The question as to what the definition of masculinity differs from person to person. To this, many may say that masculinity is what defines a man. Furthermore, what is thought as the traditional definition of masculinity can be seen as quite problematic. The ideal itself leads men to believe that they need to fit the role of a man in a patriarchal society.In addition, the need to redefine masculinity has increased as the current definition of masculinity has led to such things as toxic masculinity.
First of all, we see in the essay “Understanding Patriarchy” by bell hooks, the importance of need for change in our society. More importantly, hooks evaluates issues that our society faces in terms of the patriarchy. For instance, we often associate patriarchy itself with the domination of men. However, this is far from progressive as we are faulting all men for the situation. When in reality both genders are equally to blame. For instance, hooks explains that some women who are single parents often in force more patriarchal thinking than those in a household of two parents. The reasoning behind this being as hooks says “women in such households are far more likely to idealize the patriarchal male role and patriarchal men than than are women who live with patriarchal men every day,”. In other words, even without a male patriarchal figure in the house, the patriarchal thinking is being taught regardless. In other words, although males are perceived to be those in full power and control in the patriarch we cannot blame them for it all. Furthermore, although it is a system that has more of the men’s interest in, it also disadvantages them in ways. For instance, hooks explains that “Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples,”. Although the patriarchy is seen as a system to benefit the power of men it does affect their emotional health. Since, they are expected to be emotionless powerful, dominant males. By redefining masculinity, males would be more liberated as they would be free to express how they feel without the fear of being judged for it.
Second of all, Michael Kimmel’s text entitled “Masculinity as Homophobia” examines as well a number of reasons as to why our definition of masculinity needs to change effectively. To begin, we often see masculinity as an interchangeable term for strong and powerful. It is often mistaken that the characteristics that any man possesses is the same as what a man is supposed to be. For instance, Kimmel uses the example of sexual orientation. He states the following “Homophobia is more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay,”. In today’s society, if a man is not acting as he is expected to his sexuality is questioned. This fear that they have does not benefit them but rather deteriorates their health. For instance, as long as I can remember the idea that men cry was almost seen as a taboo. Why? Because they were expected to keep everything inside and never speak of how they feel. If they did, they would be seen as soft which is in the eyes of our society, far from what a man should be. Furthermore, another point made by Kimmel is that although males are seen as those above, they are also classified by not only their sexual orientation but race as well. We see that straight white males are those who benefit the most of our social scheme and those different from that are below. As Kimmel says “We’ve managed to disempower the overwhelming majority of American men by other means—such as discriminating on the basis of race, class, ethnicity, age, or sexual preference,”. By ranking others not only on their gender but by their other attributes such as race leads to being prejudice and sometimes even discriminatory towards men (or people in general) that belong to certain groups of people. By ranking people in such a system we are not only supporting but advancing such ideals as racism and homophobia by giving others a worth on a scale. By men redefining masculinity, it shows that essentially there is no need to prove their masculinity to one another. Since, masculinity is used to prove some men are better than others. This way, it eliminates the idea that they must prove themselves worthy to be called a man.
In the end, how we define masculinity can only be changed if we all make an effort as a society. This includes not only changing our mindsets towards how a man should behave but as well as the ideal behind masculinity itself. Masculinity should not be used so that men can prove themselves or their worth to others around them. As a result, we should not expect them to have certain characteristics solely because of their gender. We should all feel comfortable to act the way we want and not restrain ourselves because we are afraid that we do not meet our gender’s expectations.