Masculinity is one of the main issues that men have and also one the main issues that is taboo for men to speak about. It is the double standard for men; how women have them. It’s acceptable for woman to cry but men cannot or else they are considered weak. It’s acceptable for woman to speak about their feeling but men aren’t encouraged to do so because it would make them look sensitive. The stigma around men and their masculinity has risen a fear within men; the fear of humiliation or the fear of failing to meet expectations, for example.
According to Michael S. Kimmel’s article “Masculinity as Homophobia”, manhood is equated with power over women or power over other men. Men are taught to thrive over this feeling of “power” or “dominance” from a young age. They are taught to prove themselves when someone challenges them. The majority conclude that violence is the way to go, as they use their peers as gender role models. It is said, in the article, that violence is a marker of manhood which is supported by the willingness and desire to fight. The need to express violence can be linked to men’s drive for domination or power, sort of in a way of conquering. An interesting conclusion was brought up in Kimmel’s article:
Men’s feelings are not the feelings of the powerful, but of those who see themselves as powerless. These are the feelings that come inevitably from the discontinuity between the social and psychological, between aggregate analysis that reveals how men are in power as a group and the psychological fact that they do not feel powerful as individuals. They are the feelings of men who were raised to believe themselves entitled to feel that power, but do not feel it. No wonder many men are frustrated and angry… Masculinity as Homophobia by Michael S.Kimmel
I do find many factual points within this conclusion. First of all, I do believe that the root of men’s frustration comes from their upbringing and has been etched in their psyche. The pressure of always being the strongest emotionally and the physically, the breadwinner, the most responsible, the leader, can take its toll on any individual – men or women. Second of all, men are promised a feeling of power ever since they can remember. Also, it is all they’ve seen; within their own households, in movies, in books and it’s even what’s taught to them at school through history. In light of all of these points, the feelings of frustration and anger can now be justified in some ways. In addition, many exclude themselves or find an escape to keep the feelings of frustration, anger and fear at bay.
bell hooks links patriarchy with male dominance in her article “Understanding Patriarchy”. hooks believes in the dismantling of the patriarchal system and she believes its a job for both men and women. She defines patriarchy in her article as:
Patriarchy a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violenceUnderstanding Patriarchy by bell hooks
hooks’ article does not attack men for this system and way of thinking. She simply lays all the problems that both genders need to solve in order to find equality and equity.She shares her own stories on how patriarchy has presented itself in her personal life, among her family. She talks about various childhood memories and includes religion. bell hooks described patriarchy as to be a system that was leaving her out of things she wanted to be part of. She makes the link that her brothers wouldn’t be bothered by the patriarchal system because it privileged them. It privileges men and penalizes women. However, it is as much the women’s fault as it is men’s fault. In many parts of the article the author gives examples of how it is both genders responsibility to break the social norm; i.e. marriage and culture. In addition, she breaks down the system itself. She explains that the system needs male dominance in order for it to function. As a result, it leads and supports sexist violence. Which leads to the last point, the feminist view on patriarchy. Many feminist have been hurt and oppressed for many years by male domination encouraged by patriarchy. A resulting factor of that pain would be the misinterpretation of men by feminist work. Being fed up by the treatment they have received, they painted men to be the bad guy and that was the end of the story. Nonetheless, hooks did not stand for it. She highlighted a chapter named “” in her book “‘ by describing it as such:
I stressed that feminist advocates collude in the pain of men wounded by patriarchy when they falsely represent men as always and only powerful, as always and only gaining privileges from their blind obedience to patriarchy. I emphasized that patriarchal ideology brainwashes men to believe that their domination of women is beneficial when it is not…Understanding Patriarchy by bell hooks
bell hooks’ covers many diverse sub-subjects regarding patriarchy as well as calling out both genders.
How could men redefining the meaning of masculinity in their own lives have an impact on larger social issues such as sexism, racism and homophobia? After reading both articles, I believe if we take down the social norms that men must be the dominating gender or the most powerful gender; we leave room for emotional and psychological growth. If men were able to talk openly about their feelings in a safe environment – just like women can – we would not be in the same place. Men should not grow up with the pressure of having to be the absolute strongest and toughest nor should they grow up with a sense of entitlement that they’re are owed power and respect. It should be something earned for both men and women.