Federalist: In modern society, many of the ways we talk about male identity have either negative connotations or encourage disparaging, eye-rolling satire. If the term is man, then common terms we hear are “man flu,” “manspreading,” or “mansplaining.”
If the term is dad, then there is a droll shaking of the head at a “dad bod” or at “dad jokes.” If the term is guy, it is often in relation to stubbornly self-defeating behaviour: ‘I got sick, but I did the typical guy thing, and didn’t go see the doctor.” Or: “I was battling with my mental health, but I did the typical guy thing and didn’t ask for help.” If the term is masculinity, it is often used in relation to things males must atone for or confront: “toxic masculinity,” or “the crisis in masculinity.”
If educators, psychologists, and the media want to dissect emerging troubles in masculine identity, then a good place to start would be to acknowledge that many of the ways we talk about male identity undermine this goal. This is a problem that affects us all, because boys are growing up in a culture that is increasingly questioning what’s wrong with them, whilst perpetuating casual cynicism towards them.
There are several reasons why this kind of thing gets overlooked. One argument is that it’s just light-hearted ribbing, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously; but many of the examples above are not light-hearted, and it all adds up to a big picture of masculinity being an obligingly easy target. It seems that women are in many ways entitled to “punch up” at a fracturing but still prevalent male entitlement, and that therefore putting male-chauvinist antics or clumsily wayward men “in their place” is an amusingly empowering thing to do.
1. Start Calling This Bias and Negativity Out
So, the first change that needs to be made is simple and attitudinal: When boys see this kind of stuff on the TV, they should get in the habit of calling it out for being lame, and if anyone starts talking in a lazily derogatory way about men, they should tell them to take a hike. MORE