Identity crisis of definitions of masculinity

Brittany Jordan

Feminism is in the headlines and is now a topic for discussion, and I want to preface this by saying that that is great.

But while a woman’s role in society is changing, men’s roles are being pushed to the backburner; in all the talk about what femininity means, no one has bothered to define masculinity.

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You see, men are facing many of the same issues that women are — they are combating unrealistic expectations of what a “real man” is.

Men, too, look at the media and see photoshopped pectorals and biceps — they look at models and celebrities on the covers of magazines such as Men’s Health and are fed information that apparently a “healthy” body is one that consumes ridiculous amounts of protein and can bench press cars.

We are preaching that women come in all shapes and sizes and everyone has to accept that, but are we preaching the same for men as well? Not every man is going to look like an Adonis, just like every woman is not going to look like Barbie. Men are equally at risk for developing an inferiority complex when awash in a sea of unrealistic expectations that women, too, perpetuate.

And ladies, we are incredibly contradictory as to what we want in a man. We want our partners to be career-driven, but family-oriented. We want men to be stable, but spontaneous. Men are expected to be protective, but not possessive; sensitive, but not mushy; in-shape, but not fitness-obsessed … the list goes on.

So while men are trying to navigate the unanswerable question as to what women want, women are busy running in the opposite direction, assuming a “take it or leave it mentality” when it comes to who they are — we are more and more unwilling to change aspects of our personality to land a man.

I am getting married next year and my fiance and I are trying to see what our future is going to look like. When discussing the possibility of kids, it was made apparent that the more we looked at it, given that he is and will always be the primary breadwinner and the astronomical price of childcare dictated that most if not all of my salary would go towards paying other people to watch our kids, it made sense that I would quit my job and assume full responsibility of the house and children.

I felt like I got slapped in the face — all of the school, all of the student loans, all of the work to forward my career would be halted if we decide to procreate. Just imagining it chafed against me, but I couldn’t argue with the logic of it.

So for us, and many other couples out there, the subject of kids is up-in-the-air, and will probably stay there for a while.

Because while a woman’s role in society in the workplace is changing, we have to alter how we think of masculinity if we ever expect feminism’s view of equality to take off. Until paternity leave is commonplace and masculinity is defined more towards the family and less towards the provider, the housewife default will remain. All of us hard-working women in higher education, trying to do what is best for our career, will face roadblocks if we want to have children as well.

Masculinity is in an identity crisis all its own, and we have to address that in equal parts if we want to make any progress.

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So, really, what does “being a man” mean?

Collegian Columnist Brittany Jordan can be reached at letters@collegian.com.