.. are seen by the student?body of the school. Pep rallies are thrown to support the ‘athletes’, the ‘stars’ of the school. Girls swoon over the masculine ‘hunks’. As young boys move into adulthood they are told to “be men” when confronted with a formidable challenge or when they face some sort of agony. The implication in this phrase is that men should be immune to pain and not show any emotion.
To show emotion would be a sign of weakness and society would view them as abnormal or inferior (Pollack 1995). I have covered the socialization process showing how physical prowess is objectified and legitimated in males. This process, however, does not end in high school. As men move into their twenties and thirties, health and fitness become issues of concern. To see how health and fitness are socially defined as overly muscular men, one need only pick up a copy of Men’s Health.
Invariably you will find on the cover, men flaunting their toned, muscular bodies, and often you will find them with a seductively beautiful and toned woman by their side. These toned and muscled men are seen and depicted by society as the ideal. They may not be the healthiest individuals and probably are not. Nevertheless, they are deemed as the ‘ideal men’ of our society. Along with the emphasis on health and fitness comes the continued advent of athletic prowess.
How often are men asked “Did you see the game last night?” or “How about them Jazz?” In the work place and social groupings, men often turn the topic of conversation to athletic events, enthralled and enraptured by the topic. From the beginning of male life to the very end, society has determined that men must be strong, tough, aloof, and powerful to be considered masculine and not weak or effeminate. Is this all that society (and women) want in men? Do they want simple-minded ‘hunks’ of musculature that are ‘tough’. It is no longer sufficient for men to just be ‘tough’ physically. They must also demonstrate competence intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.
This argument is not to say that being physically fit and healthy is a negative characteristic, but rather it is only trying to point out that what society is defining as the ideal is later revoked by that same society, or at the very least discarded and seen as secondary to the truly important mental prowess, sensitivity and intelligence. This is where the double standard becomes evident. William Pollack, a Harvard clinical psychologist, talks about how males have been put in a “gender straightjacket” that leads to anger, despair and often violence. Pollack states, “We ask them (men) to take a whole range of feelings and emotions and put those behind a mask . .
We tell them they have to stand on their own two feet and we shame them if they show any emotion.” Pollack says that boys are shame phobics and”some will [even] kill to avoid shame”(Gwartney 1998). It appears that the standard defined by society allows men to express their emotion only through anger. With such strict conflicting expectations, a male often doesn’t know how to act. Rigid stereotypes have been emphasized to them from an early age of what it means to really be a man. However, men are often criticized for being one dimensional in their behavior and emotions.
They are expected by society to be sensitive and show their emotions. “Men are so insensitive!”‘ Are they? Why do women think men are so insensitive? Do they realize that insensitivity is what men have been taught their whole lives? Realistically, men are in a no?win situation. If they don’t show their emotions, they are berated for being detached from the essence of what really constitutes a human being. On the other hand, if a male decides to expose his emotions, he is labeled as a “sissy” and not viewed as equal to other males who demonstrate more valor and bravery. Genetics vs.
Socialization Why do we choose blue for boys and pink for girls? Why do we have girls take dance and boys play baseball? There is no genetic difference as to why women would do laundry and a man would mow the lawn. This is a result of externalization (Bowker 1998). But are males more prone to ‘toughness’ and masculinity than women? Could it be said that genetics play a factor in what is so often considered to be a socially defined aspect of male masculinity? In general, males are much more aggressive than females. Biologists and anthropologists would propose that this is because humans have evolved from a polygamous society. In that society males competed hard to procreate, and females worked to raise and support the young. These roles demanded aggression in males, and promoted rules such as hierarchy, competition and dominance.
A theory promulgated by David Buss takes into consideration the social side of aggression while maintaining that biological instincts are the underlying cause. He suggests in his book The Evolution of Desire that the existence of large numbers of men who cannot attract a mate may increase sexual aggression and rape. He states that “violence is often the recourse of people who lack resources that would otherwise elicit voluntary compliance with their wishes.” Rape occurs more often by men who lack the status and resources that women want in mates (Buss 1994). Richard Wrangham and Dale Petersen take another perspective with their insightful article about primates. From their research they conclude that a high percentage of matings were forced copulations.
These findings were mostly with the orangutan species, but there is also evidence that chimpanzees and ducks participate in what appears to be rape. The theories suggest that natural selection has favored rape as a way for smaller males to impregnate females. This theory has also been argued with humans. Thus it could be said that males are genetically prone to violence and aggression (Wrangham 1997). Conclusion Is there a double standard in masculinity? It is apparent through my arguments that society expects men to be both’tough’ and ‘gentle’ while some might argue that genetics, instincts and their animalistic nature for men to act more tough than gentle.
The paradox is evident, the source ambiguous. Regardless, masculinity is an unrealistic expectation of men. Who or what are they supposed to be? Bibliography Betcher, William R. et al. (1993) In a time of fallen Heroes.
New York, NY, Macmillan Publishing Company. Bowker, Lee H. (1998) Masculinities and Violence. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, Inc. Buss, David. (1994) The Evolution of Desire.
New York, NY, St. Martin’s Press, Inc. Gwartney, Debra. (October 17, 1998) “Double bind of boys concerns psychologists.” Oregon Times. Katz, Jackson. (1995) “Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity” In Dines, Gail and Humez, Jean. (Eds.) Gender, Race and Class in Media.
Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications. Pollack, William. (1995) “Deconstructing Dis-identification: Rethinking psychoanalytic Concepts of male development.” Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. 12(1)30-45. Stearns, Peter N. (1990) Be A Man! Males in Modern Society. New York, NY, Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. Thompson, Neil.
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et al. (1997) Relationship Violence in Demonic Males. New York, NY, Routledge.