Hypermascunlinity. It’s everywhere. It dominates our culture. Just when we thought the new generation was ushering in an era of humanitarianism, 2016’s Republican presidential candidate is the very essence of the word itself.
Hypermasculinity, the quality or exhibition of exaggerated masculine behavior or traits especially strength of those of a violent, dominant or sexual nature (dictionary.com), is seen in and perpetuated by the Trump campaign at every turn. Whether it’s his comments about soldiers with PTSD, his obsession with hand (penis) size or his constant hypersexualization of women (most recently revealed in footage from 2005 in which he made vulgar and rape-y – for lack of a better word – comments about a woman) – Trump is the very poster child of hypermasculinity.
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As a woman I’ve witnessed and fallen victim to this attitude my entire life – men who infantilize me and talk down to me because I’m a woman, who catcall from behind foggy car windows as I jog by, who label me “bitch” when I refuse their sexual advances, because, apparently, as a woman, I owe them something for simply existing. The sad part is, I’m not just unlucky. On the contrary, I am one of the fortunate ones who has only ever had to deal with these microagressions. In the U.S. alone, one in every five women is raped in her lifetime, often by men who see them as objects and consider it their right to take them by force.
Indeed, the rampant misogyny, sexual harassment and violence in our culture is no doubt spurred, at least in part, by this hypermascunilist mentality that is perpetuated by the media, video games, music, politics and now the potential leader of our nation.
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Yet, I don’t like this word “hypermascunlinity,” and let me tell you why: it implies that this ideology is somehow the result of being overly masculine or manly, when the truth is, the people who employ this mentality are not truly masculine at all. Rather, in their attempt to exude manliness, they’ve lost the very the qualities of true “manhood,” and instead wallow in something much more akin to cowardice or pride.
My boyfriend is a feminist. He values me as a person, as a soul – not merely as a sexual object. In fact, he and I make the mutual choice to be abstinent for the time being. He is vegan, like myself, and would never hurt an animal much less another human being. He gentle, soft-spoken, kind and respectful. He is neither homophobic nor xenophobic nor misogynist. He exhibits no traits of hypermasculinity. Yet I consider him the most masculine person I know.
See, the problem isn’t that men are “too masculine,” but perhaps that they’ve misidentified what masculinity truly is. There is nothing wrong with being strong – the issue lies in how one uses his strength: to oppress others, or to lift them up? Those who confuse masculinity with violence and aggression are not men at all – but merely boys with big guns and inflated egos. True masculinity lies in the hearts of men who are mature and aware enough to accept their inherent privilege and strive to use it for the good of all – not just to benefit themselves.
Look at men throughout history who were true leaders and evoked positive change – men like Gandhi and MLK. Were these men violent, misogynistic warlords? No. They preached peace. They taught kindness. These men embody what it truly means to be a leader, a man. So men, this is a call to action: grow up, accept your privilege and use it to bring justice, not to perpetuate injustice.
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