Welcome to Jezebel's Masculinity Week

Illustration for article titled Welcome to Jezebel's Masculinity Week
Graphic: Jezebel

For months, we at Jezebel have been contemplating the idea of “masculinity,” an archaic idea that is nonetheless in the midst of a renaissance. It’s an era where blustery strongmen politicians are sucking up all the air, subjecting America and other nations to their rigid and obsolete interpretations of male tradition. Simultaneously, the concept of what it means to be “masculine”—or the old, cis, hetero-traditional definition of it—is more fluid than ever, with decades of feminist and queer theory manifesting in a progressive new generation in which gender norms have beautifully blurred, upending long-held social constructions and creating imaginative, freeing paths.


But what the hell is masculinity, anyway? Is it a learned helplessness so profound that men need outside help with tucking in their shirts? Is it state of being that’s physically expressed by a beard or jacked lats? Is it a death cult or a homicidal toxicity? Is it an invented notion with a mythos so powerful that there’s no end in sight to its terrible reign?

It’s within these tensions that we decided to dedicate an entire week to “masculinity,” one of life’s great mysteries. In the coming days, we will contemplate its existence in pop culture and in our lives and generally try to parse what the hell “masculinity” even means in 2020. We’ll be running stories about the origins of masculinity and attempts to subvert it, masculinity’s great successes and failures, close reads on warrior-boys and midlife crises, Disney tweens and locker rooms, and the age-old trope of men fighting animals. It’s a fun week ahead and we’re extremely excited for you to join us on this journey, where we attempt to figure out what masculinity can possibly mean in what will hopefully be the final days of its traditional norms.



Full disclaimer - I don’t fit in with the “masculine” crowd. Yes, I drive a muscle car and know how to replace more than just the tire. Yes, I work out frequently. Yes, I have a beard and can practically grow it at will, if so desired.

But ask my wife if she would consider me of the macho variety and she would bust out laughing. It’s why she married me, after all. Her culture, macho men were often the kind of men to sleep with as many women as he had children. They didn’t cook or clean, spoke down to their wives, and constantly wished they had sons instead of daughters. My own culture, men would brag about harassing women during carnival time, bragged about keeping secrets from their wives, etc.

She would not have given me the time of day if I even hinted at being like that.

Thankfully, I grew up in a household where, while I did traditionally “masculine” things like work on cars with my dad, he also taught me gardening, insisted I learn how to cook like a master chef, and ensured that our household had an equal part in daily chores. Nothing was relegated to “just the women” and he didn’t believe in getting a drink “with the guys” so they could talk shit about their wives. In fact, he ended a lot of friendships when he became a family man, for that reason.

So, can’t really relate to “masculine” ideology and don’t want to. It has never made sense to me, which is probably why the few male friends I’ve made over the years came from similar, more balanced backgrounds.

But you know who does talk a lot about having a “masculine” identity? My gun-loving, raised truck-driving, casually racist/sexist, Trump-loving coworker. And really, I think that says it all these days about men concerned with their “masculinity.”

Meant to also include... Generally, when I hear a guy going on about masculinity and what it means to be a guy, I usually take that as a red flag lol.