Men’s Health Week: Masculinity

By Keir Goode a current MSc Molecular Microbiology NTU student

Masculinity in society is something that I have always struggled with. The word and essence come along with feelings of not being good enough, hiding emotions and many others. It effects a lot of people in many ways in all walks of life no matter what gender, sexual orientation, or race.

Masculinity however means many different things to different people around the world, this is because it is often described as a social construct. It is a taught or learned thing in societies and so in different societies it has different connotations.

As young boys grow up, they are bombarded with the ideals in the media of what makes someone masculine. The greatest example of this is James Bond. He rarely shows any emotion, is violent and does not get reprimanded and views sex as a competition, that through his aggression and so called “masculinity” he wins the girl. Another example would be athletes especially in sport where physical prowess makes them worthy of cultural and financial esteem, while jobs like teaching is undervalued (Gilmore, 1991).

Masculinity in different cultures

In Chinese cultures where men are seen as finding masculinity through femininity, the western male (Western Europe and U.S.) are seen as against femininity. In more recent times however the western ideal of masculinity has shifted towards the Chinese style.  

Since 1970s there has been an increase in marketing towards men being consumers of products not just women. This has led the modern man to feel the need to manipulate their appearance and to consume products to appear masculine. (Davis, 2002).  

However, in recent years there has been a huge challenge to the ideas of masculinity and femininity. A lot of people feel there is no need to put these labels on themselves. This has been partly due to the gay rights movement which tends to be more fluid when it comes to gender identities. It is important to note that these attitudes haven’t fully developed in the general public, and even myself a gay male feel that is probably easier just to blend in and act and appear masculine as opposed to challenging it. It is changing, all you have to do is look to the fashion industry to see this. Big stars such as Harry Styles will often blur the lines on what is masculine to wear.  

I think the main thing to take away message from this is masculinity is a construct and if you feel comfortable being traditionally masculine or those views don’t quite fit with you, its all okay.  

Just be yourself! 

References

Davis, K. (2002). “A dubious equality”: Men, women and cosmetic surgery. Body & Society, 8(1), 49–65. 

Gilmore, D., n.d. Manhood in the making. 2nd ed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press.

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.


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