Redefining the Boundaries of Masculinity

Article excerpt

It's official: there's no difference between men and women. That, at least, is one interpretation of the Royal Navy's recent decision to disband the Wrens.

Our own research shows that men and women's roles are in as much flux as ever. The old debate about feminism is largely over. Almost everyone thinks that women should be given a fair deal at work and elsewhere. But putting those ideas into practice is another matter.

Women have long articulated their frustration at the gap between hopes and reality. After all, you have to go back to the late 50s to find a time when most women of working age were real "housewives". Yet 40 years on, women still do the vast majority of housework and childcare -- even in households where both partners work full-time. They are also prescribed two-thirds of psychotropic drugs dispensed by British pharmacists, and they initiate proceedings in three-quarters of British divorce cases.

Femininity, we now know, is a tragic and fragmented thing, and capable of many definitions. Until recently, masculinity has remained a fairly coherent concept. But some commentators have recently shifted the focus of the debate about gender onto men's roles. Neil Lyndon's book No More Sex War argues that the labour market, legislation and particularly women themselves have pushed men into a position of inequality. …

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