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Growing Up Masculine

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Course: Men in Contemporary society
Student Name: Liane Halford
Student Number: 10322115
Word count: 1,017

Growing up masculine

“Growing up masculine”, this is not a term which can be described and understood in a few sentences. Masculinity is a term frequently used in today’s modern society but do we know it’s true meaning? Over the course of this paper we shall discuss what masculinity is and how it can affect the lives of boys as they mature and grow into men.
The first issue that needs to be discussed is that of gender and what masculinity really means. When a person is born depending on whether they are male or female they will be influenced by the environment around them. For example a baby girl would be dressed in pink and given dolls to play with. But as the child grows they have the chose to play with any toy they wish, this means the girl may want to play with cars instead of dolls. This very simple example shows her role as a girl was not fixed she had the choice to play with any toy she wanted to. Connell described it best when she said
“we cannot think of womanhood or manhood as fixed by nature. But neither should we think of them as simple imposed from outside, by social norms or pressure from authorities. People construct themselves as masculine or feminine.” (Gender, 2012,Page 6)

It is important at this point to make it clear that although we are all born to one sex or the other our gender roles are a choice. Even though they are heavily influenced by the societies we grow up in it actually a free choose for every man to make. Kimmel puts this into very simple terms where he says “ men are not born, growing from infants through boyhood to manhood, to follow a predetermined biological imperative encoded in their physical organization. To be a man is to participate in social life as a man, as a gendered being. Men are not born; they are made. And men make themselves, actively constructing their masculinities within a social and historical context.” (Men’s lives,2010, Page xvii)
This is what is known as socialization. Socialization is the procedure where all children and adults begin learning from the actions and interactions of others. This learning process begins the moment we are born, and continues right the way through our lives. We learn to accept social norms such as men and women get married and have children. At this stage many are taught that the man is the strong dominate figure in the home. This way of teaching is heavily influenced in many of the learning environments such as the school playground. The boys and girls will play separately. A boy would not want to be thought of as ‘girly’ or ‘gay’ if he partook in a game so for this reason they tend to remain separate.

This brings us onto our next topic with is that of hegemonic masculinity.
One of the main issues with masculinity today is that of hegemonic masculinity, this affects and influences every boy and continues right into manhood. The first aspect we shall look at is explaining what hegemonic masculinity is and what its influences are. “Hegemonic masculinity involves a specific strategy for the subordination of women. Hegemonic masculinity concerns the dread of a flight from women. A culturally idealised form, it is both personal and collective project, and is the common sense about breadwinning and manhood.” (Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity, 2006, page 3)

It is very important to understand that hegemonic masculinity is not forced upon the gender order but rather it is developing from social and cultural environment. Although it may not be forced on the gender order it makes it conform to its rules, and ideas such as men are the bread winners of the household. Hegemonic masculinity itself also causes problems for boys growing up. If a boy is homosexual he is not conforming to the standards set out by hegemonic masculinity, in this way he could be seen as weak. Connell describes this in very modest terms, “boys and men who depart from dominant definitions of masculinity because they are gay, effeminate or simply wimpish are often subject to verbal abuse and discrimination, and are sometimes the targets of violence” (Gender, 2012, page 7)
This form of discrimination is not just targeted at the boy who may appear slightly more feminine but boys of a different race will be tagged and abused mentally and physically. The sociologists Hearn and Morgan make the stark observation that, “in the case of black men, their subordination as a racial minority has more than cancelled out their advantages as males in the larger society, the issues of masculinity and race are too interwoven to separate.”(Men, masculinity and social theory,1990, Page 61)

One social group which is heavily targeted and segregated in the world of masculinity is that of homosexuality. The homosexual men are seen as a sexual boundary which a straight male should not cross or come near to. Arnot states that when she was examining the male roles in schools she noticed that there was links between “male compulsory heterosexuality and the masculine processes of dissociation from femininity, in a male dominated society femininity is ascribed.”(The making of men, 1994, Page 90)
Many boys and men that are homosexual are seen as sexually confessed and weaker than that of the heterosexual man. As gay man are seen as weaker they are often placed in the same bracket as women which means they are seen as less important in the social and working world.

To conclude growing up masculine is not a simple process. Today’s modern world has many obstacles for the young man to contend with. Which social bracket does he belong to? Does his sexuality have to influence his way of life? Many men in today’s world can feel isolated from society as they may not fit into the one of the very clear social brackets laid down by generations. But as society continues to change and allow for changes growing up masculine should one day become more straight forward.

Bibliography

• Connell, R; 2012; Gender; polity press, Cambridge. • Kimmel, M, S; Messner, M, A; 2010; Men’s lives; Pearson Education; USA. • Howson, R; 2006; Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity; Routledge, New York. • Hearn, J; Morgan, D; 1990; Men, Masculinity and Social Theory; Unwin Hyman Ltd. • Mac an Ghaill, M; 1994; The Making of Men; Open University press, Philadelphia.

Bibliography: • Connell, R; 2012; Gender; polity press, Cambridge. • Kimmel, M, S; Messner, M, A; 2010; Men’s lives; Pearson Education; USA. • Howson, R; 2006; Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity; Routledge, New York. • Hearn, J; Morgan, D; 1990; Men, Masculinity and Social Theory; Unwin Hyman Ltd. • Mac an Ghaill, M; 1994; The Making of Men; Open University press, Philadelphia.

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