A Sample of Factors to Define Modern United States Masculinity

Topics: Gender, Gender role, Gender identity Pages: 13 (4571 words) Published: November 14, 2012
A Sample of Factors to Define Modern United States Masculinity

During the twentieth century there have been several leading studies, findings and theories to attempt to rationalize and explain masculinity and gender roles in the United States. Some have been based on biblical reference, others on pure animal instinct and some based on modern research. In the following pages I will describe my own factors and qualities that define what it means to be man; that is to understand modern masculinity in the United States. I will highlight and further explore the common theme of hegemonic masculinity and how it threads into our modern culture. You will see a “frameless framework” evolve; one that is not visible directly, rather it becomes visible only through the absence of tangible visual clues. In addition, I will explore the intersectionality of several roles the Western culture uses to define ourselves as men. Along the way I have included historical references to show how this has changed. In the end you will have a better understanding about intended, conscious choices as well as those unintended, more subtle elements which define modern Western masculinity.

Hegemonic Masculinity
When pressure is applied and the outcome is not written, verbalized or otherwise directly expressed as hegemonic. This likewise can be applied to gender roles, and most specifically to masculine gender. The dominant discourse of masculinity characterized by physical and emotional toughness, risk taking, predatory heterosexuality, being a breadwinner, and so on. Elements of hegemonic masculinity are commonly set up in binary opposition to their alternatives, so that anything other than the hegemonic form is immediately non-masculine (Divisser, 597) There are numerous unrealistic expectations placed on modern men; often fraught with conflicting values and outcomes. Often men are defined as men by actions, visual clues and memberships to social (non-visual) cliques. Throughout recent history gender (masculine and feminine both) have evolved, as they should have, and in some ways modernized to fit with current cultural standards. Theorists have historicized gender and detached it as an analytical concept from patriarchy, emphasizing instead the performative and discursive features of regimes of gendered power. (Nye, 419)

Several theories have been introduced to understand how conflicts incur stress or “strain”. One such theory is Gender Strain Theory which roughly states how genders differently experience various aspects of life, including their gender. In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports. Every American male tends to look out upon the world from this perspective, thus constituting one sense in which one can speak of a common value system in America. Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself—during moments at least—as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior. (Phillips, 407) Additionally, men and women experience war differently even with the same uniforms, leaders, directions and mission the outcomes and experiences for each gender are distinct. The men who made the transition from citizens to soldiers were obliged to leave behind a sense of manly competence as heads of household for a life in which they lived rough, submitted to discipline, and survived on their fighting skills and personal courage. (Nye, 417) One important note is the sense of pride that an act, such as fighting for one’s country can inflict on a man. As much as he might love and identify with his country, the citizen-soldier fought for and under the scrutiny of his comrades in arms, out of the need to defend his personal honor and that of the fatherland, or—which amounts to the...
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