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Masculinity Definition Essay


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Masculinity Definition.

Masculinity is a term that is so wide. Everything has its feminine and masculine aspects attached to it, be it the living or nonliving. There’s the male and the female in the living beings, while the non-living things are grouped according to the characters associated with making it female. Masculinity has a lot of definitions that share a common base, which is the manly aspect. It is defined as the degree of being manly or masculine. It also refers to having male gender qualities. Masculinity shares a meaning with the word virile, which means having characteristics associated with men. Although masculinity may seem to describe the male gender, it is important to note that anyone can have these characteristics associated with masculinity depending on various factors. These factors include history, tradition and culture, society, sports, arts, religion, warfare, class, and education. All these factors have a different view of what masculinity refers to. Therefore, the definition of masculinity is not confined or limited to only the male gender.

This term masculinity is borrowed from old French “musculus,” meaning male. Historically, masculinity relates to four phases because its definitions and its associated changes with time. According to Karen (296-331), the four phases involve the gradual move of masculinity from the rough ancient man to the modern man. The first phase is the household patriarch is dated back to the 1600s, where masculinity is attributed to power and honor over household affairs and Christianity. According to Foyster, the act of the man having power over women contributes largely to the man’s formation. The aspect of power also extends to the sexual part of masculinity. Without an excellent sexual reputation, all other factors contributing to masculinity during that historical period were meaningless (Foyster).  The second phase, which is libertines and fops, defines masculinity as leaving the household patriarch and relying on man’s sexual desires in the 17th century.   The man in this period does not act out of goodwill but is self-obsessed and not polite. This leads to the third phase of the polite gentleman, which is in the 18th century. The masculine character takes a turn and strives for perfection as a real gentleman compared to the libertines period. The man here is thoughtful of his action and controls his desire to use power in everything. The period depicts a socially and self-controlled aspect of masculinity. The last phase that Harvey explains is masculinity traits take another turn where politeness becomes less dominant while etiquette takes charge. Rules of what to do or not emerge on the emphasis of etiquette. The concept of domesticity rises and pushes masculinity to prove itself. In all the phases, the concept of power is still dominant but in different perspectives and intentions.

Society in the past centuries relates masculinity to strength, independence, assertiveness, leadership, and courage. The man is seen as the source of support socially, financially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. When an issue would arise in society, no solution would be met without a man’s intervention. Most leadership roles were given to the man because of his independence. In tough physical duties such as lifting heavy objects, the man is called upon because he is stronger. The case is not the same in today’s society. The masculinity perception is attributed to the gender aspect only. This is because most roles are shared between women and men, meaning that women can also handle most considered masculine responsibilities. For example, leadership roles in many institutions must include a certain percentage of women. The masculinity perspective has changed to the point that females are becoming husbands in marriages and men becoming wives in homosexual marriages.  Women in today’s society are taking up difficult duties such as building houses, which were considered masculine. This dynamic societal view of masculinity regarding different times gives birth to whether there’s a constant definition of masculinity.

Different cultures present masculinity in diverse ways. Culture is the way of life as various factors describe masculinity (Tim pg. 1-12). It can also be linked to traditional and societal ways of presenting masculinity, depending on the factor in question.  The male behavior perspective, according to culture, is shaped by observation of what men and women do (Faulkner, pg. 169-189). This means that the masculine culture forms as younger generations watch what those ahead of them behave. For example, traditionally, working culture lays a foundation of masculine identity. How hard a man works raises his bars in terms of masculinity, meaning that the masculinity in young men is formed by observing how men work in society, their jobs, and how they conduct themselves in their workplaces. Some women may also observe and admire how the men work and decide to relate to the masculine aspect of work and thinking.

In terms of a learning culture, traditionally, masculinity is ranked up because a male is perceived brighter than females, and that’s why in places such as Africa, they would educate boys and girls would stay and learn how to be wives. The tables have currently turned, and education is for everyone apart from those who still undermine feminism and no longer a masculine privilege. In the current career world, anyone can take up any course no matter how complex it seems, unlike in some recent past where there were masculine and feminist careers. For example, careers such as engineering, law, aviation, and medicine were considered masculine because of their complexity, while secretariat, low-level education, and nursing are considered females. This education notion is also derived from the roles that the society and culture have set aside for different genders, thus influencing other major life responsibilities such as careers.

Religiously, masculinity is also associated with a certain level of power and authority. Different roles are specifically associated with the men. For example, in the Roman Catholic church, only men are allowed to become priests or bishops. They are allowed to perform specific duties in the church that no other gender is allowed to accomplish.  Also, in the Muslim religion, masculinity is highly regarded and showered with more power than feminism.

When one hears the term warfare or fights, the first thing in mind is the male gender. From time immemorial, war has been associated with masculinity since they are strong and courageous compared to women. even in the Bible, most wars that the Israelites were involved in were participated by men. Although today women also join fighting troops, the warfare field is dominated by men. The masculine aspect that the men present is security. That’s why they are always on the front line regarding warfare.

On the other hand of this warfare notion is the criminal culture. The sole purpose of security is to protect people from attacks. It’s unfortunate that for the longest time, crime has been associated with the male. However, in the recent past, the rate of crimes by women is rising but still does not erase the perception of crime being associated with masculinity. This is because women are seen as weaker and caring creatures with no capacity to hurt. Therefore, despite masculinity being associated with protection, it’s also associated with crimes hence a source of fear.

The media through arts have presented a very different perspective of masculinity. This has resulted from a different inspiration that points to what masculinity can influence. According to Best (pg. 1-4), several artists have used male nude art to depict different messages. For example, Sherry Buckberrough from the University of Hartford states that the art is used to relay the message of bodybuilding and sports. This means that the masculine body is a sign of strong bodies and the sport aspect. She also states that some other series of paintings and arts of a middle-class man in an office to the physically active man depicts the masculinity confidence.  Social media platforms have also influenced the understanding of what masculinity is. The videos, photographs, articles, and other media sources have depicted some of the masculinity themes as toughness, materialism, coolness, sex, among others (Genter pg. 6). 

Masculinity can also be defined by the different categories that Cornell explains. They include hegemonic, complicity, subordination, and marginalization.  Hegemonic masculinity refers to the multicultural ideals through which the male gender sustains its dominance in social life. This masculinity category uses cultural and social factors to explain why men want to retain their power over other gender identities. If wrongly exploited, the hegemonic category can be dangerous. It leads to toxic masculinity where the men are associated with violence, abuse of drugs, dictatorship led by the preoccupation with power and dominance, among other harmful traits.  Complicity masculinity is related to power and the strategies laid down for subordination. It involves a certain male group having plans of dominating other groups.  Complicity also seconds hegemonic masculinity in how men should behave according to cultural and social ideals.  Subordination is the third category of masculinity, which is like toxic masculinity. It involves the dominance of other groups based on cultural and political exclusion (Gomez 115-124). It advocates for physical and psychological abuse, all in the name of the power of which paints masculinity as a bad theme. The last category is marginalization. It’s the connection between dominant masculinity and ethnic groups. These categories of masculinity present different faces and themes of what masculinity is associated with.

However, despite all the characters and traits associated with masculinity, there are some benefits and consequences of either being masculine or feminist from the above discussion, it is clear that masculinity or feminism is not restricted by gender roles or sexuality but a pool of energies that are associated with being male or female. This means that a female can be masculine depending on the characters and traits she portrays. Being masculine has advantages, including an automatic sense of power over others, a lack of fear of discrimination due to gender in certain situations, more respect than feminism, and a lack of fear of assault. Masculinity carries power, and that’s why a woman is hesitant to rule in the presence of a man except in places that advocate otherwise, such as institutions and governments. This sense of power is a disadvantage to those who associate with masculinity, as in most cases, they are shamed and intimidated. Men are generally courageous, and they don’t fear sexual assault as women do. In places like work environments, women are taken advantage of and sexually abused to gain certain favors. On the other hand, this may not necessarily act as an advantage to the men but a disadvantage as they fear manipulation and abusing women.

Unfortunately, masculinity is associated with strength is misunderstood. Everyone should understand that despite one being masculine, they’re also human beings who face different challenges. There’s no point in losing a life while relying on the aspect that they’re strong.  Those associating with masculinity are women or men who are incapable of speaking up for their problems for fear of judgment and intimidation. On the other hand, people mostly don’t help men because they’re perceived to be strong and independent.  In cases where a man is involved in a crime, whether guilty or not, they’re beaten-up others to the point of death, but when a female is in a similar situation, they’re spared and protected.

 In conclusion, masculinity is highly regarded in different situations and places, and it is associated with power and dominion. From the above discussion and illustrations, masculinity is associated with male characters, traits, and themes. It’s the desire to be and behave like men in their way of life. When one is masculine, they are attracted to all-male aspects from the tiniest logics such as dressing to the highest masculinity definition, which is sexual involvements.

Works Cited

Connell, R. W.; Messerschmidt, James W. (December 2005). " Hegemonic masculinity:

           rethinking the concept" Gender & Society. Sage. 19 (6): 829& ndash, 859.

           doi:10.1177/0891243205278639. Pdf.

Best, Kenneth. “Exploring Masculinity Through Art.” UConn Today 11 (2016).

Edwards, Tim. Cultures of masculinity. Routledge, 2004:1-12

Faulkner, Wendy. “Doing gender in engineering workplace cultures. II. Gender in/authenticity and the in/visibility paradox.” Engineering Studies 1.3 (2009): 169-189.

Genter, Elizabeth Nicole. “The Association of Masculinity Themes in Social Network Images and Sexual Risk Behavior.” (2014):6

Gómez, R., and Luis Fernando. “Relations among Masculinities: Controversy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Folios 25 (2007): 115-124.

Harvey, Karen. “The History of Masculinity, circa 1650–1800.” Journal of British Studies, vol. 44, no. 2, 2005, pp. 296–311. JSTOR, Accessed 12 Feb. 2021.

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