This group does mainly politics, especially lately. But, we trespass into cultural and social issues more frequently than you might think. We’ve discussed gender roles, whether men and women think differently, society’s sexual double standard, and (pre-blog) the future of feminism. But, we’ve never devoted an evening to considering our culture’s notions of masculinity.
Hmmm. Maybe a mostly-liberal political club just prefers to discuss other aspects of our politics, rather than to debate the anxieties and problems of America’s dominant cultural group. Still, for years now I’ve been reading that two things are true with regard to America’s men:
- Our 21st century economy and social structures no longer support traditional gender roles and their old-fashioned model of masculinity; and
- A lot of men are pretty pissed off about it, feeling underappreciated, unsupported, and adrift.
I’m not just talking about misogynist backlash, like the “men’s rights” movement, or right-wing backlash politics, like Rush Limbaugh’s sputtering fury towards “Feminazis.” (I do think a common thread links the conservative anti-feminist backlash and general male cultural anxiety: A loss of power and privilege. Men are now a minority in the workforce and in higher education. Some analysts believe that women, with their superior communication and social skills, are better-suited than men to thrive in our 21st century, networked, service-oriented economy.) No, I mean this as more of a cultural topic, one in which we might explore how we have experienced changing notions of masculinity as we’ve matured. Or, we could just spew facts and figures, like usual.
I’ll open us up on Monday by flexing…your minds, I hope, with a short introduction that lays out kind of what I mean by the topic. Then, I’ll start the conversation by asking all of you whether you think the meaning of manliness has changed in your lifetime and whether that’s to the good or ill.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What is expected for a man to be manly in America today? Which attitudes and behaviors are encouraged and discouraged? Try listing these characteristics; e.g., independent, bread-winning, tough, stoic, respectful of authority, fatherly? What about violent, sexually aggressive, dominating?
- Have these societal expectations changed in your lifetime?
- Does our economy and society still support traditional gender roles? What should be done to better support men and boys in our society?
- What are women’s expectations of masculinity? Have they changed? Are they realistic?
- What should we be teaching boys and girls about appropriate masculine behavior?
LINKS – (some are short!)
- Is the American ideal of masculinity changing? Maybe, maybe not. Recommended
- The new economy is unsettling and splitting our notions of masculinity. Recommended
- The lives and achievements of U.S. men, in charts.
- Can we build better men by rejiggering the meaning of masculinity?
- Hollywood men: How the movies have depicted manliness.
- Millennial men are facing changing roles and expectations.
- The backlash:
- Wait. The whole premise behind this topic is stupid:
- Conservative POV:
Next Week The Arab Spring – A Failure or an Incomplete?