word "Masculinity" is often
used to describe men’s behaviour. When this happens what does
the word mean to you? Unless you and the people you are using the word
have the same understandings then it can mean all sorts of things.
dictionary describes masculinity as ‘behaviour appropriate to
a male’, but what exactly does that mean? Surely, in deciding
behaviour appropriate to a male it depends on who the male is? Clearly,
a ballet star, a high court judge, a salesman, a manager and a firefighter
would not be expected to share the same behaviour. However, men in each
of these occupations may think of themselves as masculine; and for them
their thoughts are true. The male ballet star may argue that the combination
of his agility and strength give him the power to be able to lift the
female ballerina and therefore he is masculine. The male high court
judge may claim that the objectivity, integrity and rationality associated
with his judgement are masculine. The salesman may claim to be at ‘the
cutting edge’, in similar terms as the male manager who claims
to be an ‘entrepreneurial captain of industry’. Male firefighters
may claim that their extreme physical skills, determination and strong
sense of public service, which lead to their heroic imagery, are signs
of their masculinity.
list of male occupations could continue and wherever their are men at
work, it seems that they will moreoften identify their work or their
behaviour as 'masculine. Equally it would be possible to link masculinity
to a list of sports that men take part in. Sportsmen could then in turn
judge their skill, extreme physical effort and teamwork as masculine.
The same might be said whenever 'boys' get together; their behaviour
could be judged as masculine or a form of masculinity. In effect, anything
that men do they may describe as 'masculine.'
you look at the term in this way it seems that masculinity may not be
a very good word to describe men’s behaviour, because different
men (and women) are likely to use the word to mean different things.
Making the whole debate much more difficult, is the question "what
do you call a ballerina?" Is she feminine or does she display very
similar skills to her male counterpart. The same could be said about
women judges, and saleswomen. Could they not take on the same attributes
as their male counterparts?
without such a word or a substitute it may be difficult to understand
men’s behaviour. So perhaps it may be good to go back to basics
and ask how men may describe their behaviour. The next article will
look at this.