Masculinity is shaped by the body and its environment, individual self, family, language, culture, media and society. Typically it is defined in relation to a socio-economic or cultural “other,” whether that be paternity, earning potential, property ownership or nationalism. Ideological shifts to any of these realms, prompted perhaps by an economic downturn or a heightened awareness resulting from racial, gender, or sexual liberation movements necessitates a corresponding shift in cultural definitions of masculinity. As society changes, so do the expectations of men, causing masculine ideals to be continually “in crisis.” Current debate surrounds this notion, this is not to say that masculinity is monolithic, in fact the masculine ideal varies widely among groups and often varies with age, race and religion.
Shifts in women’s roles, towards that of increasing assertiveness - a direct consequence of feminist movements - have intensified the destabilising of the traditional, dominant culture of masculinity. Women no longer seem as accepting of being the property of patriarchal men, this has caused male dissatisfaction and an upheaval to masculinity as a whole.
There has also been an alteration to the perceptions men have of themselves, their place in the world increasingly being manufactured and shaped by media representations. Media images play a crucial role in helping males define what it means to be a “real” man in our society. In most media depictions, males are rewarded for self-control and the control of others, financial independence, violence, aggression and physical desirability. The portrayal and acceptance of men by the media as physically capable and socially powerful serve to reinforce assumptions about how men should act in society, how they should treat each other, females and children.
Shifts to masculine identities of power have also been witnessed through rapid transformation of capitalism, resulting in huge losses of men’s manufacturing...