Essay on Masculinity
Number of words: 1131
Masculinity is a form of gender that is most seen as an identity for the average male–a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles that are generally associated with boys and men. It is commonly defined as a form of power and the expectancy to be both tough and able to suppress emotions other than anger at the drop of a pin. Men are expected to adhere to a somewhat strict “code” of masculinity and are shamed whenever they do things that society deems “feminine” or “un-masculine”. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word masculinity is going to the gym to find it to-the-doors full of muscular men that are focusing their lives around “pumping iron” and “getting jacked”. While it is not necessarily a bad thing if that is a chosen hobby or interest, it begins to become expectations for boys to conform to at a young age.
Expressing masculinity without it being seen as toxic is something most men struggle with at some point of their lives—whether it be as a child when their father scolds “suck it up and be a man”, or in the adult world when men are expected to suppress both emotions and neglect mental health to be “masculine”. Many men struggle with mental health issues at one point or another in their lives and end up suppressing the need to reach out for help due to the social judgement that is involved with anything that is not directly textbook masculinity. Distancing as a man due to this results in feelings of dissociation, feeling lost, bottling up emotions—and at worst cases, suicide. Suicide among males is 4x’s higher than among females. Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides. (CDC) (SAVE, 2021)
Anti-femininity is something taught to boys at a young age–the shaming of liking pink, for example, due to it being a “girl’s color”. With some research, I discovered pink was originally a favored men’s color as recently as the 19th century. “In fact, pink was even considered to be a masculine color. In old catalogs and books, pink was the color for little boys,” said Leatrice Eiseman, a color expert and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “It was related to the mother color of red, which was ardent and passionate and more active, more aggressive.” (Bhattacharjee, 2018). As we grow up and mature, we are expected to adhere to a specific set of standards—expected to be drawn to things like watching sports, enjoying cars, and being self-taught handymen. The number of products that are marketed towards men are never ending—unnecessary things like tactical sunglasses, work gloves, even razors have been gendered to try to sell more to the men who refuse to buy anything other than “masculine” labeled products. When, razors for example—are manufactured on the same assembly lines before they are sorted into masculine or feminine themed packaging and pushed towards the selected gender. Even cartoons are marketed towards a mainly boys or girls’ audience—creating a distinction of types of cartoons boys and girls are “supposed” to watch which leads to boys watching “girly” shows like Hannah Montana to be frowned upon by both parents and society also. I watched Hannah Montana growing up, much to the disdain of my father—although it did not hurt me as many parents fear it will when they let their children choose what they want to watch, whether it be more masculine or feminine themed shows.
Many men avoid pursuing the hobbies, emotions, and actions that make them happy because of society’s concepts of masculinity—leading to living life in a shell of fear about their interests being seen as something feminine and bottling up your emotions. I, for one myself, had trouble in recent years—being frowned upon for not seeing distinct lines between what is deemed women’s and men’s clothing, wearing eyeliner and black nail polish, and enjoying things that would stereotypically be deemed feminine. Even though I still presented a very masculine persona in the eyes of society, there was still a side of me that I hid away due to the fear of being judged for how I enjoyed spending the days of my life. Why should something like a label on an item of clothing define which gender is able to be the sole one to wear or shop in that section of the store? I have multiple pieces of clothing from both the men’s sections and women’s as well, and they both do their jobs just as well as the opposite does. Men’s pants and even shoes are a must for me to shop for–although the ladies’ cardigans and sweaters fit more comfortably, instead of being swallowed up by them like the men’s section outerwear offers. Plus, there are so many more color choices for women’s’ clothing versus how few color choices most men’s’ clothing offers. Being a smaller framed guy myself, it’s harder for me to find men’s clothing that actually fits correctly–leading me to have more worries than the usual jock does about my masculinity, and internal struggles about how society views me as a male, but it shouldn’t mean I cannot enjoy my life how I want to either. Here in the 21th century, men have developed a sense that we can wear and enjoy what we want to—without being shamed or judged for simple things like eyeliner or even nail polish. Even then, the stigma of what society deems “masculine” seems to lurk above our heads, hanging like an old coat in a long-forgotten closet.
The definition of masculinity should be something more along the lines of being able to live your life in complete comfort—both with emotions and hobbies and interests also, rather than what role society deems correct for men to live their lives in. Some strive to call this sense of self “gender-fluid”, or even the old school term “androgynous”—although the second reminds me of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, as influential as it was on my childhood, I would not go out on that limb to say I was androgynous in the least. Whether you prefer to use a pre-existing term like “androgynous”, “gender-fluid”, or even just comfortable in your own masculinity—what matters the most at the end of the day is that you are comfortable in your own skin.
Reidenburg, Daniel J. “Suicide Statistics and Facts.” SAVE, 2021, save.org/about-suicide/suicide-facts/.
Bhattacharjee, Puja. “The Complicated Gender History of Pink.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Jan. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/01/12/health/colorscope-pink-boy-girl-gender/index.html.