This is a section that I’ve actually delayed quite a bit in writing because I have been challenged to define masculinity for myself, let alone how to present it in a way that’s of benefit and assistance to all of you. When I delve into this further, I understand that this is a difficult task because of the ever-changing notion of masculinity.
If we return to older notions of masculinity, we find that in times where brute strength was necessary to maintain safety and fend off harm… ideas of masculinity included the ability to protect and provide. Though we have evolved to an age where automated weapons, machinery and security gates do much of this brawny work, there are still hints of these ideas in today’s notion of masculinity.
If we go further, we find that the medieval concepts of masculinity are intertwined with ideas of chivalry, honor and respect. When days of fiefdom, status and territory became prominent, the requirement to uphold the dignity of one’s family, country and king became synonymous with how much of a man one was. Characteristics such as loyalty, reliability and devotion became desirable traits and a measurement of a man’s degree of manhood. So though parliament is not in prominent rein across the globe as it once was, our current perceptions are fraught with influences from this era.
On a more spiritual and philosophical level, our concepts of masculinity are based on a set of constructs that are constantly fluctuating. So as our roles as men and women change, so do our notions of what comprises masculinity and femininity. As we study ancient texts on the subject, we can see how across civilizations, there are concepts of the union of the masculine and feminine in each being- the yin and yang that comprises the whole – that a balanced being is able to acknowledge and express this duality. Once again, we find that these beliefs are integrated into today’s construct of masculinity.
What I’ve found in my interviews and discussions with today’s women is that there is no singular definition. Rather, I’ve listened to women define masculinity as a smattering of the traits and characteristics I’ve listed above. How I and my generation defines masculinity is a far cry from how my mother and even more so, how my grandmother would describe it. This is an idea that has several fluctuating components and factors, such as generation, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic status and spiritual/ religious beliefs.
Therefore, there is no way that I will be able to cover the gamut of perspectives out there on what encompasses masculinity. Instead, I plan to open this up as an exploration of what it could include and my thoughts on why women find it important. I’ll intermittently interject some ideas and thoughts that I’ve collected from my articulate friends on this subject to give you an idea of the range of feedback- and the surprising similarities. Finally, I’ll give you some ideas about how women can tell if you’re in your masculine strength and how best to use this with the women you meet- without having to one-up your counterparts to do it.