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.