A YouGov poll has revealed that young men in Britain are reluctant to identify as “masculine” and think the term has “negative connotations.” According to the survey, only two per cent of male respondents aged between 18 to 24 described themselves as “completely masculine” compared to 56 per cent of over 65s.
This is startling proof of the hypothesis that young adult men have lost their sense of what it is to be a man. Obviously, masculinity as a concept has become so negative to this age cohort that its members no longer want to identify themselves as completely masculine. If men are not comfortable defining themselves as masculine what is the alternative? Do millennial males need a new gender to identify with? Are they the “Q” in LBGTQ parlance? Or do they need to redefine masculinity in a way that they can, without shame, self identify as masculine without letting the world label them as insensitive cave man like boors?
Given my previous posts it should come as no surprise that my answer is to seek to redefine masculinity in a way that young men can be comfortable with their masculinity without apology and without being considered sexist. The challenge is how do we reframe manliness as a positive trait while simultaneously supporting gender equality and the abandonment of patriarchy. The starting point is disabusing ourselves of the notion that gender equality is the same as gender neutrality. Conceptually, accepting the fact that the Y chromosome and testosterone have consequences for differences other than the obvious anatomical ones is essential. There is substantial evidence that the way men behave and think differs from women and these differences are largely based on distinctions in brain structures and hormones. Therefore, expecting men and women to relate to each other as if they are fundamentally the same is contrary to our biology. The key is respecting these differences so that neither gender feels superior to the other. The outcome would be gender equality without needing to pursue the spurious notion of gender neutrality.
Appreciating masculinity in the light rather than the shadow offers a pathway for men to develop masculine pride that does not rely on old school stereotypes. A useful illustration comes from the work of Moore & Gillette in their book describing male archetypes. As an example, the warrior archetype is that part of masculinity that takes action, commands, confronts and motivates. It is the locus of male aggression and competiveness. A warrior in the shadow is violent, a bully and uses aggression as a primary strategy. However, a warrior in the light still takes action but is an assertive change agent, a protector and a disciplined leader. There is a choice for a man to make. Be a warrior in the light and honor the best of your masculinity without shame or resort to the shadow side feeding the stereotypes of the obnoxious and dominating hyper male.