Dictionaries define the term masculinity as the quality or condition of being masculine in the first place. These also define the concept as something traditionally considered being characteristic of a male.
According to R.W. Connell, author of In Masculinities (1995), the emergence of the modern concept of European and North American masculinity emerged along with political, social, religious and economic changes between 1501 to 1800. "At this time Protestantism was destabilizing the dominance of Catholicism, and with this destabilization a new masculine ideal was emerging. Part of this ideal was the privileging of heterosexual marriage, as a masculine sexual ideal emerged that rivaled the purity of denial of sexual desire."
Masculinity is associated with the social roles, behaviors and meanings prescribed for men in any society at any time. In other words, it focuses on gender and the diversity of identities among different groups of men. To form a clear view of what masculinity actually is, it is important to discuss the difference between sex and gender.
Generally, sex refers to biological apparatus, while the terms male and female represent chromosomal, chemical and anatomical organization. Therefore, gender refers to the meanings that are attached to those differences. Sex can be male and female, while gender is expressed through masculinity and femininity. Masculinity is a product of society and varies in accordance with social and cultural contexts.
The word masculinities, or the plural form of masculinity, suggest that masculinity can be defined in a number of different ways within the same society at the same time. Usually, society contributes to creating differences between men and women but actually these differences are not as great as the differences among men or among women. Masculinity can be examined from four different viewpoints: anthropology, history, psychology and sociology.
The expression of masculinity depends on cultures. In some cultures men are encouraged to be stoic and to prove masculinity via sexual conquest. However, other societies believe that masculinity should be based on civic participation and emotional responsiveness. According to these social norms, men would express their masculinity best if they care about the community's needs.
Masculinity also varies over the course of history. What was considered an example of masculinity in 17th century France or in Hellenic Greece is quite different from the notion in the 21st century. Societies change through events and processes, such as urbanization or industrialization, which have effect on people's ideas what masculinity is. History influences the world's geopolitical and economic context and thus changes people's views.
Sociologists deal with masculinity from the point of view of ways in which class, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality and geography all affect gender identity. Since masculinity depends on so many factors, it cannot be seen as constant and a universal notion. It has different manifestations across cultures, over history, among men and women and over the course of a life.
According to a research, conducted by Dutch social psychologist and anthropologist Geert Hofstede, Japan is the country with the highest masculinity rating. Japan is followed by the United States, Germany, Ireland and Italy. Achievement, wealth and expansion are life's priorities in the countries with high score on the masculinity scale. In such countries it is possible to tackle conflict situations through aggressive means. Women and men are shown to have different roles in society.
Researchers argue that people in societies with a high masculinity score are often seen as unemotional and unwilling to enter into close relationships with others. They are also viewed as being busy and ready to talk about work at every opportunity. In such cases, business is a topic that is discussed even at social gatherings.
When it comes to geographical trends in masculinity, men in Latin America are famous for their machismo or masculinity. Many people, as they are referred to, see machos, as an ideal example of the male gender. They are strong, conquering, unemotional, unyielding and earn their money alone, without the need for anyone else.
Masculinity has its manifestation not only among heterosexual men but among non-heterosexual men too. Gay and straight men both worry that their masculinity may be challenged by other members of society. Gay men can have worries about whether they perform their gender role correctly. On the other hand, heterosexual men can feel inferior when other men have more expensive cars for example, or a greater number of sexual conquests.