Saturday 5 November 2016

Thoughts in Progress

Lately I have been wondering if the mark of true masculinity can be found in a role allocated to us, men, that we are supposed to fulfill, or if such concept is devoid of meaning at all. My deliberations have come as a result of recent discussions on the role men play in society nowadays.

A key component of male identity has long been a bread-winning mentality. Whether of the blue- or white-collar type, the masculine professional mind-set has usually seen itself as the one that brings home the bacon. Yet, in recent decades the male influence has somewhat dwindled. The collapse of industries up and down the UK, changes in the workplace (with a corresponding higher female intake), the emergence of a zero-hour-contract culture, the swift transition from a manufacturing economy to a consumer-led, service-based one; these are all factors that have dealt a heavy blow to the male ego.

Gendered identities have been a comfort zone for many (although, it appears women were not consulted too often on them) for centuries. Whilst it might have made sense in a world riven with unknown dangers in ancient times – and I, for one, am not condoning such attitudes – it makes less sense in the modern era. We live in a non-binary world now and this has proved to be challenging for the older male generation.

Nevertheless, we still live in a world governed by my gender. Wherever you turn, media, politics, business, you will see men calling the shots. However, once you start cutting through the different strata of society you notice that men no longer perform traditional roles. Moreover, they often can be found in positions that used to be thought of as “women’s jobs” (education and childcare being two). This has created a conflict between men and the rest of society (including women and institutions) and within men themselves, as they struggle to understand their place on planet Earth in the 21st century. The typical power-related behaviour displayed by the male of the species has had to adapt quickly to a market-driven economy that favours customers over gender.

I've got a softer side, you know?

Is there, then, a crisis of masculinity? Yes is the answer, if we ascribe ourselves only to a man-centric viewpoint. No, if we believe (as I do) that masculinity is not defined by athletic prowess or pub-closing-time brawls. Male identity does not exist in a vacuum, even if that has been the long-held opinion. What has happened in the last two decades, from the rise of LGBT activism, to the ever-increasing female influence on society, is that the penis-shaped, Berlin-Wall of masculinity has come tumbling down. Notions of gender and sexuality are not as strict as they used to be. More women are employed now than ever (even if they still make less money than their male counterparts performing the same jobs). Straight men have shaken off the shackles of orthodox masculinity.

It follows then, that indeed there could be a men’s crisis, but only insofar as this crisis stems from a pre-conceived idea of what a man is meant to be and do. Once you eliminate the rigid notion of masculinity you are left with a very loose and hard to categorise definition. Not that there has not been a backlash against these changes. You only need take a look at Donald Trump across the pond and Nigel Farage in Britain to see male power in retreat and fighting back. Its targets are the usual suspects: the politically correct brigade, “feminazis”, “bloody wimin”, gays (with a new addition, “trans activists”) and “unmanly men”. It will be interesting to see how this head-to-head battle pans out in years to come.

In the meantime, those of us who have decided that masculinity means more than talking about women in a degrading way, have embraced openness and acceptance as a means to assert our humanity. This is a much bigger concept than maleness and far more inclusive.

© 2016

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 9th November at 6pm (GMT)


  1. You are the best sort of man! "Straight men have shaken off the shackles of orthodox masculinity." I would agree

  2. I've noticed that there is a "movement" out there to make males aware that the "boys don't cry" thing has passed it's time. It may be one of the last bastions of masculinity. I live in a city, Portland, Oregon, where masculinity is rapidly readjusting it's self, and it's a lovely thing to see. It will make a whole new generation of young men behave and react to their world differently from the very beginning and that will have an enormous rippling effect.
    I would expect you to be more sensitively aware of this issue and glad you wrote about it.

  3. This is an extremely well-written and thought provoking post. I know a few thousand people I wish would read it.

  4. 'Should' is a whip for too many of us. Regardless of gender.
    Another thought provoking, lovely post. Thank you.

  5. The so called traditional man, beer belly, burping, nasty and such, disturbs my ocd, they are so annoying as they drink and act all egocentric. Sadly I know a few and avoid them like the plague. Moving away from that sure is good.

  6. Me ha encantado este texto Me pregunto
    ¿escribís tan bien en español como en Ingles??

  7. My concept of masculinity (and femininity, too) is entirely uncomplicated and revolves around individuality: Be who you want to be, unworried about what others might think, as opposed to being intimidated into running in the midst of the politically correct crowd. There is room for everyone to be who they wish to be ....

    I probably am an endangered species with that sentiment; there are too many who think they know what is best, not only for themselves, but for their neighbors, as well. There are times I think I see the flames lit by "Jack and his choir" burning on the horizon.

  8. A wonderful read. Now if only more men prescribed to the idea rather than wallowing in a toxic viewpoint, we might actually be able to progress forward.

  9. Amen to everything you've written!

  10. The role changing for both sexes is happening in Sweden as well. I think it is a good thing.

  11. I think it is a good thing yet deep down I wonder if the 'change' is the cause of so much domestic and other violence perpetrated by both sexes.

  12. As a woman who has flown the feminist banner since the 60s, and still grumbles unequal pay and the lack of women at the top of international companies, the cost of child care, the sexualisation of advertising (which is often reduces women to nothing but bodies) I'm sure you'll forgive me a lack of sympathy for men who might be struggling to catch up with these ideas. And - honestly - I'm not anti-men, and so see it as encouraging if they are, at last, grappling with the possibility of equality and what that could mean for all of us!

  13. Hi ACIL - there's a lot wrong - imbalance ... as Jo mentions above. Fair is fair ... and that isn't the way many men see it .. but it is changing encouraged by the likes of you and other thinking men ...

    We need to think a great deal more ... all of us - not just the few. We can be friends but have different opinions ... but we need to appreciate others ...

    Brilliant thoughts here ... cheers Hilary

  14. I was raised in the Southern USA, which still has a very unhealthy mentality toward women. Sexual harassment and even sexual assault is still a serious issue and the way the law handles is to blame the victim. Now I am in Sweden and its strange because in many ways it seems that there is a lot more in the way of gender equality and yet rape is still such a problem. I would really like to see that attitude change most of all, can't people just stop raping each other??? Seriously. It happens to men and boys as well and that is almost never spoken about it. If we could just respect one another regardless of gender identity/biological gender/sexual orientation/race/religion etc.


  15. Excellent post. Sadly I think there's possibly a polarisation happening nowawadays - as many people move towards accepting less stereotypical roles, those with very traditional views are perhaps becoming entrenched behind the likes of Trump and Farage

  16. Major changes to cultural ideas are usually painful...most especially when they involve power transfers As a woman I find it a long time coming. I try to be sympathetic but only to the point of where they are confused about the changes and not to the point where they are angry and insecure and want to take things back to the way they were. There is no going back. There will be overreaches and mistakes ahead but we will survive them as we have survived other changes.

  17. Awesome post and so true. Its all so sad but this is the reality now.

  18. Your essays are always so thought provoking and spot on. Even tho I don't blog much anymore I always enjoy a bit of intellectual thought when I come here to read.

  19. Excellent post! I think we're definitely making progress, but there's still a long way to go. I still hear young men talking about women in the most degrading and hateful ways. We can only hope that the Berlin Wall you describe vanishes from this earth.

  20. It is true - men no longer perform traditional roles. I know of couples in England where the man sits at home looking after the baby and his partner goes to work.

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