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Discuss the view that contemporary society is experiencing a crisis of masculinity

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Polly Jackman, 12SAM Discuss the view that contemporary society is experiencing a crisis of masculinity Masculinity is the word used to describe the broad stereotyped traits traditionally ascribed to all males in British society and the notion of how men should appear and behave. It is more accurate to refer to 'masculinities', to reflect the complexity and diversity of masculinity today. There are important differences made between 'hegemonic' and 'subordinate' masculinities; hegemonic masculinity is the dominant western image - white, heterosexual and middle class, subordinate the diverse masculinities - homosexual men, black men and the working class. David Beckham is a modern icon who has expressed and challenged some of the dominant assumptions of masculinity and identity. He is a talented and committed footballer yet his experiments with fashion and his posing for shoots are taken by some as an affront to the conventionalities of traditional masculine behaviour. Rutherford stated that 'the reality of men's heterosexual identities is that their endurance is contingent upon an array of structures and institutions'. He believes that if these structures are threatened or weakened then masculine identities can be threatened or weakened. Rutherford thinks that five changes have undermined the male dominance of certain structures and institutions. These changes are 1) working-class masculinities threatened by the decline of heavy manual industry. Male unemployment has risen while female employment has increased. 2) Violent and sexual abuse of women and children has become more widely publicised and less tolerated. 3) Men's roles within the family have been questioned. ...read more.


Clare believes that he 'learned very early on what a man does; his work is as important as, even more important than, who he is; that a man is defined in modern capitalistic society in terms not of being but doing'. Clare writes: 'My career, particularly my medical career, was always portrayed and interpreted, by others as much as by myself, as more important than spouse, family, friends. During my undergraduate and postgraduate training, first in medicine, then in psychiatry, I never ever witnessed a male colleague admitting to putting his family first. Male colleagues would blithely arrange late evening meetings of this or that committee and be surprised and irritated when female colleagues pointed out that domestic duties made their attendance impossible. For a male to make such a statement would have marked him as someone not committed to his job. Most male colleagues were busy demonstrating how they worked all the hours God gave them. It was like chimps beating their chests and baring their teeth. Often, it was just about as productive'. In the late 1960s and 1970s the phenomenon then known as the 'empty-nest syndrome' was regularly encountered. This syndrome affected married women who, after having given their lives to looking after their families, found when they reached their fifties their children had grown up and gone and their spouses were enjoying a life separate from themselves. These days it is far more likely that middle-aged men, having given their lives loyally to a particular company or corporation, will be compulsorily retired, downsized or rendered redundant. ...read more.


Violence, sexual abuse of children, illicit drug use, and alcohol misuse, gambling all are overwhelmingly male activities. Throughout North America, Europe and Australia, male suicides outnumber female by a factor of between 3 and 4 to 1. The rise in the number of young men killing themselves in much of the developed world has been termed an epidemic. These suicide figures are viewed as the tip of an iceberg of male depression, hidden only because men are seen to be either too proud or too emotionally blocked to admit when their feelings are out of control. Men appear terrified by the prospect of revealing that they can be - and often are - depressed, dependent, in need of help. It will be said that it has always been thus and that all that is changing is that men are coming out of the emotional closet. Others argue that there is a genuine rise in male dissatisfaction for which there are numerous causes. The growing assertiveness of women and the lack of women prepared to be the property of patriarchal men. Male power is being overthrown. There may be a crisis of masculinity, but 'Men still outnumber women in positions of power across the globe, still glower downwards through the glass ceiling, still strut the cabinet and boardrooms in every developed country in the world, the seeming masters of their fate and everybody else's. In the developing world the situation is even more unequal. The gender disparity in sharing the burden of unpaid work is stark, and for all the talk of equality women throughout the world continue to work longer hours than men and are paid very much less for it. The colonists are still in command.' (Clare, 2000) ...read more.

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