From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A man is a male human. The term man (irregular plural: men) is usually used for an adult, with the term boy being the usual term for a male child or adolescent (sometimes also applied to childish adult men). However, the term is also used for a human regardless of age or sex, sometimes even extended to more primitive humanoids than the present species Homo sapiens, as in apeman.
Enormous debate in Western societies has focused on perceived social, intellectual, or emotional differences between women and men. These differences are very difficult to quantify for both scientific and political reasons.
Masculinity has its roots in genetics (see gender). Therefore while masculinity looks different in different cultures, there are common aspects to its definition across cultures. Sometimes gender scholars will use the phrase "hegemonic masculinity" to distinguish the most dominant form of masculinity from other variants. In the mid-twentieth century United States, for example, John Wayne might embody one form of masculinity, while Albert Einstein might be seen as masculine, but not in the same "hegemonic" fashion.
Machismo is a form of masculine culture. It includes assertiveness or standing up for one's rights, responsibility, selflessness, general code of ethics, sincerity, and respect.
Anthropology has shown that masculinity itself has social status, just like wealth, race and social class. In western culture, for example, greater masculinity usually brings greater social status. Many English words such as virtue and virile (from the Latin and Sanskrit roots vir meaning man) reflect this. An association with physical and/or moral strength is implied. Masculinity is associated more commonly with adult men than with boys.
A great deal is now known about the development of masculine characteristics. The process of sexual differentiation specific to the reproductive system of Homo sapiens produces a female by default. The SRY gene on the Y chromosome, however, interferes with the default process, causing a chain of events that, all things being equal, leads to testes formation, androgen production and a range of both pre-natal and post-natal hormonal effects covered by the terms masculinization or virilization. Because masculinization redirects biological processes from the default female route, it is more precisely called defeminization.
There is an extensive debate about how children develop gender identities.
In many cultures displaying characteristics not typical to one's gender may become a social problem for the individual. Among men, the exhibition of feminine behavior may be considered a sign of homosexuality, while the same is for a woman who exhibits masculine behavior. Within sociology such labeling and conditioning is known as gender assumptions and is a part of socialization to better match a culture's mores. The corresponding social condemnation of excessive masculinity may be expressed in terms such as "machismo" or "testosterone poisoning."
The relative importance of the roles of socialization and genetics in the development of masculinity continues to be debated. While social conditioning obviously plays a role, it can also be observed that certain aspects of the masculine identity exist in almost all human cultures.
The historical development of gender role is addressed by such fields as behavioral genetics, evolutionary psychology, human ecology and sociobiology. All human cultures seem to encourage the development of gender roles, through literature, costume and song. Some examples of this might include the epics of Homer, the King Arthur tales in English, the normative commentaries of Confucius or biographical studies of the prophet Muhammad. More specialized treatments of masculinity may be found in works such as the Bhagavad Gita or bushido's Hagakure.
Culture and gender roles
Well into prehistoric culture, men are believed to have assumed a variety of social and cultural roles which are likely similar across many groups of humans. In hunter-gatherer societies, men were often if not exclusively responsible for all large game killed, the capture and raising of most or all domesticated animals, the building of permanent shelters, the defense of villages, and other tasks where the male physique and strong spatial-cognition were most useful. Some anthropologists believe that it may have been men who led the Neolithic Revolution and became the first pre-historical ranchers, as a possible result of their intimate knowledge of animal life.
Throughout history, the roles of men have changed greatly. As societies have moved away from agriculture as a primary source of jobs, the emphasis on male physical ability has waned. Traditional gender roles for working men typically involved jobs emphasizing moderate to hard manual labor (see Blue-collar worker), often with no hope for increase in wage or position. For poorer men among the working classes, the need to support their families, especially during periods of industrial change and economic decline, forced them to stay in dangerous jobs working long arduous hours, often without retirement. Many industrialized countries have seen a shift to jobs which are less physically demanding, with a general reduction in the percentage of manual labor needed in the work force (see White-collar worker). The male goal in these circumstances is often of pursuing a quality education and securing a dependable, often office-environment, source of income.
The Men's Movement is in part a struggle for the recognition of equality of opportunity with women, and for equal rights irrespective of gender, even if special relations and conditions are willingly incurred under the form of partnership involved in marriage. The difficulties of obtaining this recognition are due to the habits and customs recent history has produced. Through a combination of economic changes and the efforts of the feminist movement in recent decades, men in some societies now compete with women for jobs that traditionally excluded women. Some larger corporations have instituted tracking systems to try to ensure that jobs are filled based on merit and not just on traditional gender selection. Assumptions and expectations based on sex roles both benefit and harm men in Western society (as they do women, but in different ways) in the workplace as well as on the topics of education, violence, health care, politics, and fatherhood - to name a few. Research has identified anti-male sexism in some areas which can result in what appear to be unfair advantages given to women.
The Parsons model was used to contrast and illustrate extreme positions on gender roles. Model A describes total separation of male and female roles, while Model B describes the complete dissolution of barriers between gender roles. The examples are based on the context of the culture and infrastructure of the United States. However, these extreme positions are rarely found in reality; actual behavior of individuals is usually somewhere between these poles. The most common 'model' followed in real life in the United States and Great Britain is the 'model of double burden'.
Exclusively male roles
Some positions and titles are reserved for men only. For example, the position of Pope in the Roman Catholic Church is reserved for men only, as is its priesthood. Men are often given priority for the position of monarch (King in the case of a man) of a country, as it usually passes to the eldest male child upon succession.
- Byronic hero
- Don Juan
- Male chauvinism
- Male stereotypes
- Masculine psychology, discipline of
- Men's fiction
- Men's movement
- Virility (social traits of men)
- Man (disambiguation)