Here's to all the real men out there...
Boys play house, men build homes
Boys will be what we teach them to be.
Masculinity is a set of attributes,
behaviors, and roles associated with men and boys.
A Real Man
"Man's inherent nature is to be curious, gentle, intimate, responsible, enthusiastic, sensual, tolerant, courageous, honest, vulnerable, affectionate, proud, spiritual, committed, wild, nurturing, peaceful, helpful, intense, compassionate, happy and to fully and safely express all emotions. When will we stop training him to be otherwise?" - Gordon Clay
Toxic Masculinity *
Toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall, which does not condemn men or male attributes, but rather emphasizes the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.
* Shephard Bliss was one of first if not the first to coin the words "Toxic Masculinity" in his writings "Behaviors of Toxic Masculinity."
Putting My Man Face On College Mens Gender Identity
Toxic Masculinity - Wikipedia
See also: Incel, Machismo, Male privilege, Patriarchy, Sexism
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Critically About Rural Gender Relations: Toward a Rural
Masculinity Crisis/Male Peer Support Model of
Separation/Divorce Sexual Assault
: the quality or nature of the
male sex : the quality, state, or degree of being masculine
First Known Use of masculinity
1613, in the meaning defined above
Masculinities and Femininities
M. Kimmel, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2001
Masculinities and femininities refer to the social roles, behaviors, and meanings prescribed for men and women in any society at any time. Such normative gender ideologies must be distinguished from biological sex, and must be understood to be plural as there is no single definition for all men and all women. Masculinities and femininities are structured and expressed through other axes of identity such as class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexuality. Thus some definitions are held up as the hegemonic versions, against which others are measured. Gender ideologies are more than properties of individuals; masculinities and femininities are also institutionally organized and elaborated and experienced through interactions.
Masculinity and the Focus on Sport
The study of masculinity and femininity provides one method for investigating the underlying sociocultural context of the ideal body image. Masculinity and femininity have been conceptualized as multidimensional constructs which include gender role stereotypes, adherence to traditional gender role norms, gender role conflict, and gender role stress. These constructs reflect stereotypes about the beliefs and behaviors typically attributed to males and females, which are acquired as they learn about the world and their roles in it. They also contain social norms that prescribe and proscribe what males and females should feel and do. The Western cultural view of masculinity and the masculine gender roles prescribed for males are very clear. Males need to be powerful, strong, and efficacious. The sporting context is one of the main forums that Western males have for demonstrating the various aspects of masculinity that are closely aligned with the pursuit of muscularity. These include athletic strength and superiority, competitiveness, toughness, endurance, leadership, status, power, and authority.
The focus on sport is also an important positive socializing influence for boys. For adolescent boys, participation in any kind of sport is related to higher self-esteem, and adolescent boys more than girls perceive that the function of sport participation is to increase their social status and peer popularity. A focus on sport is also one of the main ways that males have for demonstrating and strengthening various facets of masculinity that are closely aligned with the pursuit of muscularity. Interviews with adolescents have shown that the majority of adolescent boys are reluctant to focus on their body per se but through their talk about sport, the boys openly discussed what they liked and did not like about their body. In addition, this research showed that what boys liked about their bodies and the aspects they wanted to improve were synonymous with the attributes associated with being successful at sport. Surveys with adolescents have also shown that male physical attributes associated with athleticism and physical superiority are among the main predictors of the drive for muscularity among adolescent boys.
Meditation, Yoga, and Men's Health
Claire Postl, Lawrence C. Jenkins, in Effects of Lifestyle on Men's Health, 2019
Social constructs of masculinity and socialization play a key role in men's ability to seek help. Men struggle with emotional expression and the identification of coping mechanisms due to constructs of masculinity. Meditative practices, which are female dominated in our society, are not as frequently sought out by men [19, 20, 27]. Medical and mental health providers can help men utilize meditative practices as complementary and alternative medicine.
Firstly, providers should incorporate a social worker or mental health provider into their referral network. Social workers can provide men with resources to help manage psychosocial stress, including meditative practices. Awareness of psychosocial adjustment, support systems, and coping skills are needed and should be assessed regularly . Having an integrated social worker or mental health provider can help to normalize the stress that cycles alongside health issues and provide easier linking to services.
Secondly, providers should talk about masculinity and the barriers men face when seeking help. Men are more likely to seek help if barriers are actively addressed by medical providers . Discussing masculinity and social influences that shape emotional expression can help to normalize the stress that the patient may be experiencing.
Lastly, patients should be educated on the different services and interventions available for the management of stress . Providers should educate men on meditative practices and potential benefits related to patients stress-related issues. Similarly, providers should encourage participation in meditative practices pre- and postmedical diagnoses. In order for providers to gain comfort in talking with men about meditative practices, it is encouraged that providers practice meditation, mindfulness, or yoga themselves .
Gender and Culture
Conceptions of masculinity and femininity vary widely across cultures, but two universals are plausible: (i) To varying degrees, every society assigns traits or tasks on the basis of sex, and (ii) the status of women is inferior to the status of men in every society. As one would expect based on these generalizations, extensive differences do exist in the work roles of men and women. Examining jobs and tasks in 244 societies, Roy DAndrade found that men were involved in hunting, metal work, and weapon making and tended to travel further from home than women. Women were responsible for food preparation, carrying water, caring for clothing, and various child-rearing responsibilities. Although womens subsistence activities generally included child-rearing demands, some did hunt in societies in which this activity did not compete with child care. The strong sex segregation for child-rearing duties was mirrored by another study that found that men were significant caretakers in only 10% of the 80 cultures examined. However, both sexes seemed to be flexible enough to adapt to a range of socioeconomic roles.
Today, women account for a substantial proportion of the worlds labor force. With decreases in infant mortality and fertility, women now spend less time in child-rearing roles. Furthermore, technological advances have allowed women in many parts of the world to separate childbearing from child-rearing and thereby contribute to the family through jobs outside the home.
However, womens increased autonomy has not been paralleled by increased acceptance or equality. For example, in a 56-country study of labor trends from 1960 to 1980, the job market was marked by declines in womens occupational opportunities and increases in sex segregation. When measured by per capita gross national product and womens level of education, modernization was associated with increased segregation of the sexes. Additionally, increased workplace involvement for women correlated with decreases in total fertility rate. Women continue to be disadvantaged in the workplace, most overtly through persistent salary discrepancies that favor men. In addition to womens lower salaries is evidence suggesting that women prefer traditionally female jobs, especially those offering extensive contact with other people. Moreover, these jobs tend to be low paying. On the contrary, men tend to prefer jobs with high income and promotion opportunities.
Even in the countries with the highest proportion of females in the labor force, women continue to face inequality within the home. Studies in several North American and European countries have found that women perform a majority of the housework, regardless of the extent of their occupational demands. Along with children and larger homes comes reduced male involvement in domestic chores. This is surprising in light of the previous suggestion that increases in education and income are associated with more modern sex role views (i.e., equality in the workforce). However, studies suggest that systematic differences in sex role ideology persist in these more modern countries. For example, in the United States, Great Britain, West Germany, and Austria, people with relatively high levels of education and women with employed husbands indicated less support for efforts to reduce gender inequality compared to those with less education and women without employed husbands. Such findings suggest that even the subjective change in perceived life quality associated with improved socioeconomic conditions may be greater for men than women.
Mens Mental Health and Masculinities
Overview and Theories of Masculinity
Within broad definitions of health and wellness, gender figures significantly in individuals feelings, thoughts, appearance, behavior, and embodiment. Masculinity is a form of gender, variously defined as an identity, a social role, and a form of power and is typically, though not exclusively, associated with men. In the socialization of masculinity, boys and men are encouraged to reject or avoid anything stereotypically feminine, to be tough and aggressive, suppress emotions (other than anger), distance themselves emotionally and physically from other men, and strive toward competition, success and power. In particular, anti-femininity and homophobia are at the core of what traditional masculinity means. Boys and men are rewarded in a variety of settings such as schools, intimate relationships, the workplace, military, and prisons for adhering to these stereotypic expectations and often are punished or rejected for violating them. However, fulfillment of these gendered expectations is also associated with a range of health and social problems including anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and interpersonal violence.
The role of gender in health is often analyzed in terms of sex differences, in which the prevalence and severity of mens mental health disorders and help-seeking are compared to womens. Although such comparative analysis may be useful in identifying domains where there is a possible connection between biological sex and health, such analyses are analytically incomplete and potentially misleading. The relatively few differences in actual behavior and health outcomes between men and women are overemphasized and the greater variation existing within each group is underappreciated. An expanded analysis is needed that goes beyond a sex comparative lens to address the connection between masculinity and mental health among diverse men. Consequently, we pursue an intersectional analysis that attends closely to the complex diversity in masculinities as they are related to mental health among individuals belonging to different cultures marked by race, class, gender, age, sexuality, ability, and so forth.
We begin our analysis by tracing the development of theories of gender and masculinity, including the psychoanalytic theory of gender identity, the social psychological theory of gender roles, and a sociological theory of intersectionality in masculinities. Next, we summarize what research has shown about the relationship between various aspects of masculinity, such as male gender role stress, and mental health among men. In particular, we review the connection between masculinity and specific health problems that men experience including depression and suicide, violence victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, and stress. Then, we discuss how the values comprising masculinity are especially reinforced and amplified in particular settings, such as prisons and jails. The impact of masculinity on mens mental health and well-being is especially pronounced in these contexts. Finally, we examine the implications of theory and research on masculinity for psychological practice, intervention and social action that improves mens mental health and well-being.
The earliest theory of masculinity in modern psychology was built on psychoanalytic and personality theories that ascribed gender mainly to natural, inevitable biological forces. Gender identity theory argues that biological sex and gender are synonymous in healthy, well adjusted individuals. Gender identity is unidimensional, such that greater masculinity means the person has less feminine identity, and vice-versa. Healthy, securely-adjusted men identify and display characteristics defined as masculine while also disidentifying with and not displaying feminine characteristics. In this view, normative personality development among biological males leads to a masculine gender identity (Terman and Miles, 1936), and deviations, such as men with stereotypically feminine gender identity, including homosexual behavior, or exaggerated masculinity (i.e., hypermasculinity) indicated unhealthy or insecure gender identity development. The conflation of gender and sexuality is noteworthy. Failure among men to demonstrate masculinity is understood to be problematic, a symptom of gender identity disorder or weakness. Personality tests such as the Attitude Interest Analysis Test that were designed to measure gender identity included assessments of specific interests and knowledge of the respondent that were believed to indicate an underlying gender identity. Some data using measures of conventional adjustment at the time indicated that more masculine men were better functioning and healthier.
Sex (Gender) Role Identity
In the late 1970s, Bem (1981) advanced an alternative theory, known as gender schema or sex role identity theory. She argued that masculine and feminine identity and characteristics vary independently within persons. Consequently, individuals could have clearly masculine or feminine identities, or an androgynous combination of stereotypically gendered characteristics, or characteristics not identified with either gender (i.e., undifferentiated). The assessment used to measure sex role identity emphasized an individuals endorsement of personality traits that were defined by the authors as either masculine or feminine. Androgynous individuals were defined as those who rated themselves as having masculine and feminine characteristics; and substantial data indicated that these individuals were typically the most well adjusted and mentally healthy.
Gender Role Conflict and Strain
Subsequent gender role theories emphasized more directly the destructive and harmful aspects of masculinity as well as the stress of fulfilling and of failing to fulfill the role normative expectations (Pleck, 1981, 1995). The general characteristics associated with this role comprise what is referred to as traditional masculinity and include themes of antifemininity and homophobia, success and achievement, independence, and toughness and aggression (Brannon, 1976), as well as heterosexuality. Beliefs about the normative characteristics that men should display in order to fulfill the male gender role constitute the dominant masculinity ideology (Smiler, 2004). Individuals vary in the extent to which they endorse traditional masculine ideology.
Belief in, and adherence to, normative gender role expectations for men is theorized to cause gender role stress and strain, in part due to the contradictory and unattainable aspects of the role, and because many of the role demands are associated with unhealthy behaviors, such as suppression of emotion or aggressive responses to interpersonal conflict. Further, to the degree that the expectations are discrepant from mens inherent characteristics, they experience gender role conflict (ONeil et al., 1986). Individual variation in gender role conflict is associated with a large range of health risk behaviors and negative health outcomes.
Masculinity and Power in Context
In the 1990s, sociological theorists developed critiques of gender role theories of masculinity on the basis that they do not adequately incorporate an analysis of power into how the roles are created, enforced, and maintained within social systems. In this view, masculinity is intimately interwoven with the dynamics of power and privilege. As such, the terms dominant masculinity or hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 2005) are used to extend and sharpen the concept of traditional masculinity, emphasizing that masculinity is imbued with both symbolic and material power in a society. Importantly, the majority of men do not possess the characteristics idealized in hegemonic masculinity, nor have access to the social, cultural, and material resources on which hegemonic masculinity is built. Were it otherwise, hegemonic masculinity would not be an effective way for some men to consolidate and maintain power over other men.
Diversity of masculinities
Consequently, men belonging to diverse groups and from varied geographic places and cultures perform masculinity in varied ways. Included within this diversity are masculinities among men who identify with different racial and ethnic groups, sexualities, and genders. Further, men manifest masculinities differently, and have different opportunities and capabilities to perform hegemonic masculinity, depending on their socioeconomic class, religion, body and abilities, age, and living context and environment (e.g., prison). Rather than being discrete or additive, these positions of privilege intersect in dynamic ways to create unique, contextually specific masculinities. These diverse masculinities differ in terms of their correspondence to hegemonic masculinity and are defined by mens race, class, sexuality, ability, age, and other symbolic and material markers of power.
Men from diverse backgrounds have varying capabilities to successfully perform hegemonic masculinity. For example, individually and as a group, gay black men cannot perform hegemonic masculinity as do heterosexual white men. As a result, these men may attempt to demonstrate hegemonic masculinity in alternative ways, or in different settings and domains. For example, the cool pose, the machista, and the queer bear all perform powerful forms of masculinity within their respective African American, Latino, and gay male cultures. Machista describes Latino men who portray a complex macho persona characterized both by toughness and the devaluation of femininity and women as well as emotional connectedness, care for family, and a sense of dignity. The queer bear is an identity for gay men who present an exaggeration of certain stereotypic masculine characteristics such as a large (usually muscular) body type, considerable facial hair, and a general show of toughness or propensity for aggression. Although these variations in gendered expressions contain many characteristics of traditional masculinity (e.g., toughness and anti-femininity), they are nonetheless particularly defined by their departure from hegemonic white, heterosexual masculinity.
Scholars have noted that signifiers of hegemonic masculinity may change over time within American culture (Kimmel, 2012; Rotundo, 1994). However, the underlying characteristics and meanings associated with hegemonic masculinity remain quite stable, even as the signifiers of those characteristics (e.g., clothing, hair style, occupation, and recreations) may shift. Hegemonic masculinity consistently represents anti-femininity, success and achievement, independence, and toughness and aggression, but the symbolic displays of those characteristics in mens appearance, sexuality, activities and so forth are more transitory, in part because of their commercialization. Anxieties about ones manhood, often located in mens bodies, are exploited through marketing of products and services. Manhood must be proven, and proven again, through symbolic and behavioral demonstrations to others, typically male peers, who are in positions of validating, questioning, and challenging assertions of manhood, as well as policing and punishing those men whose demonstrations are judged to be inadequate. There is no way to establish manhood once and for all. Manhood is thus a perpetually vulnerable, contested, and fleeting status. Mens denial and repression of their vulnerabilities function as an attempt to validate their masculinity.
2.1 Development of Androgyny Measures
Development of psychometrically sound masculinity and femininity scales based on the revised assumptions was an important first step for androgyny researchers. The favored scale format was paper-and-pencil self-descriptions using Likert scales. Criteria for item selection were somewhat variable. Although a (small) number of measures were eventually developed, only two achieved prominence: The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) (Bem 1974) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) (Spence and Helmreich 1978). The items on the BSRI and the PAQ reflected judges' ratings of personality characteristics utilizing criteria of sex-based social desirability or of sex typicality, respectively. The PAQ incorporated only characteristics generally seen as desirable. The BSRI included some femininity items with less positive connotations (e.g., childlike, gullible), a decision that complicated subsequent analyses considerably (Pedhazur and Tetenbaum 1979).
Correlations between the masculinity and femininity scales of a single androgyny measure tended to be small in magnitude as was desired, and the content of corresponding scales across androgyny measures was overlapping but not identical. Factor analyses (e.g., Wilson and Cook 1984) indicated that the content of the femininity and masculinity scales corresponded generally to theoretical definitions of femininity as representing empathy, nurturance, and interpersonal sensitivity and masculinity as representing autonomy, dominance, and assertiveness. The emergence of this factor structure is interesting in that item selection procedures did not specifically select items to be congruent with the expressive/communal and instrumental/agentic distinctions. These content distinctions appear to be central to the broad-based perceptions of the sexes' personalities and behaviors elicited by the androgyny measures (Cook 1985).
Stress, Depression, Mental Illness, and Men's Health
Contribution of Class, Race/Ethnicity, and Sexual Minority Status to Men's Experience of Stress
Social factors, other than masculinity, are also implicated in the experience of stress, and can significantly impact many men's health outcomes . Social status and social roles determine the types and amount of stress. Baum et al. describes socioeconomic status as a predictor of health and illness outcomes . Dowd and colleagues evaluated the effect of socioeconomic status on stress and discovered that low socioeconomic status was highly associated with higher levels of perceived stress and stressful life events . Low socioeconomic status is also associated with adverse psychosocial situations that can result in high levels of stress .
Men's other identities, including ethnicity and class, can shape the male role and result in added stress . Minority men have higher age-adjusted morbidity, mortality, and death rates. This is a pattern that has been documented for over 150 years . Compared with White men, African American men have higher odds of stressful life events, including racism and social exclusion with resulting higher levels of psychological distress [29, 33]. Income inequality is also a contributor given large racial differences in socioeconomic status . In studies of racial differences in health, adjustment for socioeconomic status markedly reduces and, in instances, eliminates racial disparities in health [32, 35]. Men who cannot reach traditional norms of social success and status due to poverty, minority status, and/or marginalization may compensate by demonstrating their masculinity and mastery by engaging in risky behaviors that can be detrimental to their health, such as high-risk sexual behavior .
Gay men experience a different form of minority stress, resulting from social stigma and rejection. For some gay men, repeated social discrimination may result in internalized homophobia, which adds an inner conflict to the experience of hostility from the social environment [37, 38]. Research shows that gay men suffer from more mental health problems than their heterosexual counterparts as a result of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. They also suffer from inadequate response to their health-care needs by health-care providers through the lack of providers understanding of their needs and, in some cases, through rejection by providers. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations have been declared as suffering from health disparities by the Institute of Mental Health, and research to improve health-care provision has been encouraged by the National Institutes of Health [39, 40].
It is important to recognize that some men experience all the factors that tend to be risk factors for poor health: struggle with their masculine role, low economic status, non-White race, and gay sexual orientation. This combination of factors, also dubbed as intersectionality, multiplies the risk beyond the contribution of any individual one and must be taken into consideration when a health assessment is conducted .
Cross-Cultural Psychology, Overview
5.5 Sex Differentiation
Hofstede has identified a dimension he calls masculinityfemininity. In feminine cultures, members of the culture attach more importance to relationships, to helping others, and to the physical environment than people in masculine cultures. In masculine cultures, people emphasize careers and money. The goals of men and women are more differentiated in masculine than in feminine cultures. National samples that emphasized male goals were found in Japan, Austria, and Venezuela, whereas the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands emphasized female goals. In the countries that were high in masculinity, men and women gave very different responses to Hofstedes value questions, while in the countries that emphasized female goals, the answers obtained from men and women were the same. Similar differences were observed across occupations, with engineers giving masculine and secretaries giving feminine answers. The consequences of this cultural difference included such matters as people in masculine countries wanting brilliant teachers versus people in feminine countries wanting friendly teachers. Differences in politics were also identified. In masculine countries people supported tough policies toward poor people and immigrants. Economic growth was given priority over preservation of the environment in masculine countries. In feminine countries, compassionate policies toward the weak and the environment were given high priorities.
Body Image Development Adult Men
Finally, just as muscularity has been equated with masculinity, so has penis size. Comparatively little research has examined the role of mens genitals in body satisfaction, despite many men expressing dissatisfaction with the size of their penis. Research reveals that actual penis size is normally distributed. Although most men view their penises as average in size, there is discrepancy in the research as to whether more men underestimate or overestimate the relative size of their penis. Given that penis size is culturally equated with masculinity, it is not surprising that fewer men who rate their penis as modest or small in size are satisfied with their size compared to men who believe that their penis is average-sized or larger than average. Recent research has also revealed a relationship between satisfaction with penis size and global body satisfaction.
Gender and Physical Health
The distinctions between biological
sex, gender, masculinity, and femininity and
their importance for health are examined. There has been a
recent shift in emphasis from concerns about women's
reproductive health to a gender analysis of health, but
men's health remains neglected. Societal gender roles and
relationships pattern women's and men's health, and
intersect with other structures, especially social class and
age. Gender differences in mortality and morbidity are
considered, together with explanations for these gender
differences. The previous orthodoxy that women are
sicker than men has recently been challenged in
developed societies, but continued gender disparity in
disability remains, especially in later life. Lone mothers'
health is particularly poor, mainly due to their
disadvantaged material circumstances. The divergent
structural positions and roles of women and men lead to
gender differences in the nature of inequalities in health,
which vary across the life course, over time, and among
Masculinity - Wikipedia
Self-reliance and emotional repression are correlated with increased psychological problems in men such as depression, increased stress, and substance use disorders. Toxic masculine traits are characteristic of the unspoken code of behavior among men in prisons, where they exist in part as a response to the harsh conditions of prison life.
Other traditionally masculine traits such as devotion to work, pride in excelling at sports, and providing for one's family, are not considered to be "toxic". The concept was originally used by authors associated with the mythopoetic men's movement, such as Shepherd Bliss. These authors contrasted stereotypical notions of masculinity with a "real" or "deep" masculinity, which they said men had lost touch with in modern society. Critics of the term toxic masculinity argue that it incorrectly implies that gender-related issues are caused by inherent male traits.
The concept of toxic masculinity, or certain formulations of it, has been criticized by some conservatives as an undue condemnation of traditional masculinity, and by some feminists as an essentialist concept that ignores the role of choice and context in causing harmful behaviors and attitudes related to masculinity.
Etymology and usage
The term toxic masculinity originated in the mythopoetic men's movement of the 1980s and 1990s. It later found wide use in both academic and popular writing. Popular and media discussions in the 2010s have used the term to refer to traditional and stereotypical norms of masculinity and manhood. According to the sociologist Michael Flood, these include "expectations that boys and men must be active, aggressive, tough, daring, and dominant".
Some authors associated with the mythopoetic men's movement have referred to the social pressures placed upon men to be violent, competitive, independent, and unfeeling as a "toxic" form of masculinity, in contrast to a "real" or "deep" masculinity that they say men have lost touch within modern society. The academic Shepherd Bliss proposed a return to agrarianism as an alternative to the "potentially toxic masculinity" of the warrior ethic. Sociologist Michael Kimmel writes that Bliss's notion of toxic masculinity can be seen as part of the mythopoetic movement's response to male feelings of powerlessness at a time when the feminist movement was challenging traditional male authority:
Thus Shepherd Bliss, for example, rails against what he calls 'toxic masculinity'which he believes is responsible for most of the evil in the worldand proclaims the unheralded goodness of the men who fight the fires and till the soil and nurture their families.
In the social sciences, toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall; this concept of toxic masculinity does not condemn men or male attributes, but rather emphasizes the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition. Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance (the "alpha male").
In a gender studies context, Raewyn Connell refers to toxic practices that may arise out of what she terms hegemonic masculinity, rather than essential traits. Connell argues that such practices, such as physical violence, may serve to reinforce men's dominance over women in Western societies. She stresses that such practices are a salient feature of hegemonic masculinity, although not always the defining features.
Terry Kupers describes toxic masculinity as involving "the need to aggressively compete and dominate others" and as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence". According to Kupers, toxic masculinity includes aspects of "hegemonic masculinity" that are socially destructive, "such as misogyny, homophobia, greed, and violent domination". He contrasts these traits with more positive traits such as "pride in [one's] ability to win at sports, to maintain solidarity with a friend, to succeed at work, or to provide for [one's] family". Feminist author John Stoltenberg has argued that all traditional notions of masculinity are toxic and reinforce the oppression of women.
According to social learning theory, teaching boys to suppress vulnerable emotions, as in the saying "big boys don't cry", is a significant part of gender socialization in Western society.
According to Kupers, toxic masculine norms are a feature of life for men in American prisons, where they are reflected in the behavior of both staff and inmates. The qualities of extreme self-reliance, domination of other men through violence, and avoiding the appearance of either femininity or weakness, comprise an unspoken code among prisoners. Suppressing vulnerable emotions is often adopted to successfully cope with the harsh conditions of prison life, defined by punishment, social isolation, and aggression. These factors likely play a role in suicide among male prisoners.
Toxic masculinity can also take the form of bullying of boys by their peers and domestic violence directed toward boys at home. The often violent socialization of boys produces psychological trauma through the promotion of aggression and lack of interpersonal connection. Such trauma is often disregarded, such as in the saying "boys will be boys" about bullying. The promotion of idealized masculine roles emphasizing toughness, dominance, self-reliance, and the restriction of emotion can begin as early as infancy. Such norms are transmitted by parents, other male relatives, and members of the community. Media representations of masculinity on websites such as YouTube often promote similar stereotypical gender roles.
According to Ronald F. Levant and others, traditionally prescribed masculine behaviors can produce harmful effects including violence (including sexual assault and domestic violence), promiscuity, risky and/or socially irresponsible behaviors including substance use disorders, and dysfunction in relationships.
The American Psychological Association has warned that "traditional masculinity ideology" is associated with negative effects on mental and physical health. Men who adhere to traditionally masculine cultural norms, such as risk-taking, violence, dominance, the primacy of work, need for emotional control, desire to win, and pursuit of social status, tend to be more likely to experience psychological problems such as depression, stress, body image problems, substance use, and poor social functioning. The effect tends to be stronger in men who also emphasize "toxic" masculine norms, such as self-reliance, seeking power over women, and sexual promiscuity or "playboy"[clarification needed] behavior.
The social value of self-reliance has diminished over time as modern American society has moved more toward interdependence. Both self-reliance and the stifling of emotional expression can work against mental health, as they make it less likely for men to seek psychological help or to possess the ability to deal with difficult emotions. Preliminary research suggests that cultural pressure for men to be stoic and self-reliant may also shorten men's lifespans by causing them to be less likely to discuss health problems with their physicians.
Toxic masculinity is also implicated in socially-created public health problems, such as elevated rates of alcoholism and certain types of cancer among men, or the role of "trophy-hunting" sexual behavior in rates of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.[non-primary source needed]
Psychiatrist Frank Pittman wrote about how men are harmed by traditional masculine norms, suggesting this includes shorter lifespans, greater incidence of violent death, and ailments such as lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
Toxic masculinity has received criticism as a concept. Some conservatives, as well as many in the alt-right, see toxic masculinity as an incoherent concept or believe that there is no such thing as toxic masculinity.: 2  In January 2019, conservative political commentators criticized the new American Psychological Association guidelines for warning about harms associated with "traditional masculinity ideology", arguing that it constitutes an attack on masculinity. David French of the National Review criticized the APA guidelines on "traditional masculinity ideology" for including "very common, inherent male characteristics" including "anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence." French argued that these traits are not "inherently wrong or harmful," and that a proper understanding of traditional masculinity "rejects harmful extremes." APA chief of professional practice Jared Skillings responded to conservative criticism, stating that the report's discussion of traditional masculinity is about "negative traits such as violence or over-competitiveness or being unwilling to admit weakness" and noting that the report also discusses positive traits traditionally associated with masculinity such as "courage, leadership, protectiveness".
The concept of toxic masculinity has also been criticized from a feminist perspective. Andrea Waling and Michael Salter have argued that the concept of "toxic masculinity" in contradistinction to "healthy masculinity" emerged from a misunderstanding of Raewyn Connell's 1987 work on hegemonic masculinity.: 366  To Waling, "toxic masculinity" is problematic because it presents men as victims of an unavoidable pathology,: 368 an essentialist approach that ignores the surrounding social and material context and the personal responsibility of men.: 369 Waling also argues that instructing men to practice "healthy masculinity" dismisses androgyny and adopting aspects of femininity as valid options for men, thereby perpetuating gender binaries and privileging masculinity over femininity.: 369 Waling also argues that "toxic masculinity" dismisses certain traditionally masculine traits that are appropriate in some situations.: 368 Salter notes that, properly interpreted, Raewyn Connell's work presents male violence, not as a result of toxicity intruding into masculinity itself but rather as resulting from the surrounding sociopolitical setting, which induces "inner conflicts over social expectations and male entitlement".
1. Salter, Michael (27 February 2019). "The Problem With a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity". The Atlantic. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
2. Salter, Michael (27 February 2019). "The Problem With a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 11 May 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
3. Ging, Debbie (20 May 2017). "Alphas, Betas, and Incels: Theorizing the Masculinities of the Manosphere" (PDF). Men and Masculinities. 22 (4): 638657. doi:10.1177/1097184X17706401. S2CID 149239953. Although the term 'toxic masculinity' has become widely used in both academic and popular discourses, its origins are somewhat unclear.
4. Flood, Michael. "Toxic masculinity: A primer and commentary". XY. Archived from the original on 12 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
5. Ferber, Abby L. (July 2000). "Racial Warriors and Weekend Warriors: The Construction of Masculinity in Mythopoetic and White Supremacist Discourse". Men and Masculinities. 3 (1): 3056. doi:10.1177/1097184X00003001002. S2CID 146491795. Reprinted in Murphy, Peter F., ed. (2004). Feminism and Masculinities. Oxford University Press. pp. 228243. ISBN 978-0-19-926724-8.
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13.Kupers, quoted in Ging (2017), p. 3
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17.Dowd, Nancy E. (2000). Redefining Fatherhood. New York University Press. pp. 1856. ISBN 0-8147-1925-2. [Pittman] links toxic masculinity to men being raised by women without male role models. In his view, if men raised children they would save their lives, and save the world. On the other hand, John Stoltenberg views toxic masculinity from a strongly antimasculinist, radical feminist perspective, arguing that masculinity can be serious, pervasive, and hateful.
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23. Keith, Thomas (2017). Masculinities in Contemporary American Culture: An Intersectional Approach to the Complexities and Challenges of Male Identity. Routledge. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-31-759534-2. In some ways, bullying and other forms of coercion and violence are part of what has been termed toxic masculinity, a form of masculinity that creates hierarchies favoring some and victimizing others. Disrupting these forms of toxic masculinity benefits boys and men, rather than attacks and blames men for these behaviors.
24.Liu, William Ming (2017). "Gender Role Conflict". In Nadal, Kevin L. (ed.). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender. Thousand Oaks, Calif. p. 711. ISBN 978-1-48-338427-6.
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33. Kirby, Roger; Kirby, Mike (2019). "The perils of toxic masculinity: four case studies". Trends in Urology & Men's Health. 10 (5): 1820. doi:10.1002/tre.712.
34. Muparamoto, Nelson (December 2012). "'Trophy-hunting scripts' among male university students in Zimbabwe". African Journal of AIDS Research. 11 (4): 319326. doi:10.2989/16085906.2012.754831. ISSN 1608-5906. PMID 25860190. S2CID 25920016.
35. Sculos, Bryant W. (2017). "Who's Afraid of 'Toxic Masculinity'?". Class, Race and Corporate Power. 5 (3). doi:10.25148/CRCP.5.3.006517. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
36. Salter, Michael (27 February 2019). "The Problem With a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity". The Atlantic. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
37. Dastagir, Alia E. (10 January 2019). "Psychologists call 'traditional masculinity' harmful, face uproar from conservatives". USA Today. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
38. French, David (9 January 2019). "The APA Can't Spin Its Way Out of Its Attack on 'Traditional Masculinity'". National Review. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
39. Waling, Andrea (14 October 2019). "Problematising 'Toxic' and 'Healthy' Masculinity for Addressing Gender Inequalities". Australian Feminist Studies. 34 (101): 362375. doi:10.1080/08164649.2019.1679021. S2CID 210366077. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
Research shows that, often, the men who need mental health services most stressed out, successful, athletic, family men are also the least interested in getting help. The traditional male role encourages a preoccupation with success, power and competition. And yet these types of men are at higher risk of negative psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety, and relationship problems.
Common Belief: Talking about my problems is not going to change anything.
The term normative male alexithymia has been used to describe mens problems with expressing their emotions, a possible contributor to depression and barrier to treatment. Men are geared towards problem solving, but sometimes holding in how you feel is part of the problem. When you start talking about things that bother you or are causing stress, the problem solving can begin. Athletes will huddle up on the court or field to make a plan or a game strategy and make adjustments as they go along. This is similar to what happens in counseling or therapy.
Common Belief: Its not that bad, its the way Ive always been.
Most likely, you dont like to go to the doctor when you have a fever, sore throat, and cough. You probably want to ride it out and see if you can just get better on your own. But then you realize the cough has now turned into bronchitis and you arent able to work. Mental health issues can be similar. It can be hard to know when its time. Sometimes, you just need to talk. And, other times, its pretty bad. You cant get out of bed or function. Untreated depression and other psychiatric problems can result in personal, family, and financial problems, even suicide. According to NIMH, four times as many men as women die by suicide in the United States, which may result from a higher prevalence of untreated depression. Yet eight out of 10 cases of depression respond to treatment.
Common Belief: People will think I am crazy if I see a psychologist.
Our brains are sensitive organs that respond to our genetics, traumatic life events, and stress. Many of these factors are not in our direct control. Men may express their depression in terms of increases in fatigue, irritability and anger, loss of interest in work, and sleep disturbances. It has also been shown that men use more drugs and alcohol, perhaps to self-medicate. This can mask the signs of depression, making it harder to detect and treat effectively. A diagnosis is not a life sentence. A diagnosis can be a name of a condition that provides a road-map for proper treatment and improvement in your mood, relationships, and life.
Start a conversation. With someone you
trust. With someone who is trained. With someone who cares.
Ask questions. Start the conversation. Are you okay?
Unexpected Roots in New Age Spirituality
It turns out that I didnt entirely resist it. In the past decade or so, my fluency in the world of New Age culture, wellness, woo-woo (whatever you might call it) became a professional boon as a journalist. These ideas were taking off once again, especially among women who are White and middle-class, which I also am. I understood that world and had a lot to say about it. While on assignment Ive gone to menstrual huts and tea ceremonies; Ive gotten massaged by boa constrictors and Ive meditated at sound baths. Ive greeted this all with professional curiosity, something between an open mind and a world-weary arched eyebrow.
On Jan. 6, along with the rest of the country, I followed the news of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the prominence of Confederate flags, nooses and other symbols of the far right. Like many others, I took note of the so-called QAnon Shaman: 33-year-old Jake Angeli, born Jacob Anthony Chansley, of Arizona. He was bare-chested and covered in Nordic tattoos, at least one of which, the Valknot, is a Norse symbol sometimes associated with white supremacy. But he was also, infamously, wearing a headdress fashioned from buffalo horns and coyote skin elements associated with the American West that seemed to telegraph a pagan spirituality. Ive been around a lot of White people who have adopted a mishmash of pagan and Indigenous signifiers as a New Age aesthetic. Its a cringeworthy and offensive display of appropriation that I dont endorse, but its common in that world.
After the attack on the Capitol, news reports unearthed that Chansley was a founder of something called the Star Seed Academy (in a certain New Age vernacular, a star seed is a higher being). The Facebook page for the venture, before it was taken down, read: Star Seed Academy creates leaders of the highest order! We help people to awaken, evolve and ascend! Are you ready to be a leader? Are you ready to ascend? Recently, Chansleys lawyer, Albert Watkins, told me in a statement that his client is deeply spiritual. His spirituality is serving him well as he traverses the pending federal charges. He added that Chansley has a personal commitment to Ahimsa, the principle (found in Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism) of doing no harm.
As a devotee of QAnon the sprawling set of false claims that have coalesced into an extremist ideology deemed a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI and a freedom fighter for Donald Trump, Chansley was my ideological opposite; yet there was also a lot about him that was familiar. It felt shocking and suggested serious flaws in a culture I thought I understood: a fine line between the kind of zeitgeist-y, sensitive New Age-guy version of masculinity, and something more nefarious. The idea of spiritual lineage is too generous to bestow on Chansley, but he represents a growing pipeline between New Age male spirituality, new masculinity movements and QAnon. This pipeline is one of unlikely connections and strange bedfellows, of mixed martial arts fighters and poets, evangelical Christians and yoga teachers.
In 2009, Charlotte Ward, an independent researcher on alternative spirituality religious beliefs outside of conventional groups began to notice a hybrid of conspiracy theory beliefs and New Age culture cropping up online. Two years later, she co-wrote a paper titled The Emergence of Conspirituality in the Journal of Contemporary Religion. She and co-writer David Voas, a quantitative social scientist at University College London, noted an emphasis on patterns and connections in both conspiracy culture and alternative spiritual beliefs. Nothing is as it seems, and nothing is an accident. These worldviews make public and personal life respectively seem less subject to random forces and therein lies part of their appeal, they wrote.
Ward and Voas defined conspirituality as a politico-spiritual philosophy based on two core convictions one core to conspiracy theories and the other rooted in New Age belief systems: 1) a secret group covertly controls, or is trying to control, the political and social order, and 2) humanity is undergoing a paradigm shift in consciousness. Proponents believe that the best strategy for dealing with the threat of a totalitarian new world order is to act in accordance with an awakened new paradigm worldview.
In our cultural moment, when baseless claims about both a rigged election and the dangers of vaccines hit Americans almost simultaneously, there has been renewed interest in Ward and Voass decade-old paper and, specifically, the idea of conspirituality. (During the week I interviewed Voas, he had three other similar interviews lined up.) With the image of Chansley in animal horns and fur leading an attack on the Capitol, conspirituality was more than an idea in an academic paper or on the Internet. It had become our shared reality.
When I was about 10 years old, my mother became interested in the idea of the divine feminine, specifically centering spirituality on women rather than the patriarchal notion of a male god. She had never shown interest in spirituality before but dived in with, well, a religious fervor. She took me to a screening of the 1989 Canadian documentary Goddess Remembered, about goddess worship in ancient European culture and its potential as a renewed spiritual movement. Judging from the attendees of the goddess fairs in hotel ballrooms I was also taken to, this was a fairly White, progressive and privileged group of women. It served as a kind of spiritual extension of the womens liberation movement of the 1970s, parallel to feminism.
Men soon started to realize that they, too, had a gender to consider, and the mens movement took off in the 70s and 80s. It manifested in three expressions, says Cliff Leek, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Northern Colorado and vice president of the American Mens Studies Association: You get pro-feminist [mens] groups that do work around reproductive health and sexual violence; and, on the other end of the spectrum, mens rights groups that say, We are gendered and the system is out to get us. The middle way is the mythopoetic: tying masculinity back to the sacred and mythological.
The prevailing figure in the mythopoetic movement is the poet Robert Bly. In 1990, Bly, who was in his 60s (hes now 94), published Iron John: A Book About Men, which includes lines like, Where a mans wound is, that is where his genius will be. Blys idea, told through Jung-influenced archetypes and fairy tales, was that men had been robbed of true masculinity via emotionally withholding fathers who raised soft sons. With some reflection and maybe some banging on drums with other dudes in the forest they could reclaim their inner Zeuses and thrive. The book was sometimes the butt of jokes, but spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. It was so popular and so part of the New Age canon that I bought a copy as a teenager. I thought it seemed a bit corny, like the kind of thing long-haired aging hippie dads of my friends might enjoy. But I read it because I knew it was an element of a cultural conversation that I wanted to be a part of.
The spirit of Iron John can still be found in mythopoetic mens groups. Take, for example, Embodied Masculine, a mens community that offers retreats and coaching. (A representative of the company declined to comment for this article.) The retreats promise a lot. In this meticulously held circle of men, you will be both met with compassion and called to deepen, one description reads, accompanied by images of mostly White men patting each other on the shoulder or sitting atop rocks. Your embodied presence will expand, your relationship to consciousness will deepen, and the sword of your integrity will sharpen. You will be challenged, nourished, and given the tools and brotherhood you wish you had found years ago. Sounds enriching, but the wording around Embodied Masculines retreats for women has a distinctly anti-feminist flair: Women, weve reached a point in history in which many of you are equalling and surpassing men in earning, personal growth and spiritual capacity. ... And yet, there is a longing deep in your heart for something more.
As soon as we tie masculinity to spirituality, we turn masculinity into something sacred as well as distinct and exclusive of women, says Leek. Im not entirely sure that is something that can be done in a way that doesnt reinforce or naturalize inequalities. These retreats seem to be encouraging strong behavior from a group White, ruling-class men who are already the most privileged in our society. But you also see this core message about strong men in socially conservative packaging. Theres a fear of women getting too powerful and a veneration of the housewife that, frankly, reminds me of the Proud Boys, the alt-right group with a history of violence that believes women are best left at home raising children.
The wellness and spirituality world is very parallel to the evangelical Christian world, especially when it comes to the messaging around masculinity, Leek explains. The mythopoetic aspect of the mens movement is very much rooted in patriarchal notions of chivalry and men as protectors and warriors. Evangelical masculinity is basically identical. He wasnt surprised to see the QAnon Shaman beside evangelical groups at the Capitol. QAnon, with its fixation on pedophilic conspiracies led by Hollywood and the liberal elite, can give a certain kind of man in search of purpose a way to feel like a literal protector.
Last year, Matthew Remski, a writer and co-host of the Conspirituality podcast, was reporting a story on QAnon for the Canadian magazine the Walrus, and he interviewed Lamont Daigle, founder of a Canadian QAnon spinoff group. During the interview, Remski noted to Daigle that he talked about his political journey as if it were a spiritual journey. Daigle responded, Remski told me recently, that it all started with Iron John.
I emailed Daigle to ask how Iron John had influenced him. He wrote back praising the books view of pre-industrial history, including the tradition of fathers passing down a trade to their sons. ?Apprenticeship was lost and is/was key for bonding, Daigle wrote. As Iron John was suggesting, the love unit most damaged by the industrial revolution has been the father-son bond. His view of society today is much darker: From what Ive seen on the streets and stage of this New World Order agenda in the last year, fierce protective men have been noticeably absent, and the women are standing up stronger and more vocal.
All of which fits with Remskis analysis of this subculture. Theres a kind of iconographic romance between swole but New Agey male figures who are taking supplements and staying disciplined, and women who have deep connections to the divine, he says. Theres a righteous and holy and sacralized sexuality, an immunological radiance around the holy couple. I know exactly the type of couples hes talking about. I see them on Instagram espousing the know-your-strength relationship consciousness taught at the Embodied Masculine retreats, and in the vulnerable but divine masculinity of Iron John.
I think of the macho wellness dude as epitomized by the comedian-turned-podcaster Joe Rogan, who sells mugs and tube socks that read conquer your inner b---- and Hindu-deity-inspired T-shirt designs. (I reached out to Rogan, but his representative did not respond.) Then there is the pandemic-era bro upgrade to the mythopoetic archetype which is how you find MMA fighters like Tim Kennedy on the podcast of comedian JP Sears, with both men arguing that weve overreacted to covid.
A vast landscape of lost people who need a belief system to guide their actions constitutes promising terrain for someone seeking to attract believers, proteges or followers (online or otherwise). The central figures in this subculture are guys who dont know how to manage their charisma, says Remski. They are burdened with unwarranted confidence amplified and recycled by social media until its habitual but also viral.
Jules Evans, an honorary research fellow at the Center for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, has investigated the history, philosophy and psychology of well-being. In an article for Medium called Nazi Hippies: When the New Age and Far Right Overlap, Evans wrote about how leading members of the Nazi party in the 1930s and 40s were followers of alternative spirituality and medicine. There was an idea that western culture has lost its way and we need to return to traditional sources of wisdom, whether that be Hinduism or Sufism or traditional gender roles, Evans told me. Its a concept thats popular today with the alt-right. There is an overlap, he says, between New Age and far-right populism in traditionalist thinking, that the West has lost its way with feminism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism, and we need a return to order.
In December, an NPR/Ipsos poll asked respondents whether they believe the myth behind QAnon: that a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media. Seventeen percent said it was true, and 37 percent said they didnt know. It would be easy to write this off as simply a mass lack of critical-thinking ability and that is certainly part of it but when Jeffrey Epstein, whose friends were some of the most powerful people in the world, was charged with sex trafficking involving underage girls, its easy to see how someone might be tempted to blur the line between real-life corruption and conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories are going to attach to how we already see the world, says Joseph E. Uscinski, a professor of political science at the University of Miami who researches American conspiracy theories. They are representative of peoples concerns at the time: the Bavarian illuminati of the 18th century, the Freemasons in the 1930s, the JFK assassination in the 1960s.
I have a sense of how women in the wellness world can fall down these rabbit holes. Alternative spirituality is related to issues that are thought to be of greater concern to women, such as self-care or connectedness, Voas told me. This is thought to be upbeat and optimistic in its orientation which is a contrast to conspiracy theory, which is darker, more pessimistic, more political, about secret forces controlling things behind the scenes. And yet, alternative spirituality and conspiracy are, in the end, united by a narcissistic idea: that there are things in the world crying out for explanation and that you alone are unraveling the truth. As Voas puts it, The central point is that we have, in our society, competition between trust and doubt.
An article last year in the European Journal of Social Psychology called An exploration of spiritual superiority: The paradox of self-enhancement, by Dutch behavioral scientists Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser, found that the road to spiritual enlightenment may yield the exact same mundane distortions that are all too familiar in social psychology, such as self-enhancement, illusory superiority, closed-mindedness, and hedonism (clinging to positive experiences) under the guise of alleged higher values. This spiritual form of narcissism reminds me of Chansleys language on Facebook around star seeds. According to Evans, its derived, in a copy of a copy kind of way, from an idea in Gnosticism a collection of beliefs from early Christian sects, popular in alternative spirituality, that there are spiritual aliens who are different species: You are from another planet, youve fallen into this prison of the material world, and youre working to ascend to your true home. Its an extreme expression of spiritual alienation and spiritual narcissism.
I am guessing Chansley probably wanted to achieve notoriety for his ideas and that a desire to stand out is part of the reason he chose such a bizarre costume to wear to an attempted coup. He is, to use a term popular on the Internet, a spiritual version of a clout chaser.
But I dont want to tease anyone
for their spiritual ideas, even Chansley, who has been
charged with six federal crimes and awaits trial. Rather,
Im interested in the larger question this raises about
contemporary masculinity. What void is this filling? If
QAnon provides an easy answer for a small but steady group
of men, we should think about what a healthier spiritual
alternative looks like. Whatever it is, it should be
offline for starters, says Remski. It could
focus on community service, but at the very least it should
be built in the neighborhood, not on the consumer workshop
circuit. The last thing the ex-QAnon man needs is a leader
or a group commodifying his recovery or monetizing his
confessions or emotions. Remski has already noticed a
rise in mens groups based on spiritual bodybuilding,
sacred real estate and supplement pyramid schemes. I
guarantee, he predicts, that within the year a
pair of bros will start up a [multilevel marketing
business] that sells QAnon recovery products.
After decades of neglect, a growing
number of scholars have turned their attention to issues of
crime and criminal justice in the rural context. Despite
this improvement, rural crime research is underdeveloped
theoretically, and is little informed by critical
criminological perspectives. In this article, we introduce
the broad tenets of a multi-level theory that links social
and economic change to the reinforcement of rural patriarchy
and male peer support, and in turn, how they are linked to
separation/divorce sexual assault. We begin by addressing a
series of misconceptions about what is rural, rural
homogeneity and commonly held presumptions about the
relationship of rurality, collective efficacy (and related
concepts) and crime. We conclude by recommending more
focused research, both qualitative and quantitative, to
uncover specific link between the rural transformation and
violence against women.
As men age, they continue to follow dominant ideas of masculinity learned as youth, leaving them unequipped for the assaults of old age, according to a new study.
The mismatch between aging and the often ageless expectations of popular masculinity leaves senior men without a blueprint to behave or handle emotions, according to a new literature review from Case Western Reserve University.
Men who embodied the prevailing cultural and societal hallmarks of manliness as younger menprojecting an aura of toughness and independence, avoiding crying and vulnerability, while courageously taking risksare confronted by the development of health problems, loss of spouses and loved ones, retirement and needing to be a caregiver for ailing family members in later life.
"Who you are in the past is embedded in you," said Kaitlyn Barnes Langendoerfer, a doctoral student in sociology at Case Western Reserve and co-author of the review, which mined narrative data from nearly 100 previously published studies. "Men have trouble dealing with older age because they've followed a masculinity script that left little room for them to negotiate unavoidable problems."
"In our study, we hear men struggling with griefwhich is a vulnerable stateand caregiving, which is associated with femininity," she said. "If they must cry, men feel it's to be done in the home, away from others, even when spouse has died. They have to renegotiate their masculinity in order to deal with what life is bringing their way."
This masculinity "script" still embraced by older men was outlined as the four-part Blueprint of Manhood, first published by sociologist Robert Brannon when the men in the studies were entering adulthood in the 1970's. The blueprint included:
No Sissy Stuff - men are to avoid being feminine, show no weaknesses and hide intimate aspects of their lives.
The Big Wheel - men must gain and retain respect and power and are expected to seek success in all they do.
The Sturdy Oak - men are to be ''the strong, silent type" by projecting an air of confidence and remaining calm no matter what.
Give 'em Hell - men are to be tough, adventurous, never give up and live life on the edge.
"We're all aging; it's a fact of life. But as men age, they're unable to be who they were, and that creates a dissonance that is hard to reconcile," said Langendoerfer, who studies aging in men.
"We need to better understand how older men adapt to their stressorshigh suicide rates, emotions they stifle, avoiding the doctorto hopefully help them build better lives in older age," she said.
The review, published in the journal Men and Masculinities, was co-written by Edward Thompson Jr., an emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology at the College of the Holy Cross and now an affiliate of the Department of Sociology at Case Western Reserve.
Most of the data came from studies
with white, middle-class men from the United States, Canada
and Europe who had stable careers. "More research inclusive
of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds is needed
to obtain a more complete picture of how older men adapt,"
If Just This One
Idea About Manhood Is Changing, Theres Hope
Watching a grandson thrive as a truly self-motivated, avid and grampa would add gifted baseball player who is supported without pressure by parents continued, even on that day, not only to be thrilling entertainment. It felt as if it were a gifted connection with a fast-growing boy I had spent cherished time with from day one.
His own joy in the game, often seen in his smiles while pitching and fielding, also brought back forgotten memories of good times with my own dad when he took me to the old Milwaukee Braves games at County Stadium back when bleacher seats were $5.
That evenings game began with a bad night for the Coyotes starting pitcher. He walked ten batters so that the top of the first inning ended at the leagues seven-run per inning limit. His second inning was hardly better.
His team has some surprisingly good nine-year-old pitchers whose pitches are quite fast and accurate. So, you could see that this young guy felt as if he had let all his teammates down (much less disappointed the teams loyal fans) when he was relieved by a friend who was, instead, in his rhythm that night.
But the damage, as the sportscasters say, had been done. And when he retreated to the dugout, even as fans applauded his effort, this nine-year-old young man was crying.
Theres an old, popular, and I consider unhealthy, saying thats repeated by those stuck promoting destructive, toxic, and shaming masculinity in sports: Theres no crying in baseball.
But no one, not one coach, and not one fan I could hear fell back on that. We all felt his disappointment along with him, but no one added to that disappointment by shaming him for those tears.
Grandson and his teammates have been fortunate since they began playing in kindergarten. They have experienced, so far, positive coaching that has made them better without masculine shaming.
No coach or parent in my presence has ever said to these boys that its wrong to cry. In fact, when one of them in first grade was injured and was carried off the field crying, one coach comforted him with: Id have cried even harder.
So when I see his coaches walking to their cars with their fourth-grader sons while holding hands, I regain a hope for future generations that some of us are over the big boys dont cry mentality.
For generations, male gender role conditioning has included the ridicule and humiliation of boys for their tears. Its taught them thereby to ignore their natural feelings of hurt, fear, and confusion.
Its taught them that anger is the male thing to feel instead. And no male has yet to be told that anger and violence are unmanly but they sure have been told theyre somehow unmanly if they express those natural human emotions that are buried under that anger.
And where homophobia and heterosexism have diminished, at least in public discourse, we hear less and less of the gay slurs applied to men who openly express these basic emotions that are covered over with secondary ones permitted for manhood: anger and sexual arousal. Sadly often, though, such worn-out slurs are still voiced.
Putting boys out of touch with their feelings has been a useful tool of conditioning for societies for generations. Its harder to go to war against another man or fight competitively to make another man lose, to beat up another man or to destroy him with ruthless business practices, to step over male bodies on the way to what will be declared a victory or convince oneself that the others deserve their unfortunate circumstances, if you know and do embrace the idea that you and these other men actually and legitimately feel hurt, fear, and confusion.
So, the more a man has been put out of touch with these feelings, the more hes become convinced that feeling them is contrary to the rule that big boys dont cry, the more hes lost touch with his emotional connections to his fellow men, the easier it is to deny that any human damage is done to others and that he might have contributed to it.
Im afraid that should grandson continue on what hed like to be his career path, hell run into others who are still sold on the old feelingless manhood (except, of course, again, expressing all these emotions through anger and sexual desire). Its still so much a built-in part of our cultural norms.
The extent that someone buys into all this is enforced by both men and women who do. Few men want to be deemed unmanly by the standards of the men around them.
Fear that other men judge them as less than manly and even in subtle or not so subtle ways will punish them if they dont come across as manly enough by the old definitions is one way its all kept in place. Gay men know this fear and are more overtly punished for breaking that man code, but all men know what it means to be scared straight no matter what their sexual orientation.
Parents enforce the man code because they fear what can happen to their boys if they dont live up to its standards. Theyve seen what has happened to any boy not manly enough in the past.
And women have been conditioned to somehow need a real man. Are they prepared for and secure with his tears, vulnerability, and a full set of human qualities and emotions when theyve been told they need him to love and protect them and prove to them in the end that theyre lovable?
I want to believe there have been some changes in all of this, though my book Scared Straight: Why Its So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why Its So Hard to be Human continues to explain so much of this for its readers even today.
I know that as long as for many its somehow less than manly to be gay, or less than feminine to be a lesbian, this prejudice will continue to be used to enforce the idea that men shouldnt show feelings through tears. I know that as long as transgender people are humiliated and ridiculed because they defy the gender boxes that deny some of the human qualities to anyone based upon binary gender norms, therell be further pressure for everyone to monitor ones feelings.
But I still hope that there will come
a day when all emotions matter to anyone regardless of
gender definition and that even in baseball there can be
crying without shame.
War Is the Force
that Gives Masculinity Meaning - 10/1/14
In 2014 the American military-industrial-media complex is still salivating for war to further line its pockets. And a president elected to get us out of two wars in which we were mired, displays caution but finds himself pressured on many sides to do something warrior-like.
The drumbeat includes the usual: ramping up of fear against an enemy, claims of a threat to whats now called the homeland, and images of cruelty that invoke the sense that we cant let them get away with that, especially when they do it to Americans. Few are interviewed in mainstream media who argue against the whole mindset.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders appeared briefly on Meet the Press in September for the first time in his career. But no Chris Hedges or Noam Chomsky is likely to appear as the debate centers on the best tactics of fighting the bad guys rather than how to change US policies that spawn terrorist groups.
In our culture, war is still the manly response; it gives conditioned manhood its meaning. With women in the military and LGBT people tolerated, a warrior reaction to any problem still wont cause mainstream pundits to question any mans masculinity, though it might cause them to question a womans femininity.
Even though theres been a history of dissenters Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, to name two well-known examples and a long history of anti-war movements, America still falls back on a war model to attack problems from literacy, to AIDS, to poverty, to drugs, to crime. The tools of war get more sophisticated, while we sell them to the world to use, even profiting off of selling them to those who become enemies
For war to continue to give us such meaning as well as war-industry jobs, we need more than just the selling of each new war through exaggeration, lies, and fears. Those tactics must touch something already within so the public relations of warmongering will resonate inside us.
Mainstream conditioning of our children through our major institutions must still make warriors and warrior-support personnel out of them through molding their minds, if the propaganda of each new war is to be effective. And, sadly, the old gender role conditioning that enables this hasnt changed as much as wed like to believe.
In fact, the dominant Northern European/American views of gender and its limitations have heavily affected alternatives that would have been found traditionally among Native Americans, Hispanic peoples, Africans, and Asians. Even in a culture where children are being told that they can be anything they want to be, dominant institutions that supposedly provide role-models such as the NFL or Congress, have failed to move outside genderized boxes, and, as if it surprises us, failed miserably to challenge the status quo, as weve painfully been reminded recently.
It takes the equivalent of mental child abuse to take the little boy who was born with his complete humanity intact, and to convince him that he will be considered an American masculine hero if he is willing someday to go off to another country and kill other men or be killed by them. Notice how the title hero is now applied to anyone who does just that.
It also takes the equivalent of mental child abuse to take the little girl who was born with her complete humanity and all its possibilities intact, and convince her that the solution to her fears, second-place status, meaninglessness, and hopelessness is to find fulfillment in supporting one of these male warriors. She might even stay with an abuser if shes convinced that he is her savior from all that shes supposedly lacks in life.
But our mainstream culture still does it. It still defines male bonding and teamwork as a group of men getting together to beat, defeat, or kill another group of men. Every male sporting event on television celebrates it with the most popular often the sports that reward men for harder hits or knocking the other unconscious.
Our culture still awards its warriors for killing another man. A man can get a medal for killing another man, but still be killed for loving one.
Much of its religion is still in a fight against the cultural change that threatens to fully accept lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgender people who challenge gender roles. Mainstream media gives such religion disproportionate attention, enabling them to feel like noble, righteous warriors in the culture wars.
And our culture remains stuck in the old gender roles, with otherwise liberal people still talking about their masculine and feminine sides as if those categories mean something definite. Or using supposedly positive comments such as: Youre too pretty to be a lesbian. But youre too macho to be a gay man. Shes trans, but you cant tell. Shes so pretty.
Finally, its still quite useful to install the fear of getting close to ones own gender thats the heart of homophobia. Without that, its much harder for men to make other men their enemies. Its easier to fear them as threatening competitors.
While walking with my then 2 ½ year old grandson down the street, we passed a gaping open sewer. He grabbed my hand and pulled me away, saying Grampa, be careful. Thats dangerous.
To that little boy, holding hands wasnt something that men dont do. It was how they protect each other in their common humanity.
But you cant shoot someone when
youre holding each others hand to protect one
another. Youre instead more likely to feel the common
humanity that would make looking for alternatives to war
Men are Killing