What Exactly Is Masculinity?
So why the image of Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther? Black Panther exists in a world dominated by powerful women and yet has managed to establish an equilibrium that doesn't threaten his sense of masculinity, in fact, it balances it out quite nicely. I think it's a good metaphor to consider but what exactly is masculinity?
Simple questions are often the most complex to answer, and the attempt to define masculinity in today’s world is no exception. This is more a stream of evolving consciousness rather than a fully formed definition which I think is the most appropriate way to address the question.
I think biology plays a huge role in defining the typical behavioural traits of men but culture and society determine how they are exhibited, and this evolves based on necessity and the Zeitgeist of our times.
Biologically speaking men are usually physically stronger, more likely to resort to aggression and have a tendency to want to dominate. We are historically the hunters, the providers, the protectors, the ones sent off to fight wars, the ones who do the dirtiest jobs, and yes, the ones most likely to be elected to squash bugs and investigate strange noises in the night - and I see nothing wrong with that.
These are typical masculine roles but they do not present the full picture. Whilst I think the fundamentals may remain the same, the modern-day interpretation of masculinity has to evolve to remain relevant and practical.
Men are no longer required to hunt wild animals on the planes of the Savannah or be the sole breadwinner and this is good, but the challenges that we face are still very real.
Masculinity in the modern world also needs to incorporate a healthy balance of typical 'feminine traits' such are sensitivity, compassion and the ability to nurture. It's about being dynamic whilst remaining true to our nature.
It takes a strong man to ask for help in a society that views this as a weakness. It takes a strong man to stand on his principles knowing he'll be ostracised from the group. It takes a strong man to face his demons and admit to himself and others when he's messed up.
What makes masculinity so hard to define is that many of the traits usually associated with masculinity such as courage, bravery, leadership qualities and responsibility are not exclusively male traits. Women have proven throughout history that they are fully capable of doing most if not all of the tasks that men have usually been responsible for but natural patterns of behaviour between the sexes persist to this very day.
Our ideas of masculinity are malleable and subjective but mans biology remains a key influencing factor in providing much of the drivers that make men 'men'. I think deep down we all know what it means to be masculine, women especially, which is why you often hear them ask "where have all the real men gone?" Even though we may struggle to articulate it, we instinctively understand it, even more so when these masculine traits are lacking.
For me, to be a man means being strong, brave, responsible, dignified, sensitive, compassionate, nurturing and aggressive when required. It means a willingness to endure pain and make the necessary sacrifices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those who I am responsible for. It means having the ability to think for myself and not allow society to dictate my version of reality. It means being a force for good and giving back to the collective with the knowledge that I have been able to enrich the lives of a few.
Clearly, some men are finding it very difficult to exist in today's society with feminism and the #metoo movement seen as an encroachment on their right to be masculine. Working class white males in particular appear to be having a difficult time dealing with the shift in the balance of power. The problem with being at the top of the pecking order within a dominant race for so long is that your metal is not tested in the same way as those who have had to develop dynamic coping mechanisms like what women and minorities have had to do in order to be recognised as equal.
We all need to realise that feminism is not a threat to the secure male, it’s complimentary when balanced correctly. It’s also important to learn to think for ourselves and not allow society to dictate what are acceptable forms of thought and self-expression.
It's ultimately about how men choose to express their highest ideals of what constitutes masculinity although these traits are not exclusively masculine or feminine. I think it's better to strive for a balance between the two (the Ying and Yang) whilst acknowledging that biology and nature will always be a major contributing factor.
Peace and Love,