Never Good Enough: Masculinity and Culture

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Masculinity.jpgBy Lyle Ming – Student Author

In our hetero-normative society we find that we constantly need to play roles that allow us to fit into society. The male gender roles are so ingrained that men who deviate from them are emasculated by society. Our society has many insults that cut men’s masculinity and usually entails them being associated with the other gender women, or gay men whom are also thrown into this group of non-men.

To look at how men get classified as non-men first we must examine what masculinity is in our culture and how it is achieved as a status, and why it is desired as a status. In our American culture the media and social forces have shown us that men must take privilege by force, and aggression. This forceful taking of privilege from other classes is allowed, and even supported through our social institutions.

We first see how hetero-normative male culture is regulated though our institutions when we look at science in our society. First when we are born we are assigned a sex at birth. This sex we are given may one day disagree with our gender. All men are told that testosterone is the male hormone, even though it is found in women, and that this testosterone makes men violent and allows us to act aggressive. So if a man acts docile he is thereby disobeying his biology letting science allow him to be deemed as a non-man.

An odd thing occurs with this system that goes past even the aggressive nature assigned to us by our medicine system. Recently a new gender role has been introduced. Heterosexuality has been introduced to the mix of what it is to be a man. So now even if a man is aggressive and dominate he must also sleep with women to not get put in the non-men camp with more docile men who break the mold of being aggressive.

This puts a lot of struggle on gay men to try to be a man while knowing that society says you cannot be a man without sleeping with woman. Growing up as a gay man myself I have felt this stigma that I was not masculine enough even if I conformed to other gender stereotypes. In high school I remember being weird because I conformed too many stereotypes of a masculine man but I was an out gay man. I felt that if I ever did anything that was less masculine this behavior was later explained by the others as because of the fact that I am gay.

So now men are given a reason to act assertive dominate and violent. However this is an exhausting role men are meant to constantly perform. If this process had too many disadvantages no one would propagate it though so many societal levels. What advantages does this give men to keep propagating the system?

Acceptance of violence is on unfortunate advantage of being a man. Violence is expected of men and it’s looked upon fondly instead of negatively. When boys fight people often say boys will be boys. Males are the most likely to commit crimes of violence. Also men most often choose other men as targets for violence. Men fight men for the title of being a man. The losers and those who wish not to fight are then lumped into the category of non-men.

We see this process of advantages when we flip over to the other gender and we look at them. There is a pay gap in our country that the US census department has acknowledged. There has been no change in this gender gap from 2010 to today. So we can assume that men are taking work privilege away from women in order to secure a higher earning potential then there female counterpart. Another part that takes place in this system is the fact that our society is male dominated. Men outnumber women in professional jobs, and are overrepresented in our governmental positions. In fact government leaders actively encourage this gap between men and women.

Another level of male roles is that they are the bread winner. This is the notion that women have kids and raise them while men provide for them. This is how conservatives tend to explain the wage gap between men and women. This notion is offensive not only to women but to single people and gay men. It also shows us systemic ways that our culture has become hetero-normative. It also makes a new group of non-men. If a man makes less than a woman he becomes less of a man. If a female earns more than a man he becomes a non-man. Society ridicules men who are in a relationship with someone who makes more money than them. Also women are taught to find men to take care of them. These roles disempower all of us.

Sex is the parts we are born with and gender is who we are feel we are. However this is not enough in our culture. We are expected to act one way than express who we feel we are and what we want to be. Men are dominate, aggressive and heterosexual. If we fail to act these roles we will get called harsh names that degraded us to non-men. I do not see how anyone benefits from this system. Being pigeonholed into a role is not expressing our gender identity. Inflicting acts of violence and dominance does not as well. When we are allowed to have our own identity without the media and medicine and systemic institutional behavior modifiers telling us how to play our part then we can truly express out gender and our sex.

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