Attention, men of Earth: Good news!
Notions of “masculinity” are changing for the better in the 21st century. (In the Western world, anyway.)
According to The Good Men Project, researchers have been poking around and examining men’s social mores in various countries, and what they’ve found is that men are “becoming softer and more inclusive” in their gender roles.
The findings have led Professor Eric Anderson to coin a phase: “Inclusive Masculinity,” which include touchstones like an affinity for male-on-male affection (“hugging,” “cuddling,” kissing); a penchant for “metrosexuality” (the embrace of a softer, more fluid interpretation of manhood, a la David Beckham); social fluidity (being able to hobnob, carry on and kiki in ways previous generations would have deemed “feminine” or “gay”); and “multiplicity” (an acceptance of the fact that there are many different types of masculinity and they should all be accepted and appreciated.)
Anderson suggests this new model is slowly but surely replacing “orthodox masculinity,” a demonstrably darker and more rigid set of traits that include homophobia (regularly excluding “other” types of men); “compulsory heterosexuality,” where men anxiously define themselves based on what they aren’t (i.e., gay); sexism (women are objects and sexual conquests, nothing more); and stoicism (enduring unbearable physical and emotional pain without complaining.)
What does “orthodox masculinity” boil down to exactly? A term that, at the very least, makes for a superior band name: HOMOHYSTERIA.
Anderson defines homohysteria as “the fear of being homosexualized”.
It’s a feeling of terror (for a man) that if you do anything at all which isn’t “orthodox masculine”, other people will think you are homosexual.
Homohysteria takes over a society when three things are in place:
1. Widespread awareness that male homosexuality commonly exists.
2. High levels of homophobia.
3. A belief that anything not “masculine” must be a sign of homosexuality.
Anderson argues that Western homohysteria peaked in the 1980s, following the HIV/AIDS epidemic amongst gay men.
Anderson claims the costs of traditional notions of “orthodox masculinity” (i.e. guys who play competitive sports, call each other “dude,” drink lots of beer and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the color pink) are dire: Men are expected to sacrifice their bodies “for the good of the family.” They’re encouraged to put emotional distance between themselves and everyone else, leading to intense isolation and loneliness. The violent instincts they’ve honed playing sports leads them to apply that violence to everyday life — both against themselves and others. They become locked in a sort of “gender straightjacket” that forces them to conceal their feelings, deny ever needing help, and be relegated to highly limited options in work, play, and life.
Well, that’s no good — so how do we make sure inclusive masculinities continue to spread?
Easy. Anderson says all is takes is these four simple steps:
- Peer Influence. As younger men demonstrate a more open idea of masculinity, they begin to influence and inspire their friends.
- Institutional Changes. New laws and guidelines that protect against discrimination wield huge influence, indicating that it’s okay to express yourself outside the confines of more traditional models of masculinity.
- Media Portrayals. The more television programs and films that feature men in various roles — and not just the role of the traditional manly man — will subsequently influence viewers for the better.
- Easy Access To Online Porn. Yes. Yes. One of the most surprising findings of the study is that the incredible surplus of of free gay porn online has been “instrumental in exposing the forbidden fruit of homosexual sex, comodifying it and normalizing it in the process.” This explains why more straight-identifying men are happily experimenting with gay sex than ever before.
In conclusion: Younger generations of men are altogether “nicer” and more comfortable in their skin, feeling far less confined to stifling gender roles and showing less willingness to engage in homophobic taunts. If Anderson’s findings are accurate, it means that quality of life is continuing to improve for young men, which ultimately will lead to a more accepting and civil society.
What do you think? Do you buy this idea of a burgeoning “inclusive masculinity,” or do you think it’s a considerable reach — psychobabble poppycock that should be relegated to a Gender Theory course at Bard College?