The Male Identity Crisis And Gender Inequality

Joanna Pickering isn’t buying the asymmetrical analysis of male crisis: “America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.”

I read an NY Times Op Ed entitled “The Boys Are Not Alright”  addressing the male identity crisis with regard to violence in US society after the most recent mass shooting. While not debating the issues of US gun reform, or mental health care, it opens an important dialogue linking violence and gender behaviour with reference to a crisis in masculinity.

The article recognises this crisis is due to damaging male gender mores, feelings occasioned by the loss of traditional masculine traits, and lack of new models of masculinity, and from an essential male perspective. It states an eagerness to involve feminist dialogue, however, while I agree with many of these sentiments, in places I feel it risks alienating that very agenda, and at such a crucial time for the evolvement of both sexes. 

The opinion offered seems to imply masculinity as being easily robbed. It suggests that women, in contrast to men, are increasingly well equipped to deal with obstacles. That women have the advantage of the past 50 years redefining their feminine traits, and are the beneficiaries of decades of feminist dialogues. That they outperform boys at all school levels, and are told they can be and do whatever they want. 

It explicitly states that in this climate boys are being left behind and only have two options—withdrawal and rage—which leads to negative male behaviour patterns, such as domestic violence, and concludes that the boys need help.

To discuss male identity in reference to gender relations, while failing to acknowledge gender inequality—inequalities that are weighted against women, specifically, by the power traits of men, and that have a direct impact on male identities—needs addressing, and with respect to the benefit not just of women, but for men.

“The Boys Are Not Alright, So Neither Are The Girls”

If girls—facing an abundance of problems—are better equipped to go into the world, then surely they have had to equip themselves more urgently due to men placing more obstacles in front of them?

If men feel lost, it is not that women are advantaged, or suddenly able to emasculate men, but that men have reigned supreme for so long, that of course, now with some change and accountability, this must feel strange?

If considering women as the “beneficiaries of dialogue over decades” (and what happened to the centuries of women’s subordination) then surely this stands as testimony to the volume of gender disparity in itself, that despite all of this movement, current climate remains poignantly damaging for women?

The #MeTooMovement —a new open dialogue for both men and women on the current extent of industry dangers— now cites 94 per cent of women in the entertainment industry as sexually harassed or abused, and indicative across all industry. The extent of the movement supports that irrespective of any past groundswell in a female agenda, most women wishing to redefine themselves, in trying to be or do what they choose, face intimidation, threats, damages, complicity, and curtailment of their careers. In fact, the reluctance for feminist agenda to be successfully implicated in society, only highlights the persistent challenges, and thus, with respect the messages being absorbed to women, and so girls. And yet—to evolve female traits of shared responsibly, strength, and power, would directly minimise the pressures associated to traditional male identity.

That girls significantly out perform boys, with reference to high school and university data, is factual but it is not a new trend.  And, again—this has not yet solved the continuing, and in some cases declining, lack of representation of women in STEM subjects , managerial positions , nor does it secure women equal pay for the same roles. This stands in stark contrast to the rise in position of power, status, and salary, for boys into men, in many more industries. Tellingly, it is estimated that with men in charge wage disparity will not close until 2085 .

How can we possibly say with respect to girls, that boys have been left behind, and when considering emerging and navigating gender issues?

Regards male inclusion (having re-addressed female exclusion), it is vital to note, most beneficiary work for gender equality, led by feminists, over the last 50 years,has necessarily included male dialogue— studies, resources, support, as well as discussions on the role of masculinity. Not only have feminists included men in dialogue, but they have successfully fought for the inclusion of men in law reform, and in abolishing laws that discriminates against men. To name just a few—the “Rape Is Rape” campaign launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation lobbied to include men in the legal definition for rape victims (significantly effecting how rape is reported) while the National Association for Women fought to include men in paid sick leave days. Similarly, as regards violence, in 1990s UNESCO and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women met up to discuss male roles with the specific aim of building “a culture of peace.” This examined harmful consequences of rigid gender stereotypes, included strategies for reducing men’s violence, and raising boys for peace. Even regards sexual harassment, feminist scholar and Professor of Law Catherine Mackinnon wrote one of the most cited legal codes of behaviour for industry in 1979—had any man paid attention to it, the #metoomovement would not have been needed 38 years later, protecting us all.

Is it not more veritable that the majority of men remained reluctant to listen—perhaps explicably, as such agendas compromise male power, and for which they felt little vulnerability regards most women? Recently, with the accountability of social media, thankfully, more men seem ready to listen, and more dialogue— such as this— is finally happening between us.  

Men are essentially needed in solving gender inequality, and absolutely no-one is stopping men educating themselves on these matters, to follow in the extra work women have had no choice but to undertake, laboriously, dangerously, as a matter of female survival.

There is an abundance of research that supports by fixing gender inequality directly increases benefits for men, in terms of health, safety, work and family. For example, in breaking down male bravado, which leads to willingness to seek medical and mental health care. Even, in addressing that men need more awareness as victims of domestic violence— where crimes remain unreported, or where there is less framework for legal persecution of women—but, again, this requires breaking down the same social perception of male gender roles, as well as issues of stereotyping with law enforcement.

If we can agree that male identity and gender inequality are continually interlinked in cause and effect— then, to solve these issues does require changes in male behaviour—firstly, that men rethink what it is to be a man, and how to redefine self-respect and identity. Secondly, in order to realign the disparity in gender order, male privilege and power must be recognised, not denied, and open to compromise.

If there are men (and women’s demands on men) that feel resistant to these changes, and cause feeling of loss, it is understandable, but is that arguably not due to further inherent reliance on male supremacy? A reluctance to adapt new masculine patterns of behaviour which seem threatening to traditional identity? For men to then label themselves as the oppressed? 

I agree it is a difficult time to find strong male role models to overcome such insecurities. Masculinity remains intrinsically related to war, sexism, violence and aggression— entrenched in media and movie culture, and now further by politics that purport a white male identity movement, with characteristics of bullying and misogyny that lends to the notion of “toxic masculinity.”

The environment is rife to perpetuate hate crimes to the most vulnerable, or diverse, as well as those that stand for gender neutrality and the departure from traditional gender stereotypes—the LGBT communities, the feminist movement—and instead, condones stereotypical male ideologies that link further to anger, depression, violence, suicide.

As regards the psychological profile of a male shooter, there has been work explaining why we can try to understand their reasons, but for the many men that feel a loss of identity in day to day society, we need to urgently uphold better male role models that tackle all of these issues together.

The impact of Mandela’s work, less known for championing women’s liberty, fiercely marching for women’s rights comes to mind. Or refer back to the pro-feminist men’s movement which formed out of the men’s liberation movement —influenced by second wave feminism and social movements of 1970s. This embraced a system for men and women based on egalitarianism. Strength, power and focus was not stolen, but re-directed to dismantling their own male gender roles, and breaking down rigid structures, to work against violence. 

To conclude, the strength and qualities of men are needed and more than ever.

We need men to use their power to stand up when witnessing violence toward others more vulnerable, to not be complicit, to push the less powerful through to show their talent, teach our children these qualities, to be resourceful and communicative—and willing to get it wrong; that over the option to rage and withdraw, is the option to unite.

A Men’s Movement should not tend to thinking that we are endorsing women and privileging women over men, it must instead uphold that both men and women are harmed by sexism, and it can be possible, without conflict, to work in eliminating discrimination for the best of both sexes.  

Gender equality refers to the goal of achieving equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and boys and girls. It cannot be just a woman’s issue; just as the ensuing male identity crisis cannot be just a male problem; it is an issue we must unite on for a safer, stable, and less violent society.  

Feminism should not just be inspiring to men, it should be active, and necessary. In this matter, men have not and cannot be left behind—women are waiting for all men to decide to arrive.


Update – Since time of publishing The Michigan University shooting happened on March 3rd


Joanna Pickering is an actress, writer, producer and activist. She has a degree in pure mathematics. She writes on matters of gender inclusivity and diversity as well as speaking about female agenda for the entertainment industry. 

Follow her @joannapickering 

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  1. Alastair McIntosh says:

    I’m so glad to read this affirmation of the egalitarianism of 2nd generation feminism, which I encountered especially through the riches of ecofeminism and feminist theology. As she rightly says: “Strength, power and focus was not stolen, but re-directed to … breaking down rigid structures, to work against violence.”

    That is very much in my mind just now having just come off the phone to an octogenarian friend, Agnus Maclennan on Lewis (Achmore). She was saying, and I scribbled notes, of which this is my write-up: “I am of an age to remember Bernera before the bridge. I grew up when the women of Bernera, Scalpay and the Uists had kept the islands going through two world wars, because every able-bodied man was away [fighting]. We were not allowed to go down to the shore without an adult because of what might have been washed up – mines, bodies, clothing.”

    It made me think how we, growing up in the 60s, were raised amongst such island women. But also, how the men who raised us had been so immersed in war. Militarism was a given.

    One thing, at least in the island context, is it left most of the men I’ve known with a natural respect for women, and a deep appreciation of holding on to, and passing on, a shared humanity. They’d seen the worst that humankind could be. They came back knowing what their values were, even if some had been numbed in the process.

    This “work against violence” is very much a work in process.

  2. Interpolar says:

    Not all, but most gender debates focus on the role and agency of women in terms of shaping their environment and seizing new opportunities. Little research and advocacy is done on women‘s role in shaping men‘s identities. The narrative, and not entirely wrongly, has shamed and cowed men, and demanded that more space is created for women in areas of influence and leadership. The result, however, is that men find competition in their traditional fields, but seldom are areas of traditional female occupations opened to men. How often does a mother take a child from a father‘s arms while vocally denigrating his parental abilities to provide the child with what s/he needs at that moment? After all he has neither the biological ability to bear or suckle his offspring and thus lacks the most basic understanding of motherly nurture. How often do mothers tell their sons to stop crying or do women expect of men to do the „manly thing“, be that to take the lead when she is unsure, or to protect when she feels threatened? This makes it difficult for men to appropriate new fields of activity and still feel men. The lack of a coherent female narrative in our society breeds insecurity and frustration amongst men regarding their identity and role.

    More has to be done to grant men equal opportunities in battles for custodianship. Society should consider male quotas for professional avenues such as primary school teaching or secretarial work, if men are to be truly made welcome in them. And our educational systems have to get real about addressing the problem of male academic underachievement, unless we are content to assume their intellectual inferiority. And as petty as it sounds, men should be allowed to remain standing when they relieve themselves, providing they take appropriate care concerning their aims!

    Although the article raises some valid points, it doesn’t fully manage to escape the feminist discourse for a more gender-neutral approach in which men can find their place as equals.

  3. Peter Burnett says:

    Thanks Joanna. I think your opinions are quite timeless, but can always be reiterated. The only place I constantly hear about a crisis in maculinity, however, is on social media, esepcially on YouTube, an overwhelmingly male space. No crisis has ever been mooted by my male friends and colleagues, most of whom would take the view you do (otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends, I guess) and I never hear of it among IRL people.

    Yet I agree, what the world needs most are educated girls (how to raise your GDP? educate the girls!) and peaceful parents, most especially men, really just demonstrating to the next gen of boys and girls that shouting and force are not the means.

    There are still so, so many shouty angry aggreseive dads out there. Only going to raise shouty angry aggressive kids . . . .

    1. scrandoonyeah says:

      I presume all these ‘shouty angry aggressive Dad’s’ had mothers?

      Start at the source, you might find some answers.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Peter Burnett, is raising GDP really what the world needs? Not according to this wise woman:

  4. olive says:

    The last 50 years has witnessed an assault on males. This has taken a number of forms. Led by the behavioural and societal change movement orchestrated by endowment funded think tanks and universities, aided and abetted by the big-money controlled main stream media, driven by the urgent requirement outlined over a century ago of the long-term plans to destabilise and weaken families, feminists are unwittingly acting as the storm troopers of the dark forces that only the congenitally stupid continue to believe don’t exist. In doing so, they have undermined the traditional roles of women in society, their power and strength as the raisers of children, their fundamental influence on behaviour in neighbourhoods. When I was a boy it was the women, most of whom focused their lives on home making and child raising, that acted as the setters of standards and the enforcers of norms. What is forgotten, or perhaps has never been experienced
    by generations raised during the time of this assault, was the respect for women that has been gradually eroded until it has almost disappeared. It seems archaic now to remember a time when one offered ones seat to a woman on a bus out of courtesy, when one rushed to open a door for a woman, offered to carry bags, minded ones language when women were around, placed women on pedestals. Feminist ideology has destroyed women’s traditional roles and taken away many of the benefits, and for what? So that they can become scrabbling debt slaves to the corporate machine and leave their children’s rearing to strangers? That’s a win!
    At the same time there has been a more insidious assault perpetrated by the rulers of this reality on the very essence of maleness from a biological perspective. So humanity’s food and environment has been laced with chemicals that reduce sperm counts to half of what they were (and these effects have been understood by science for over 30 years). Now, of course, this chemical attack has been added to by the addition of a microwave offensive, which stupid human beings don’t even realise are utterly damaging. So it is that many populations are no longer producing enough children to retain balance and this opens the doors to other attacks on societies, mass migration among them (stealing younger generations from poorer countries, stealing the more educated from poorer countries, in both cases leaving those countries irreparably damaged.)
    Is it any wonder that we are being shaped to consider gender fluidity as a norm, when the very essence of manhood is under deliberate attack?
    There is a box we humans are given to think within. It is shaped by education and by media and by control of scientific research and scientific publishing, by the university appointments system, by the spoutings of agenda setting politicians.
    Articles like this one serve to keep people firmly in that box.

      1. Olive says:

        So that they can become scrabbling debt slaves to the corporate machine and leave their children’s rearing to strangers? That’s a win….
        In the box, Ed?

        1. Thomas Dunlop says:

          Your prose is very elegant but too floral for my taste.

          The underlying cause of these problems is that our metrics of civil rights and equalities were dreamed up in the age of enlightenment (1600s onwards) by predominantly a male conclave.

          So for things to better for all of us , we should think about addressing this and start incorporating the best parts of human nature (including sharing and caring for others) particularly things that women value more (jaw jaw over war war, for example).

          IMHO, it is a bit cheap for males to blame women for problems brought about by this where equal right have been around for only 50 -100 years whilst males dominated for the previous 100 00 years. Man up, as they say.

          1. Olive says:

            @Thomas Dunlop
            “IMHO, it is a bit cheap for males to blame women for problems brought about by this where equal right have been around for only 50 -100 years whilst males dominated for the previous 100 00 years. Man up, as they say.”
            I’m not sure males were altogether dominant. More prone to violence, perhaps, but matriarchs have ever had their societal strengths. Where dominance has really stemmed from, and it would be incautious not to recognise this, has been the genetic blood lines and the systems and hierarchies that were promulgated by those masters of reality in order to maintain their rule. These include governmental and religious hierarchies, the usually uniformed enforcers of so called ‘law’, the armed forces of empire building, subjugation and theft and, above all, the control of the power to create the artifact we call ‘money’. There has never been what people think of as ‘democracy’, only the appearance of choice fabricated by our rulers to keep the herd quiet.
            If, as a species, we are to end the repetitive cycle of history we need to address these artificial (and inhumane or even inhuman) belief systems…for that is what they all are. Those that discuss politics, the ins and outs of particular issues, the right-left paradigm, women’s rights, green issues, etc etc etc do so within the box created for the collective consciousness of humanity. Whilst well meaning, such debate is useless so long as the majority of debt slaves still believe that humanity can’t exist without money, fake government, one god or another, artificial notions of race or nation and. these days, the controlling structures of corporate fascism.
            We need none of these things. Those involved with these useless and unproductive hierarchic time wasting arrangements created over the last 50 years fail to see how as a species we are doing too much work to sustain a system which in essence achieves nothing except our own enslavement. The ridiculous price of housing, artificially engineered, has utterly transformed society into a drone like hive of busy busy busy creatures doing nothing of true value. As a species we need to feed ourselves, organise the distribution of food, house and clothe ourselves, entertain each other, raise our young, have fun. Ask yourself who there is in your own circle of friends that actually makes or fixes something, grows something, or cares for others. There are billions of non-jobs in the world, designed to keep humanity too tired to be bothered to look up and see how they are being screwed, jobs that are chased after by debt slaves worried about paying the next installment.
            And who is it that has the cash to lend everybody all this debt, that has the cash to lend governments trillions, year on year? Well, nobody has that cash. They make it out of thin air. The Wizards that control this reality Magick this great set of chains from thin air and shackle the entire species with them.
            I could go on…..sorry!

          2. Thomas Dunlop says:

            I digest what you read, and I am in broad agreement of what you write, but you use more words than what is needed to put your point across.

            Yes we do need better balance. We need better expression of every gender in our life. I consider my self to be very lucky, as a west of Scotland male to have been surrounded by strong females from day 1 of my life. It is natural to me. No amount of cultural conditioning could knock that out of me. My mother, my grandmothers, my fellow female school, university, work colleagues and students, wife and girlfriend(s). All strong, creative and intelligent people. They are my peers, I cannot open up to guys like I do to these people..when I hear my friends bad experiences, or how they blame their female partners, I feel very uneasy with their gender negative viewpoints,
            . Or how women play equality to their advantage…..its been a long wait…

            But, but, but. I have to agree with you. we must always examine what we have, before we can make everything afresh. Nothing should be taken for granted. I’m a scientist by profession and that always leads to awkward conversations where I try to pull people to the basics. The hardest thing ever to achieve is always trying to be objective over being subjective.

            Also repetition of the same is always going to end in the same madness. I detect a lot of anger out there. How are we going to stop that. How are we going to get people to listen to us. How are we going to get it into our culture. The only way we are going to change is to get to the kids before it is too late , before they are loaded with cultural baggage. This can only start in the preschool age and continue thru out those persons education (hoping that in the F1 and F2 generations , it becomes the normal). Also enough resources for every family would help (and people without kids as well)

            I agree the world is at threat from fascism, but not only plain old corporate / black flag mussolini fascism, but also religious and “red china” and white national varieties. All enemies of progress, enlightenment and general human welfare. Basically every peddler of ideology/ and or fanatic is an enemy of human freedom (apart from anarchists…maybe)

            On growing things, I grow my own salade every summer up here in Finland, using my own food waste as compost. I sow 2 x 1 square metres and that does me all summer. I also grow tatties, carrots , corgettes and sometimes ripe tomatoes. Strawberries and raspberries grow here nativeley, so they do give and a damn and grow as they please. I only look after them

            I am less known for making things than I am known for breaking things. But everyone has their limitations
            Anyway I must wrap for tonight. Hope we can keep the discussion going: I find it stimulating

    1. Andrea says:

      Be remembering that many countries indulged in war. It was promoted as a way to ‘see the world’ avoid the toil of fields, hills, or manufacturies. Men and women followed the drum.

      Women left behind picked up the threads or faced the consequences and were often battered by biblical interpretations that blamed the victims not the systems. Of course they had influence in the neighbourhood. They were the adults left standing.

      When the survivors came back from war the women stepped back. The various forms of religions at the time had a lot of influence and The Word was brought out to ensure women stuck to their Duty.

      A lot of pernicious customs and beliefs involving women were brought back or left behind after those interminable wars and conflicts and making safety for trade. They seeped into the public thinking. They invaded homes and partnerships.

      Who was left to teach men how to be more than cannon fodder and one night stand people?

      Men who delight in children – so they can continue to play and wonder and share. Open-hearted, not ‘politically correct’. Do you know how beautiful and reassuring that is to see and be part of?

      Men who know how to comfort without weakening the comfortee. Tender-hearted little boys, often far more gentle and empathic than pragmatic little girls – and then, before they’re ten, they have that hideous haw haw haw laugh that puts down difference. Who taught them that? Who crushed the gentle?

      Who sneered at learning? Who made them become the men of the family far too young? Who wasn’t there to teach the power of discipline and courtesy and respect for women and the different folk? Who wasn’t there to show daughters the true ways of men – leaving them prey for the bullies and the weak and the parasitic?

      Feminism has a long way to go yet. While that’s happening, could the men of wit, wisdom, and good will, the loving men, avoid the ways of fear that prescribe and proscribe, and work to let little boys retain their tender hearts, their cheeky giggles, their intense and passionate curiosity and strength-building?

      We need them whole.

  5. Crubag says:

    Reading this, for me it’s interesting the direction (some) feminism has gone. Male/female differences are now about gender (the performance) rather than about sex (the biology).

    And in fact it is now possible to change one’s biology by changing one’s performance.

    On the plus side, this suggests patterns of behaviour are not innate but can be conciously changed.

    On the minus side does this risk overlooking biological realities? In the case of this piece that could include sexual dimorphism (in humans, males are bigger and stronger on average) or the impact of testosterone.

    1. Pogliaghi says:

      Jordan Peterson’s quite good at answering those questions honestly. Unfortunately to understand what he’s got to say you’ve first got to wade through a crowd of hysterical hecklers calling him a fascist and then deal with his dreary centre right god-fearin’ attitudes. It’s worth it though. Guys like Peterson are enriching themselves as specialist tellers of truth to power in some part because we’re not ready to face these truths on the left, or even the centre.

      1. Oh dear, the middle-aged Milo

        1. Crubag says:

          I’ve only seen snippets on Youtube, and I think that was around pronouns.

          But I’d be interested to see if he had anything around nouns. What do we call xx or xy chromosomed people in the future?

        2. Frank says:

          Not the middle aged Milo at all…Jordan Peterson has spent the bulk of his life in academia and human psychology and is worth listening too. I don’t agree with him on everything and I’m not particularly keen on his critique of post-modernism or Marxism and some of his thinking on sociology is lazy and unoriginal. However on issues such as a gender and in particular masculinity he is very good. It’s a pity we can’t engage with the likes of Peterson without filtering everything through the prism of the so called culture wars.

          1. What do you like that the says about gender and masculinity?

          2. Frank says:

            I have posted a link to a fascinating discussion between Peterson and Camille Paglia in which they discuss amongst other things masculinity and child-rearing both of why I found very enlightening as a man and a parent. I would encourage people to make their own mind up about Peterson and ignore the media hype around him. I

  6. SleepingDog says:

    If there is a broad tendency for women to play the game of life at a harder difficulty level than men, you can make predictions about the effects on behaviour. These would be analogous to a spoilt child’s: expectation of winning; lack of empathy to the disadvantaged; a narrow expression and consideration of virtue (in competition, physical contest or war, say) to avoid the more obvious judgement that people without weapons and in charge of the vulnerable are on the whole more heroic than those armed and regimented; and a tendency towards bitterness over empty achievements.

    This intersects with many other types of such favouritism, though, at different scales: family birth order/parentage, personal appearance matching societal or individual preferences, class/caste and so forth.

    Women and men may be complicit in promoting/supporting these behaviours, perhaps for tactical reasons. Flattery, cossetting can be weapons: praising mediocrity, reducing striving for self-improvement. Perhaps feminism has successfully disarmed flattery as a way of putting down female ambitions. In other ways a more successful strategy is to be the power behind the throne, the Japanese boss standing behind their subordinates, the grey eminence protected against such ego manipulation.

    I remember TH White’s (in The Once and Future King) description of Lancelot training with weapons twice as heavy as those used in the field, so he would find the battlefield ones light when it came to the real test. I think we should look to a culture that values real tests, taking on burdens and challenges that build our characters, eschews cheat options and privileged paths, accepts stumbles and failures as essential learning opportunities, and puts a value on how much you give the world. And that is exactly what I see many males, young and old, doing in the meritocratic worlds of sharable coding, building, standardising, creating and problem-solving, where they populate online help-boards with their answers to others’ queries and provide mutual instruction and positive feedback, in conjunction with any females, young and old, in the mix.

    1. Olive says:

      That’s interesting. What you describe is perhaps the nascent new sharing society that is the destiny of humanity once it’s rid of money, and especially money created as debt, and the ridiculously hampering notion of ownership of intellectual property. It’s those that own the creation of money that, inevitably, own intellectual property (as focused on by the UN and hereditary banking families) and, by doing so, slow the progress of our species towards its next step.
      If you are interested we wrote about this ‘humanheartedness’, the evolutionary step our species might take, here:
      It’s just a viewpoint.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Olive, if your article is describing a globally-networked super-organism with healthy human behaviour contributing to its thriving and new capabilities emerging, then this idea echoes one of my recent comments.

        Sharing intellectual property does seem to threaten some groups (Creative Commons viewed as frightful as Red Communism). Yet movements for open education, software and hardware have been highly successful and popular models.

        If sharing, responding to requests and collaboration is such a large part of human behaviour expressed on the Internet, does the mainstream media tend to overlook this in its fixation on social media by branded service and product?

  7. Tim says:

    I agree. To locate this phenomena in an essentialist comparison seems not quite right; as if there is still something to be salvaged from historic notions of what an enlightened male identity, be it middle-class, bohemian, or even working-class, might still possibly be. Whereas it’s center now, I would suggest, has shifted to that of a hyper-masculinist view point, and from where many males can now be as high achieving as any of the bests girls by comparison; and those that aren’t couldn’t care less. It’s also important to remember that high or over-achievement with girls is itself under scrutiny as being just as bad for young women as say body image expectations are, with its distorted sensibilities of unrealistic perfection and desirability.
    Masculinity however, is toxic precisely when it embraces deliberate and ritualized cruelty to make any or no point, and other hazing type performances, and especially when it is encountered as echoed and reaffirmed repetitions across networked communications, or as expressions of gamesmanship in networked entertainment. And where it’s delivery is specific and immediately echoed as it is socially amplified exposing the receiver to both insult and embarrassment in the very same instance. When it fails to register or disregards the harm it is doing to women, and men on its receiving end on or off line. As modes of tribalism, if that is what this is, then ‘toxic masculinity’ doesn’t seem to be to be phased at all by feminism as essentialist argument would suggest. In fact, its expression doesn’t seem to have any relation or bearing on feminism at all other than that it is just the other “player” in many of the same social spaces. This type masculinity is also proving to be confounding in its attraction for some women. Where they appear to find for them selves what appears to be a counter-intuitive sense of empowerment in their submission and quite often, participation, in equally destructive and targeted behaviors as male counterparts and companions. Think here of the women that have joined as the willing partners of Isil fighters. Another consideration is that where new technologies are enabling women to find other form of identity and social spaces for self-empowerment and in which to express themselves publically – such as the cyberfeminists, VNS Matrix, as one example of a new and alternate possibility for female identity – for many males, such opportunities for alternative expression of their identity have been a basic part of their play and interaction always. This is not to say that males and especially young males in particular do not struggle with problems like social conformity or conditions such as poverty, unemployment, or any number of other anxieties that should be understood on their own merits, it’s that with an essentialist approach to a crisis with toxic masculine identity it iseems inappropriate and coached in a set of social possibilities that new technologies have and are taking us far beyond.

  8. Jim Bennett says:

    Does nobody talk about class any more?

  9. Brian says:

    The author is right. She does not deny that the ongoing shift in male expectations regarding power may well cause unintended consequences. But her point is that the New York Times’s reductive, male-centric viewpoint risks excusing the very misconduct that it seeks to warn us about. By focusing on recent male struggle, rather than contextualizing it in decades of female oppression, the Times has effectively hidden scores of female victims from view, leaving us with a skewed viewpoint from which to judge new forms of male violence.

  10. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Yep, “class” has been ‘discontinued’.

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