This past Tuesday I was given the awesome opportunity to see a documentary called “The Mask You Live In“.This documentary was absolutely amazing and put into perspective just how impactful having the gender norms our society is structured around can affect male’s of all ages. They brought up an amazing point really on in the documentary when someone said “We associate masculinity with athletic ability, wealth, and cultural/ sexual ability.” I think this is so important as to how it can be extremely damaging to males.
Hyper-masculinity and the ideas that males need to “act like a man” is a much bigger problem in society than people realize. So much of being masculine is rooted within patriarchal views and is saying that being feminine is a bad thing. When you tell a guy to “man up” you’re insinuating that you shouldn’t share your emotions and should hold everything in and not be vulnerable. Whereas for people who identify as female (sorry for the usage of the gender binary, but hyper-masculinity is also rooted in the gender binary) don’t have phrases such as “woman up” because that doesn’t mean anything and women are encouraged to share their feelings.
Going back to what I said was mentioned early on in the documentary, I would like to diagnose my feelings about each part.
The one that you notice especially in males elementary to high school years is that boys are supposed to play sports. They are highly encouraged to play sports because they’re men, and that’s “what men do”. I think this is absolutely ridiculous that men are supposed to like sports. It’s obviously fine if boys do, but forcing your son to play sports and not get involved in art or music because it’s “too feminine” is ridiculous in my opinion. Everyone has their own passions, and one should not be limited to such just because of their gender identity.
Wealth is an interesting one, and you can clearly see the issues with equal pay rights and the wage gap. As you can see in SassyYazzy’s post on the wage gap, women only make 78cents to the man’s dollar. The important thing to realize is that this is white women we are talking about here, so we aren’t even looking at how much less women of color and many other oppressed groups make compared to men.
The last part of the quote I’m focusing on is the association of masculinity with cultural and sexual ability. In other words, a man’s ability to have sex with lots of women. As a society, white males are the dominant group, and within groups of white men (especially college-aged men), it’s looked at as having sex with tons of girls is a way to assert your dominance and show just how masculine you are.
Now that I’ve broken this down, I think this negatively affects many groups. It negatively affects those boys who don’t fit in as “masculine” as they will easily get bullied growing up by boys who do fit these categories. It also can cause men to look at women degradingly because being seen as feminine is a bad thing, so men will look at women as if they are beneath them. Lastly, I think it’s bad to the male’s being directly affected by this idea of masculinity. I think it deters a lot of men from pursuing what they actually want to do because they so feel pressured to be so good at sports. It also creates a very unstable mental state because boys are told that they shouldn’t show their emotions and that they should hold everything inside, which is never a good thing.
All in all, hypermasculinity is a terrible part of our societal norms and it harms pretty much everyone.