; Strate 1989, 1990) and by Wenner (1991) 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.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, 3rd. ed., Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
  2. ^ "Viri autem propria maxime est fortitudo." Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, 1:11:18.
  3. ^ Kate Cooper, The Virgin and The Bride: Idealized Womanhood in Late Antiquity, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 19.
  4. ^ The Code of Hammurabi, translated by LW King, 1910.
  5. ^ Karen Bassi, ['Acting like Men: Gender, Drama, and Nostalgia in Ancient Greece', Classical Philology 96 (2001): 86-92.]
  6. ^ Jeffrey Richards, 'From Christianity to Paganism: The New Middle Ages and the Values of ‘Medieval’ Masculinity,' Cultural Values 3 (1999): 213-234.
  7. ^ John Money, 'The concept of gender identity disorder in childhood and adolescence after 39 years', Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 20 (1994): 163-77.
  8. ^ Laura Stanton and Brenna Maloney, 'The Perception of Pain', Washington Post, 19 December 2006.
  9. ^ Donald Brown, Human Universals
  10. ^ Pressure To Be More Muscular May Lead Men To Unhealthy Behaviors
  11. ^ Thinner: The Male Battle With Anorexia - New York Times
  12. ^ BBC NEWS | Health | Magazines 'harm male body image'
  13. ^ Muscle dysmorphia -
  14. ^ Men Muscle in on Body Image Problems | LiveScience
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ CFOI Charts, 1992-2006

[edit] References

  • Levine, Martin P. (1998). Gay Macho. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-4694-2.
  • Stibbe, Arran. (2004). "Health and the Social Construction of Masculinity in Men's Health Magazine." Men and Masculinities; 7 (1) July, pp. 31-51.
  • Strate, Lance "Beer Commercials: A Manual on Masculinity" Men's Lives Kimmel, Michael S. and Messner, Michael A. ed. Allyn and Bacon. Boston, London: 2001

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Present situation

  • Arrindell, Willem A., Ph.D. (1 October 2005) "Masculine Gender Role Stress" Psychiatric Times Pg. 31
  • Ashe, Fidelma (2007) The New Politics of Masculinity, London and New York: Routledge.
  • Burstin, Fay "What's Killing Men". Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia). October 15, 2005.
  • Canada, Geoffrey "Learning to Fight" Men's Lives Kimmel, Michael S. and Messner, Michael A. ed. Allyn and Bacon. Boston, London: 2001
  • Raewyn Connell: Masculinities (as Robert W. Connell), Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995 ISBN 0-7456-1469-8
  • Courtenay, Will "Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men's well-being: a theory of gender and health" Social Science and Medicine, yr: 2000 vol: 50 iss: 10 pg: 1385–1401
  • bell hooks, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, Taylor & Francis 2004, ISBN 0415969271
  • Levant & Pollack (1995) A New Psychology of Men, New York: BasicBooks
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark (2005): Why guys throw bombs. About terror and masculinity (pdf)
  • Kaufman, Michael "The Construction of Masculinity and the Triad of Men's Violence". Men's Lives Kimmel, Michael S. and Messner, Michael A. ed. Allyn and Bacon. Boston, London: 2001
  • Mansfield, Harvey. Manliness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 0300106645
  • Robinson, L. (October 21, 2005). Not just boys being boys: Brutal hazings are a product of a culture of masculinity defined by violence, aggression and domination. Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario).
  • Stephenson, June (1995). Men are Not Cost Effective: Male Crime in America. ISBN 0-06-095098-6
  • Williamson P. "Their own worst enemy" Nursing Times: 91 (48) 29 November 95 p 24-7
  • Wray Herbert "Survival Skills" U.S. News & World Report Vol. 139 , No. 11; Pg. 63 September 26, 2005
  • "Masculinity for Boys"; published by UNESCO, New Delhi, 2006;

[edit] History

  • Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America, New York [etc.]: The Free Press 1996
  • A Question of Manhood: A Reader in U.S. Black Mens History and Masculinity, edited by Earnestine Jenkins and Darlene Clark Hine, Indiana University press vol1: 1999, vol. 2: 2001
  • Gary Taylor, Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood, Routledge 2002
  • Klaus Theweleit, Male fantasies, Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1987 and Polity Press, 1987
  • Peter N. Stearns, Be a Man!: Males in Modern Society, Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1990

[edit] External links


  • The Men's Bibliography, a comprehensive bibliography of writing on men, masculinities, gender and sexualities, listing over 16,700 works. (mainly from a constructionist perspective)
  • Boyhood Studies, features a 2200+ bibliography of young masculinities.


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