masculinity

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masculinity

the characteristics associated with the male sex. The historical study of masculinity documents ‘manliness’ as a code of conduct, heroism, strength, emphasis upon the public nature of man as natural, and monolithic dimensions of masculinity relating to objectivity, reason and CIVILIZING PROCESSES. Since the late 1970s masculinity has been studied in relation to continuity and change in its perceived forms and in relation to gender relations and sexual politics (Roper and Tosh, 1991; Brittan, 1989). The growing men's movement is giving voice to some of the differences and similarities between men in reflecting upon and defining interrelationships between men, masculinities, the women's movement and society (Seidler, 1991).

Of great importance to these debates is the interface with FEMINISM and the women's movement and the focus upon PATRIARCHY, power, male violence and oppression (Samuels, 1993). Samuels points out that since the early 1980s there has been an explosion of books on men's issues. In his examination of the men's movement he notes four overlapping dimensions: the experiential, the sociopolitical, the mythopoetic and the gay men's movements. The experiential is therapeutic in style, offering a chance to feel, cry, hug and confess. The sociopolitical is founded upon the notion that men should learn from feminism and work towards cooperative and non-hierarchical ways of achieving equality. There has been an increasing emphasis upon gender relations, power and sexual politics, most notably in the work of Robert Connell (1987). The mythopoetic movement is led by Robert Bly whose book Iron John (1990) uses a Grimm's fairy tale to develop the thesis that men need to regain contact with their spiritual, primal, Dionysian, ‘hairy’ selves. Men can be tough, decisive and gentle. In relation to the gay men's movement, Samuels points out that HOMOSEXUALITY is a recent category, that a thriving gay community undermines a social system that deploys HETEROSEXUALITY to maintain the control of women and that there are links to be made between the gay community and the sociopolitical dimensions to the men's movement(s). Hearn (1990; 1992), located within the sociopolitical movement and a leading theorist on masculinities and their relation to feminism and male violence, states that the category of men through ‘absence, avoidance, ambivalence and alterity’ becomes a taken-for-granted presence and central to the reproduction of dominant malestream ideologies and social practices. Men are the ‘one’ to women's ‘other’(de BEAUVOIR, 1953). For Hearn, more careful work needs to be done on the interrelation of men's agency, subjectivity and practice and its relationship to men's structural power in reproducing that power and in potentially abolishing it.