Contemplating Masculinity

An article over at the Atlantic has me contemplating masculinity, or more accurately, contemplating the contemplation of masculinity. My hang up is largely definitional.

Whether or not there is a meaningful distinction, it is possible to talk about what it means to be a good man, to be a good woman, and to be a good person. By construction the last must be the intersection of the other two. The list of traits that describe a “strong man” (in the positive sense) in the article (“nurturing, kind, positive, good, caring, courage, confident, inclusive, courageous, honest, accountability, and respect”) are also the things I, for one, would use to describe a strong woman and thus don’t really describe a strong or good man so much as a strong or good person. The issue of violence falls into the same category. In America violence in general is prohibited as criminal, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator. As such the trait of appropriate and judicious use of force falls into the pile of things which help define a good person.

The “negative masculinity” discussed is implicitly defined as “the alienating emphasis of aggression and dominance in male culture.” This begs the question of whether or not it is possible to consider “male culture” sufficiently monolithic to sum up in two traits. Frankly, if the experiences reported by the author and his sources are to be believed, there is a meaningfully large subculture which rejects aggression and dominance as touchstones of masculinity.

Ergo I’m really not sure there’s even good ground for the whole conversation to stand on, at least insofar as the article cited above lays it out. Thinking continues . . .


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