Modern Masculinity – A present day definition

Modern Masculinity

What is the purpose of a methodology that was fused from the intricate, violent history of human civilisation within a modern society that strives for peace?


Something I’ve found myself wondering for a while—Why is there a lack of intelligent discussion pieces on masculinity? Feel free to look for such discussions online. The results can be ruthless—unrelenting digital trench warfare between various men and feminists who strive to gain territory for their respective opinion. And make no mistake, as our society continues to evolve and traditional gender roles begin to perish, the underlying concept of what it means to be a man moving forward couldn’t be more important.

Modern masculinity - what does it mean

Why do I say that you ask? Because masculinity is a set of attributes made up of both biologically-created and socially-created factors; and today, those social factors are being picked apart, challenged and redefined by academia, politics and left-wing media. This isn’t a problem in itself—as I for one am happy for masculinity to be under the spotlight if there can be an honest debate about it. But finding such a platform can be difficult to say the least.

What is masculinity?

What is masculinity first of all? Well, that depends on where you are. Various cultures have their own definition of what makes someone masculine and while these traits and social expectations vary from place to place—They all share a single, important purpose. To be truly dependable when something terrifying, unpredictable, and threatening arises and to face it with unwavering courage.

The virtues of masculinity are the attributes that formulate society’s most effective response against adversity and chaos. Men tend to be physically larger and much stronger than women. And men tend to be more aggressive than women—there are observable higher rates of certain hormones that naturally cause this.[1] For most women, they simply don’t develop the musculature, nor the aggression for serious battle with the most vicious of the human species. As a result, this aforementioned fighting force has predominately always been men. So masculinity as a construct, has provided men across millennia with the appropriate ‘guidelines’ for how one should be the best above-average-sized-and-physical-strong person, in a manner that is socially valuable. This normally amounts to protecting those who are more vulnerable, while channeling one’s natural aggression towards threats, goals and opportunities while controlling it to prevent malevolence and tyrannical notions.

Modern masculinity - what is modern masculinity

Social Responsibility

Throughout the history of mankind, every society that has ever existed has each attempted to assemble an orderly refuge for humans to coexist, with the aim of security and prosperity. To ensure social order, certain elements that require masculine forces to uphold, are none negotiable:

  1. Security for its people: One’s system of order has always and continues to be at risk from being conquered by external forces. This requires a disciplined force that is capable of dispensing violence against its foes when required and the ability to absorb brutal harm. To neglect security, is to welcome annihilation.
  2. The rule of law and justice: A society requires a rule of law. Those who subscribe to their respective laws are rewarded with the freedoms that come with this particular arrangement. When criminal elements arise, looking for opportunities to loot their respective societies while parking their ill-gotten gains behind the protection of rule of law—A society has an obligation to fight against such forces. These criminal elements are often aggressive, capable and tactfully malevolent and require equally aggressive forces to confront them. To neglect justice, is to be complicit in its violation.

 People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

On merit, these social responsibilities to uphold order have fallen upon the shoulders of men across time. And the archetypal conduct required to succeed in these dangerous duties, has changed very little throughout history. Discipline, loyalty, clarity, truthfulness and courage are the typical virtues one would likely see a capable and formidable force triumphing within chaos. In contrast, incompetence, doubt, distress or panic would likely be the types of traits implemented by the defeated. Therefore, masculinity naturally offered the appropriate guidelines for boys to become formidable responders to chaos and adversity.

Men who were good at this job, men who were good at the job of being masculine—earn the respect and trust of the group they’re in. Those men will be honoured through a socially created reward structure and treated better than men who are disloyal or undependable. The type of men who deliver victory at the moments of greatest peril will attain the highest status among men. They will be treated like heroes, and other men, especially young men, will emulate them. Even today, men evaluate each other as men, they still look for the same virtues that they’d need to keep the perimeter secure. Men positively respond and admire the qualities that would make men useful and dependable in an emergency.

Everything that is specifically about masculinity, the art of being a man, not merely a person, has to do with this role. What sort of men do you want in your society? What sort of man do you want at your flank when it’s all on the line?

But it is today, in this modern world where this whole subject gets pretty damn confusing. A time for many where the greatest battles now take place in the closing seconds of an eBay bid, or within the confines of the company boardroom. Never before has our world been more privileged, complex and engineered to our everyday needs than it is today. And it is this incredible achievement, that now allows one to pose the question: Does masculinity have a purpose in today’s world?

The forces I spoke about above have now been outsourced to smaller groups of men. An impressive feat of social stability that has granted the conditions for most men to now look upon masculinity as a choice. In addition, Normality bias provides the social smokescreen that would have many people believing that masculinity is no longer required within a peaceful society. Let them do so. One can only control their own circumstances after all. But don’t allow a temporary state of order and the voices within it, drown out the wisdom of the ages.

What happens when a society no longer endorses masculinity or values men undertaking great responsibility? Even vilifying it in some cases. Think about it. Boys are growing up being told they’re pathological and oppressive by simply being male. What do you think the outcome for that will be? Any kid who grows up hearing that is going to be like: “Why the hell would I want to play that game?”  “If there is no value for bearing great responsibility you can bloody well be sure I’m not going to bear it.” So instead of boys finding meaning through the bearing of heavy responsibility, many will now find more comfort pursuing egocentric aims and impulsive pleasures. How’s that for social progress?

Masculinity is now optional

The above video is an excellent example of the option to walk a different path being described by one of my favourite actors: Zach Braff (JD from Scrubs) explaining his tendency to embrace unmasculine roles in acting. Now, is Zach any less of a man than those who embrace a masculine approach to their lives? Absolutely not, he simply chooses not to embrace masculinity (However difficult that may have been for him to avoid initially because of social pressure) Zach specialises in the arts and his charm, creativity and charisma are some of his favoured traits. This is the path in life he wished to pursue (One that also looks quite successful and fulfilling to me) His lack of masculinity has no reason to be mocked or ridiculed for any reason. It is simply an alternative path that man should be free to explore at his discretion should he find himself in an orderly system that permits it.

Masculinity is now a choice. It never used to be—but now a man needn’t employ such virtues into their life if they choose not too. I personally feel that masculinity is a favourable pursuit of self-improvement to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Holding yourself to a level of disciplined behaviour shows all those around you that you’re dependable and capable of dealing with chaos should it arise. To be the type of person that others know they can depend on when the gloves come off.

But let’s be real, not everyone should be expected to agree with my view. Our ancestors perhaps didn’t have the luxury of a choice, but that’s no longer the case. This is the first amendment of masculinity that I am personally happy to accept—The immediate removal of the unnecessary pressure placed on those who would rather choose a different path in life. May the forces of nature judge their decision, not I.

Modern masculinity how to become more manly

What about women? Can’t they strive for such qualities also? Of course they can—if they can. It is with the above point and a vast history of patriarchy that many women are suspicious of men’s motives when they speak of masculinity today. But masculinity is not a threat for those in genuine pursuit of equal opportunity. On the contrary—masculinity by definition has to ally with those who value talent, effort and achievement over arbitrary arrangements. Equal opportunity ensures that the best characters are selected for the challenges that we face in society—and it is here, that a true harmony between masculine and feminine values can be found. However, I believe masculinity could never find peace within a system supporting opportunity of outcome. For any system that demands its followers to disregard true value and capability over arbitrary notions of governance, would surely need to be tyrannical to ensure its functioning.

But to any woman who is reading this piece, still curious and unsure about these points—I would simply ask you to pay careful attention to the following stats:

Men are still the most represented gender for placing themselves into the most dangerous social roles.[2]

93% of work related deaths in the United States in 2015/2016 were male.[3]

So I ask you: What type of society do you wish to see moving forward? Merit based? Or egalitarian based? 

If the former, do you believe the values above represent a society striving for value and utility? If not, why?

If the latter, what do you believe are the consequences for putting one’s faith into an arbitrary allocation of roles, rather than valuing talent, effort and achievement?

When reality hits

“We’re designed to be hunters and we’re in a society of shopping. There’s nothing to kill anymore, there’s nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation this everyman is created.”

— David Fincher Fight Club

The everyman – The extreme product of a modern society that doesn’t require the virtues of masculinity. Japan calls these the Herbivore men (草食系男子) – Men who have no interest in getting married or finding a girlfriend. A survey[4] featuring single Japanese men conducted in 2010 found that 61% of men in their 20s and 70% of men in their 30s considered themselves to be herbivores. Kind and gentle men who, without being bound by manliness, do not pursue romantic relationships voraciously, often having a preference to the company of cyber women to the real thing and having no aptitude for being hurt or hurting others.

Modern masculinity - why should I become more manly

There are many complex social factors which can contribute to the rise of the herbivore man. Disdain for the corporate world, the lack of social solidarity, the absence of a valid role in modern society, the decreasing exposure to physical adversity and finally the battle against masculinity in modern culture. The herbivore man is the extreme example of the complete irradiation of masculinity. And this social phenomenon has not been within consequence. The isolationist nature of the modern herbivorous man, has led to a rapid increase in reported cases of anxiety and the breakdown of fundamental social skills. The fastest growing suicide demographic in Japan is now young men. Making it the single biggest killer of men in Japan aged 20 to 44.[5]

This vast social shift in Japan has found many Japanese women not taking the herbivores’ indifference lightly. In response to the problems left by the herbivorous stance, “carnivorous girls” (肉食系女子) are taking matters into their own hands by taking the leading roles in sexual advances and the social domination of their grass-eating counterparts. How sustainable this social arrangement happens to be, is to be seen.

Closing thoughts

The arbitrary configuration of egalitarianism, that aims to treat everyone the same and demand unconditional equality at the expense of reality is flawed. Egalitarianism looks at masculinity as the serpent that needs its head removed, all the while, as it takes shelter from its tail without grasping the irony. Masculinity has a very prominent role to play in a reality of unknowns and ever-present dangers. The subjugation of masculinity from external sources is reckless and typically comes from those who fail to understand it. Masculinity and its endorsement is not a threat to legitimate social progress and the genuine pursuit of a fair, safe and functioning society. And I encourage any of those reading, who feel naturally inclined to reconnect to their masculinity to do so.

References

[1] Testosterone and Aggressive Behavior in Man – NCBI
[2] Men at Work, Percentage of U.S workers who are male by sector (2012) – US Census Bureau
[3] Fatal occupational injuries counts and rates by selected demographic characteristics (2015-16) – Bureau of labour statistics
[4] Herbivorous Boys & Carnivorous Girls – Partner Agent
[5] Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate? – BBC

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John Fee

John Fee

A British Army veteran and security specialist with over a decade of international security experience under the belt. I'm an adolescent student of philosophy who takes great pleasure in tweaking the mental operating system through critical thought and learning (And god knows I only need it!) I'm a fond admirer of Western Culture, a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, A wanderer of lands and a certified knuckle dragger. 

9 thoughts on “Modern Masculinity – A present day definition”

  1. Fascinating that your link to the Japanese study was in Japanese. . not knowing Japanese left me at a disadvantage which I found oddly amusing. Is there a translation available? Is there any corresponding research in America of this phenomenon? What would you consider the major differences ethnically if there are? I have actually had experience with men of that particular type and curious of the national consequence of there being 60% of a population. Please advise.

    1. Hey Linda, feel free to check out the ‘Herbivore Men’ Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbivore_men) this contains some English references that should satisfy your needs. As for your ending question, ‘what are the major ethnic differences in play here?’ I would begin by saying that Japanese culture has likely produced the necessary social factors that would allow such an unpredictable phenomenon to take place. Economic disillusionment seems to be the prime suspect with the ‘salaryman’ becoming an unpopular concept for the modern Japanese male. Disillusion with the high working hours combined with economic uncertainty has seemingly undermined the process which has allowed the current generation to form a social protest against the older Japanese generations, patriarchal values, and consumerism. In 2014 alone, on average 70 Japanese people committed suicide every day, and the vast majority were men. This issue has become quite the significant national social issue.

      As for the national consequences of such a shift, I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly predict Linda. I can only comment on what could be lost on such an occasion. This is still a divided world. If your nation loses the mindset/behaviors that have proven the most effective against the most vicious conflicts and challenges it has faced throughout history, then so be it – such an occurrence will be judged by history, not me. One nation’s sovereignty is always a single conflict away from losing everything it stands for. It must be careful not to forget the decorum that allows a nation to face adversity and come out of the other side still standing.

  2. Excellent analysis John.

    One point I wanted to touch upon was “emotional suppression that leads to violence.” I myself adopt a strong philosophy of near-silent stoicism in the face of extreme challenges, and generally do not voice my displeasure with the general collection of disagreeable and incredibly-trying situations as a homeowner, provider, husband, father, and most-importantly, man.

    I feel that having an open an honest conversation with my female wife about my aversion to handling said tasks on a consistent basis would be looked upon as “weak” or “whiny,” and so I just handle them without complaint. However, this type of stoicism can lead to feelings of resentment and something close to disgust that she is unwilling to “do her fare share” in terms of child care and housework (mostly), and yet still strives for control of the day-to-day.

    In short, just grin and bear it? Fight it out? In terms of modern masculinity, I choose the former, but is that right course, I wonder. I’m not interested in regular 3-hour verbally-violent filibusters with following days of thinly-veiled contempt. When is compromise just not enough?

    Thanks

    P.S. I have never been, and will never be, violent towards any woman in my life.

    1. Hey Michael,

      Firstly, thank you for your kind words.

      You’ve raised an excellent question that warrants its own topic. However, I’ll do my best to answer your question from my own personal perspective. I’m a firm believer that a couple should always be striving to work together as a cohesive unit that is always helping one another become the best they can be. If you’re becoming overburdened with your task load, you owe it to yourself to be transparent with your partner. Stoicism doesn’t warrant the suppression of internal conflict that is stemming from factors that you’re in complete control of changing. This is a leadership issue, one that requires you to talk with your partner for the greater good of your household. Let it be known where your limits stand. This is a process that should entail two participants looking for the best outcome for their household.

      If you feel your partner is not pulling their weight, let it be known. It doesn’t need to get hostile – you’re both in this game together. Get to the root of their motivations and figure out why they may be struggling with their own burdens. There may be certain factors that you’re unaware of. But don’t suppress these issues man. Your home, your castle should be the one place on this earth that is free from such complications (There is enough of them to deal with once we step out of the door!) Hopefully my friend, this is your partner’s desire also. But she must step up also! This situation requires a solution that is formed from the both of you. Which hopefully rectifies the pressure you’re currently under. Masculinity is not the unfair burden of responsibility Michael. Merely, the attribute that deals with certain responsibilities more effectively than our female counterparts.

      I hope this helped, and I wish you the best of luck.

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