A New Age of Masculinity?
The past 50 years have given way to a tremendous shift in our culture. Sometimes it can be difficult to realize how much we’ve changed as a society, but a recent study by Pew Research Center signifies a more diverse population than we lived in just a half century ago. Comparing Millennials (Ages 21-36) to the Silent Generation (Ages 72 and older) puts this into perspective. For example, a greater share of Millennial women have a bachelor’s degree than their male counterparts - which was surely not the case just five decades ago. Consequently, with a more educated female population, young women are much more likely to be working. Today, 71% of young Millennial women are employed, while about a quarter are not in the labor force. Contrast this to 1965, where less than half of women were employed and a majority of women were not participating in the workforce.
Another change worth celebrating is the increase in racial diversity of the United States. Members of the Silent Generation comprised of almost 90% non-Hispanic whites, while today’s Millennial makeup is 46% minorities. The portion of Millennials who are Hispanic is a staggering 21%, compared to 4% of the Silent Generation.
I share these stats to highlight the transformations a culture can undergo in a relatively short period of time. One remarkable shift in cultural and societal norms is that of the “modern day man” which I’ll dig into below.
You have no doubt heard of the term “metrosexual”. You may even be one or are dating or married to one! To those not familiar, a metrosexual is defined as “a straight, sensitive, well-educated, urban dweller who is in touch with his feminine side.”. The rise of the term metrosexual and what it seeks to encapsulate signifies that the rigid adherence to stereotypical masculinity is softening. That’s fantastic news for the physical, mental and emotional health of our male population.
We often focus on how patriarchy is bad for women, but it also impacts men as well. The average American male grows up flooded with messages about what it means to be a man. “The tougher the better” and “boys don’t cry” mindsets can have drastic effects on many aspects of men’s lives. Consistent discouragement from displaying any vulnerable emotions can take a toll on an individual’s mental health. A study conducted by Humboldt State University suggests men who experience greater gender role conflict (gender-linked stressors and the impacts of traditional norms of masculinity) struggle to maintain strong connections with their other male friends.
“...participants’ levels of conformity to traditional masculine norms and gender-linked stress were measured and analyzed in relation to their levels of relationship satisfaction in inter-male friendships. Respondents with more conformity to traditional masculine norms were found to have higher levels of gender role conflict, supporting existing research findings. Gender role conflict was found to significantly negatively correlate with friendship satisfaction, suggesting that men experiencing more gender-linked stress in their lives have less fulfilling friendships with other men.”
In the past few decades, the “manly man” persona has slowly diminished with the rise of a more self-aware, independent thinking movement among men. Nowadays, it’s okay for a man to prefer writing poetry over watching football as a Sunday hobby. Speaking of football, ex-NFL quarterback and feminist activist Don McPherson is quoted as saying, “Masculinity is a performance. It’s an act. We don't raise boys to be men. We raise boys to not be women or gay men. We don't affirm what a loving man is. … We're not supposed to be effeminate or care or love or be sensitive, and it's all utter BS because we are all these things.” It's exiting times when members of hyper-masculine groups are openly discussing feminist ideology like gender performance!
The growing acceptance of different types of masculinites has diminished the social pressure to “man up” for a lot of guys. Companies are even becoming wildly successful by tailoring their products and content to millennial men who are proactive in their health, wellbeing and appearance - topics often labeled as "feminine". Hims, for example, refers to themself as the voice of the new normal male while challenging outdated taboos like discussing hair loss, erectile dysfunction, and skin issues with their doctor.
Time’s are a changin’, and modern masculinity is starting to get a new face. The tough guy façade is on the decline. That’s not to say men are becoming less confident, it’s actually the other way around. With the widespread acceptance of guys being able to embrace all of the aspects of themselves, we are witnessing the creation of more open, enlightened and empowered male allies.