The crutch of “masculinity”


The Economist has a good essay (pay-walled) on the new underclass of poorly educated men especially men in developed countries. In short, jobs which rely purely on physical strength and stamina have become so sparse that if those are the only attributes you have, you’re pretty much going to be unemployed and poor. The combination of chronic unemployment and an outdated very gendered identity where men are providers and not home-makers makes this not only an issue of poverty but also a crisis of self-esteem.

Even though I don’t believe I have an overly gendered outlook on life, I have been interested in how men have been tussling with the concept of masculinity. And while I have very little patience with essentialists* I have been involved off-and-on with men’s groups over the years. On the whole this has been very rewarding if only because it has given me access into the life experiences of a large variety of men.

In my experience, men who have invested significantly in an identity of masculinity (and in turn insisting also on projecting femininity on others) are also those who would benefit most from abandoning those concepts or at least extending their identity into other domains. However, if your life is limited then it follows that the only source of value remaining is your genitalia. So it seems to me that male unemployment / dis-empowerment would paradoxically encourage a more gendered identity which in turn would make the unemployed man feel even worse.

In short: my life is shit > but my dick makes me happy > having a dick means I am a MAN > a successful man is a provider > my life is shit.

* Some of the outliers are unintentionally hilarious like the very hippy and surprisingly popular gods worshipping goddesses (or vice-versa) workshops.

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