Masculinity and what it means to be a “man” means different things to different people. The traditional and stereotypical characteristics created by society that dictate what a man should be can be detrimental and toxic. Forcing men to be put in a specific box of masculinity. A lot of men feel forced to fit into the box of masculinity that is widely accepted but it limits self-expression and individuality. This pressure leads to insecurity about not living up to social norms and being put down or having their masculinity invalidated.
In “Masculinity as Homophobia”, Michael Kimmel discusses how if a man is “unmanly” and does not fit into society’s version of masculinity by not fitting into certain gender norms, he will be painted as emasculated and therefore “gay”. This limits men to only present themselves in way that will satisfy the social norms of masculinity so that they will not be associated with any gay stereotypes because being associated to anything that is gay would be the worst possible thing to ever happen to a man. This is the way that society has dictated men to feel and Kimmel expresses the following when he mentions that “homophobia is more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay”. This limitation of toxic masculinity linked with homophobia is extremely problematic and imprisoning of men. Kimmel states that men feel this pressure to remain manly in almost every aspect of life, “What [they] wear. How [they] talk. How [they] walk. What [they] eat. Every mannerism, every movement contains a coded gender language.” Kimmel says that this definition of masculinity should change and I agree. Redefining this version of masculinity that confines men would free them from the toxic constraints of gender norms and expectations that are intertwined with homophobia. Redefining masculinity would help everyone do whatever they want without fear of judgement.
In “Understanding Patriarchy” by bell hooks, she mentions that “patriarchal ideology brainwashes men to believe that their domination of women is beneficial when it is not”. She holds both men and women accountable for misrepresenting masculinity and the patriarchy is limited to benefitting men, however, it also negatively impacts men too. It is more complicated that placing blame on only women and only men for gender and social norms and she emphasizes that both sexes are responsible for defying these norms and systems. She states that “we have to both acknowledge that the problem is patriarchy and work to end patriarchy” and that a solution lies within a collective effort to end sexism and homophobia and ending the way that men and women invalidate each other’s experiences and sufferings from the constructed systems of masculinity and the patriarchy.
With the discussions made in these two readings by Kimmel and Hooks, we can see how redefining masculinity can be freeing and liberating. Once people start to realize that masculinity and gender roles are completely made up constructs and decide to let go of judgements of other people, it will be a much more vibrant and accepting world. Many things can be solved with an open mind and an accepting heart.