Sunday, 13 February 2011

Masculine Identity in Contemporary America (Week 1)

The article I have chosen to discuss details an apparent crisis in the identity of the modern American man, focusing broadly on the psychological implications that the global economic crisis has had on working men in the United States. It features as a blog entry on a website called "Psychology Today" and is entitled 'Our male identity crisis: What will happen to men?' (

The article begins by offering some statistics concerning the performance of American men in education, stating that 'men now comprise barely 40% of enrolled University and College students and graduates.' This is something touched upon in the second article from TIME magazine we read this week. The gender gap is reinforced as women are now noticeably out-performing men in educational achievement - a trend that has been growing over the past couple of decades.

We know that, historical, rightly or wrongly, men have bee the traditional bread-winner, heading up the household, and taking on the role of providing for the family. For the first time though, the article states that 'women have surpassed men and now make up more than 50 percent of the nation's workforce.' Does this show the beginning of a role-reversal? And is the traditional role of the American man beginning to become diluted? The article would hint at yes. Focusing again on the financial crisis that first rocked the world in 2008, and it is shown that the resulting recession hit men the hardest with '80% of the jobs lost during this current recession (having) been held by men.' The effect this has on the American male psyche should not be underestimated. If the traditional role of the man is gradually diminishing - that of the sole or, at the very least, one of the workers in a family - it is easily conceivable that being a "kept man" could reduce the sense of "masculinity." After all, 'in a post-modern world lacking clear-cut borders and distinctions, it has been difficult to know what it means to be a man.'

The article explains how a stable, solid identity is important for men. The distinctions between the genders are becoming blurry, it seems, leading to added confusion and an increasingly unstable sense of self.

Coupled with the confused male "identity" is a further hurdle to overcome for the modern American man. How the male is population portrayed in the media has further had an impact on the way in which men feel about themselves. The following two paragraphs cover a wide range of issues which are felt to have damaged the male identity in recent years and highlights the importance of a positive representation of men:
- males commit more crimes than females
- males make up a larger proportion of suicides
- increased levels of artificial insemination have led to reduced levels of fatherhood in society
- custody of children is given to the mother more often than the father when parents divorce
- men are seen as increasingly "feminine" in the media and wider society

All of this leads to the realisation that men 'do not have a specific role model and are less able to define their role in society.' Men have always been seen as "leaders" and with high-level positions been given to women (due, potentially to the increased educational success had by women), this traditional role is gradually being eroded. T.V shows also show that women can be successful on their own - be it as a single mother, or in the working world, whereas men are increasingly shown as lazy or stupid, Homer Simpson being the example given.

In recent years, it is clear that a large amount of the barriers between men and women have been broken down, few would argue that the advances women have made are a bad thing - it is important that we recognise that vital progress has been made. However, the impact on the modern Western man should not be ignored. It seems that in 2011, he is becoming a victim of his own historical standing.

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