Masculinity is a word that many people struggle to define, or they think they know how to define it but only from their own view point and struggle to accept other definitions. The word in itself is a label and often through stereotypical viewpoints causes many emotional harm to many men and women who define this word in a different way. The stereotypical way to define masculinity is the image of a macho man, enjoys cars and dangerous sports, money, gorgeous women and dresses very “heterosexually.” This is a very inaccurate image. Bell Hooks, feminist and social activist, and Michael Kimmel, American Sociologist, talk about masculinity and the label and social constraints this word gives to many men as well as the patriarchy which subscribes to the stereotypical masculine point of view.
In Bell Hooks essay titled “Understanding the Patriarchy,” she talks about how the patriarchy is not only systematically damaging to women but also men, “Patriarchy demands that they [men] become and remain emotional cripples. Since it is a system that denies men full access to their freedom of will, it is difficult for any man of any class to rebel against the patriarchy, to be disloyal to the patriarchal parent, be that parent female or male.” In this passage Hooks explains that the patriarchy is damaging to men because it restricts their access to talk about their emotions and hard to want to fight against it, especially against parents that subscribe to patriarchal view points. In these cases men become emotionally detached and sometimes causes many problems in the future for their mental health. Hooks explains that to properly fight against the patriarchy and allow men to become “liberated” from this social system is to name the problem and acknowledge it to end it. This is easier said than done.
Furthermore, in Michael Kimmel’s text entitled “Masculinity as Homophobia,” he discusses how men are socialized to believe and act a certain way to avoid being labelled as “too feminine.” He writes, “The fear of being seen as sissy dominated the cultural definitions of manhood. It starts so early.” Here he is referring to when children, especially boys, make fun of other boys for doing things that are gender socialized as being too “girly” which continuously, throughout childhood, instills a need to be the stereotypical masculine figure. To add, Kimmel writes, “As young men, we are constantly riding those gender boundaries, checking the fences we have constructed on the perimeter, making sure that nothing even remotely feminine might show through.” Kimmel is explaining how many men feel trapped by the stereotypical view of masculinity and often feel powerless because deep down some of these men don’t want to subscribe to these confining societal ideologies. To act upon the gender struggle for men, Kimmel suggests that men do not participate in the actions of exclusion or escape that men have been doing for centuries and instead strive to stand up for equality and justice. Another way to interpret his solution is to get men to try and redefine masculinity to which it could help men feel “liberated” from how they are expected to behave in our society and act in a way that they feel reflects their person and not what society stereotypically reflects.
Moreover, Hooks and Kimmel’s essays at their core discuss men and the ways that society dictates and makes them behave, act and live. The word masculinity needs to be redefined so men can feel start behaving in a way that they feel is what is reflective of them. Men redefining what masculinity means to them could be beneficial to other social issues such as sexism, racism and homophobia because if every man felt secure with themselves with absence of gender struggle, there would be a lot more equality among the society as a whole. This equality and renown feeling of inclusion with absence of insecurities among men will allow all men to feel less angry against society and allow them to be more mindful of other sexual orientations, women’s rights and feelings towards the radicalization of other peoples.