Men’s Responsibility in Ending Violence Against Women: Part Three

In Sexual Assault Awareness on May 14, 2011 at 7:48 am

Masculinity can be viewed as what is most crucial to manhood, if a man does not measure up to what is considered manly, he is therefore not a man, at least not a real man. Ask any group, made up of all men or a mixed gender, what it means to be a man and they will invariably give you notions that men are: tough, strong, dominant, and unemotional. According to Michael Kimmel, in his article Masculinity as Homophobia masculinity is not static, it is instead “a constantly changing collection of meanings that we construct through our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with our world” (Kimmel, 2003).  He goes on to state that “we come to know what it means to be a man in our culture by setting our definitions in opposition to a set of ‘others’-racial minorities, sexual minorities, and, above all, women” (Ibid., 2003). Men learn what it is to be a man from other men, judge each others and their own masculinity in comparison to other men, and define those that don’t meet those standards as not men. Because masculinity is a constantly evolving notion, as Kimmel states, it is not very well defined; it is instead defined not by what it is but instead by what it is not. Kimmel briefly documents masculinity throughout history, and provides two models “The Genteel Patriarch” and the “Heroic Artisan” (Kimmel, 2003). “The Genteel Patriarch” is defined as “refined [and] elegant,” far from what would be considered masculine by today’s standards and the “Heroic Artisan” was defined by his “physical strength…[he is] the yeoman farmer, independent urban craftsman, or shopkeeper,” we can see that clearly this is most likely where our present day image of what makes a man derives from (Ibid., 2003). Thus, as Kimmel has evidenced, we can clearly see the evolution of manhood and masculinity. Robert Brannon developed four requirements to be a man; “No Sissy Stuff,” “Be A Big Wheel,” “Be A Sturdy Oak,” and “Give ‘em Hell” (The Male Sex Role,  1976). What these four boil down to is essentially, don’t be a wuss or weak; attain as much power as possible, the more power the more masculine; showing no emotion, “Boys don’t cry;” be aggressive (Brannon, 1976). This how is not attainable by any man realistically. However, all men are held up to this standard. R.W. Connell defines this as “hegemonic masculinity” which can be defined as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (Masculinities, 2005). Jeff Hearn expands upon Connell theory, arguing that “hegemony involves both the consent of some men, and, in a very different way, the consent of some women to maintain patriarchal relations of power” (From Hegemonic Masculinity to the Hegemony of Men, 2004). Even though women are oppressed by masculinity, it cannot survive without its legitimation on the part of both the oppressor and the oppressed. Some men, no matter what they do, they can never even be considered to reach that hegemonic standard. They are the men of the non-white population. White men are the standard for masculinity, much the way that women are seen as “other,” all non white men cannot be the hegemons of masculinity, neither can gay, bisexual or trans identified men.

Men are born with privilege. A status afforded to men based simply on the fact that they were born male. Men are given status over women and have opportunity and power that women do not have. Some men do have more privilege than others. White upper-class men are the most privileged of all groups, and are the standard in the media for manhood. White men are overwhelmingly represented in movies and television, in advertising and in all other forms of media. This has the effect of enforcing their privilege and making everyone else aware that they do not have that privilege. Peggy McIntosh discusses the issue of white male privilege describes it as “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks” (White Privilege and Male Privilege, 1988). Male privilege is most clearly exampled by the simple fact that men do not have to worry about sexual violence. The only time in which are generally concerned with being sexually assaulted is in prison. As McIntosh states, privilege is invisible, it is rarely ever seen by those who have it and it is unavoidable to those who don’t. Privilege also can also come in the form of privilege over other sexualities.

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