Characteristics of Masculinity and Femininity in Gender Studies

Here I am going to discuss some Characteristics of Masculinity and Femininity in Gender Studies.

Characteristics of Masculinity and Femininity

Masculinity (also called manliness or manhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with boys and men. Masculinity is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors. This makes it distinct from the definition of the male anatomical sex, as both men and women can exhibit masculine traits and behaviors.

People who exhibit a combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics are considered androgynous, and feminist philosophers have argued that gender ambiguity can sometimes call into question dominant practices of gender classification.

Traits traditionally cited as masculine include courage, independence, and assertiveness, though traits associated with masculinity vary depending on location and context, and are influenced by a variety of social and cultural factors.

In some non-English speaking cultures, certain concepts or inanimate objects are considered masculine or feminine (the counterpart to masculine).

In contemporary society, hegemonic masculinity is defined by physical strength and boldness. Heterosexuality, economic independence, authority over women and other men, and an interest in sexual relationships.

While most men do not embody all of these qualities; society supports hegemonic masculinity within all its institutions, including the educational institute, the religious institute, and other institutes which form the ideological state apparatus. Standards of masculinity vary from time to time, from culture to culture.

However, masculinity always defines itself as superior and different from femininity. For example, gay men and househusbands exemplify “subordinate masculinities in our culture. They are not considered to be real men.

And yet, many still support hegemonic masculinity, for example, men being the main breadwinner for the family. Easthope states that “masculinity tries to stay invisible by passing itself off as normal and universal.

Other Characteristics of Masculinity and Femininity in Gender Studies is the notion of masculinity trying to become a norm in society so that its counterpart, femininity is seen as different, and deviant.

Against this backdrop, femininity is constructed around the adaptation to male power. Its central feature is attractiveness to men, which includes physical appearance, suppression of power, nurturance of children, heterosexuality, sexual availability, and sociability.

Masculinity and femininity are societal euphemisms for male dominance and female subordination.

In recent years, there have been many assertions that masculinity has been in crisis, supposedly as a result of the feminist movement.

The concept of male dominance in the best interests of society is greatly challenged by many feminists. Since the 1970s (find out when feminism first came about) feminism has had a great deal of impact on society as feminists protested against dominant males’ favor of unity.

Many other critics however believe that it is women’s lives that have changed more so than men’s. As Judith Stacey states in her book, Theory, and Society, “journalists and academics share recognition of a problem, a problem that is named not femininity in crisis but as a crisis in masculinity”.

So although more changes are going on in women’s lives, men are more affected and the notion of masculinity is therefore resulting in a crisis. Both men and women are both confined to their spaces and the line between the two has somewhat been blurred, thus resulting in a crisis.

The way in which this line is blurred is by masculinity becoming more feminized. There have been two major shifts in masculinity over the last twenty years.

Firstly there is the structural change which mainly takes place in the workforce. And the second shift is the ideological change that pushes for real equality between men and women. The structural changes which have taken place in the workforce have been very significant.

The workplace has become more feminized, but despite this, men are still in a more authoritative position. During the 1950s to the 1960s paid employment was seen to be very masculine and women were restricted to the home.

It was the women’s role that problematized the men’s role as sole providers as more and more women began to get paid jobs. Then in the 1970s and 1980s, the workplace was seen as a gendered organization. Gender boundaries and gender identities were created.

Society was experiencing a shift from industrial to post-industrial society. The developments in the workplace meant that women’s economic activity rates were increasing and men’s were fundamentally decreasing.

In September 1996, the number of women in employment was 11.248 million compared to the number of men in employment which was 11.236 million.

According to Charles, this was seen as the “feminization of employment”. As a consequence, this created a crisis in masculinity.

Manhood and masculinity are in crisis according to some theorists. Men are suffering because of the “over-achievement” of women, whether in school, at college, or in the workplace, and, this apparently is the “fault” of those who seek women’s equality.

Susan Faludi, author of Stiffed: Wants equality and questions why men don’t organize against their suffering as women have done but instead still remain stiffed by the system. She writes “The very paradigm of modern masculinity-that it is being the master of your universe-prevents men from thinking their way out of their dilemma, from taking active political steps to resolve their crisis”.

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