masculinity

The characteristics of, and appropriate to, the male sex. Although feminists would argue that most sociology has been by men, about men, and for men, the problem of analysing men and masculinity as issues in their own right remained relatively neglected until (ironically) the advent of second-wave feminism itself. Thus, for example, studies of delinquency (such as A. Cohen's Delinquent Boys, 1955) or of social class (say,, The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure, 1969) were in effect the study of boys and men, but did not see gender itself as a concern. The issue of masculinity was largely ignored and gender served as a taken-for-granted variable.
There were some notable exceptions. Margaret Mead's comparative work suggested the cultural basis for, and relativity of, masculinity and femininity (a finding subsequently challenged by Mead's critics). Likewise, from the perspective of functionalism and role theory, Talcott Parsons described the sex roles of men and women as instrumental and expressive respectively. Parsons and his colleagues argued that such roles were internalized by young children and led to a neat division of labour in adult life, with men and women becoming well integrated into the social system, hence enabling it to function smoothly. In psychology, too, the idea of the male role was present, often coupled with the view that much of masculinity was a defence against an identity crisis , serving to mask men's essential vulnerability (see, for example,’s The Myth of Masculinity, 1981).
Nevertheless, it was not until the 1970s that the topic of masculinity as such started to be more extensively researched, largely as an offshoot of the women's movement , proponents of which suggested that the problem of patriarchy was in fact ‘the problem of men’. Pioneering studies of gender roles and masculinity were conducted by Mirra Komarovsky, examining the functional significance and cultural contradictions of sex roles (see her Blue Collar Marriage, 1964, and Dilemmas of Masculinity, 1976). Subsequently, with the development of the so-called Men's Movement, studies of masculinity began to appear in greater numbers. Andrew Tolson (The Limits of Masculinity, 1976) attempted to demonstrate that masculinity had to be located within a wider social framework of class, education, work, and age. Masculinity, like femininity, was far from a uniform cultural product, but itself assumed many dimensions. The centrality of seeing masculinity not as an essence but as a product of cultural and historical forces became paramount. By the 1980s, Men's Studies had become established as a specialist area of inquiry replete with its own internal schisms, theoretical debates, differing emphases, and divergent politics (see, for example,, ‘Towards a New Theory of Masculinity’, Theory and Society, 1985, or , Masculinity and Power, 1989).
Whilst some sociologists have continued to use and develop traditional role theory, others have drawn from the work of feminist scholars and gay and lesbian studies, and have highlighted the prominence of patriarchy, heterosexism, and power for the analysis of masculinity. In Robert Connell's work, for example, there has been an increasing emphasis not on masculinity per se but on gender relations organized largely through power (see his Gender and Power, 1987).
In 1990 Kenneth Clatterbaugh (Contemporary Perspectives on Masculinity) reviewed the whole field, and suggested there were several distinct theoretical stances with respect to the sociological issue of masculinity. The first continued a conservative line of thought, seeing masculinity as universal, unchangeable, and rooted largely in biology. Pro-feminist positions, by contrast, generally followed the analyses laid down by feminist theory, both in its liberal and radical versions. Third, there were the advocates of Men's Rights, who argued that men also were the victims of patriarchy and sexism . Fourth, a newly emerging position suggested the need for men to regain their spiritual roots, an argument exemplified in Robert Bly's Iron John (1991). Finally there were a range of arguments which linked the study of men with class, race, and gay issues. See also Culture and Personality School.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Masculinity — Mas cu*lin i*ty, n. The state or quality of being masculine; masculineness. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • masculinity — 1748; see MASCULINE (Cf. masculine) + ITY (Cf. ity). Earlier in same sense was masculineness (1660s) …   Etymology dictionary

  • masculinity — / masculine [n/adj] manly andric, gender, macho*, male, manful, mannish, potent, virile; concepts 371,372,408,648 Ant. feminine …   New thesaurus

  • Masculinity — Masculine redirects here. For other uses, see Masculine (disambiguation). Manliness redirects here. For the book by Harvey Mansfield, see Manliness (book). In Greek mythology, Heracles is synonymous with Apollonian masculinity. Masculinity is,… …   Wikipedia

  • masculinity — [[t]mæ̱skjʊlɪ̱nɪti[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT A man s masculinity is the fact that he is a man. ...a project on the link between masculinity and violence. Ant: femininity 2) N UNCOUNT Masculinity means the qualities, especially sexual qualities, which are …   English dictionary

  • masculinity — mas|cu|lin|i|ty [ˌmæskjuˈlınıti] n [U] the features and qualities considered to be typical of men ≠ ↑femininity ▪ Children s ideas of masculinity tend to come from their fathers. ▪ boys trying to prove their masculinity …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • masculinity — The qualities and characteristics of a male. * * * mas·cu·lin·i·ty .mas kyə lin ət ē n, pl ties the quality, state, or degree of being masculine <measurement of masculinity or femininity (Psychological Abstracts)> * * * mas·cu·lin·i·ty… …   Medical dictionary

  • masculinity —    the male genitalia    Or one of the component parts:     ... lays out his masculinity on the table top, where Gasha Rani mistakes it for a Havana cigar. (Dalrymple, 1998) …   How not to say what you mean: A dictionary of euphemisms

  • masculinity — noun (U) the characteristics and qualities considered to be typical of men: Children s ideas of masculinity tend to come from their fathers …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • masculinity — noun he s the picture of masculinity Syn: virility, manliness, maleness, machismo, vigor, strength, muscularity, ruggedness, robustness; informal testosterone …   Thesaurus of popular words

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