Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities

Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities

Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities

Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities

Synopsis

Why do men behave the way they do? The "science" of gender studies is less than 25 years old and it is only recently that scholars and popular authors interested in gender have started to examine the issues associated with masculinity.; This text is based on over 10 years research, and constructs a comprehensive theory of masculinity by exploring in great detail how men form their gender identities and how those identities influence their behaviour. The book examines the influence of 24 male messages, or gender norms - such as "be like your father", "faithful husband", "superman", and "nurturer" - that represent cultural expectations for masculinity in western societies. Drawing on a diverse sample of over 500 men from different classes, backgrounds, races and ethnic groups, the author describes how men learn these messages, how individual men respond to them, and how their influence changes over the course of a man's life.; This accessible text presents a general framework for masculinity and breaks new ground in understanding the construction of male gender identity.

Excerpt

Messages Men Hear describes the results of a study that attempts to answer the question: Why do men behave the way they do? (See the Appendix, for a discussion of methodology.) Male behavior is strongly influenced by gender role messages men receive from their social environments. This study interprets the responses of 560 men in the United States to 24 dominant male gender norms or male messages. Individuals participating in this study were asked to indicate how influential each message was at age 18 and how that influence has changed.

Male messages express gender role norms that tell men how to behave. The identities of boys, when they are born, are like unshaped balls of clay. Boys are born into a particular class status, cultural group, or race that helps determine their identities. Interaction with norms for male behavior helps them figure out how to behave as men. Males participating in this study have described male messages as a force propelling them in certain directions, like a spring in a watch, influencing their choices.

Men have penises, grow facial hair, and possess sex-linked characteristics acquired from their genes, but becoming a man is much more complex than growing a beard, having a lower voice, becoming bald, or learning the pleasures associated with a penis. As each man matures, he constructs a gender identity, which determines how he feels about himself and his masculine responses to the world. Gender is a social construction. A person's sex is determined by biology. A man's gender is to some extent determined by his biology. Because of his masculine features, he is exposed to a world where facts of gender are taken at face value. His raw sexual features are imbued with symbolic content and social meaning that, among other things, attempts to differentiate men from women.

The process by which an individual learns to become a member of society, called socialization, involves the imposition of social patterns upon behavior. The socialized part of the self is the identity. As a man matures, he forms a gender identity which should be distinguished from his sexual identity. The former refers to how he understands, relates to, and internalizes masculine behavior, while the latter refers to how he sees himself and behaves as a sexual being. Men have sexual aspects to their personalities, and their sexual behaviors can vary enormously, as can their complex gender identities. Messages Men Hear describes how men construct their gender, not their sexual identities. In this book only Chapter 6, 'Lovers', will refer to male sexual behavior.

Every culture has a gender system that contains shared expectations for

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