Essay: Masculinity in literature

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
  • Reading time: 12 minutes
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  • Published on: July 20, 2019
  • File format: Text
  • Number of pages: 2
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Masculinity is still a new and fresh field to be ploughed specially in the field of literature. Many researchers have done abundant researches on femininity. Yet, masculinity has never been studied fully neither as a concept nor as a movement. Terms like masculinist or Masculinism are still rarely to be found in daily used dictionaries. This is a sign of the urgent need to study masculinity as a phenomenon in society. Some scholars, researchers and critics have studied masculinity as a part of ethnography, societal studies and history. Till the beginning of the 1970s, masculinity was not heard as an independent area of research. Some researchers find masculinity as an antonym of femininity only which is not logically or scientifically correct. Masculinity is an independent area similarly as femininity is. Away from being a male chauvinist, the truth is that masculinity is an ongoing process like any other process of human behaviour. It is not a static concept. As a concept, it has undertaken a growth process. Terms like maleness and manhood were used in place of masculinity. Terms were to some extent controversial but the know-how of people about masculinity was as the socially accepted way of being a man. So, it was a social understanding about the behaviour of the man. This is the know-how of the society. The term masculinity refers to men’s traditional manners, habits and attitudes, which constitute the patriarchal system of order in society. It governs the relationship between men as well as between men and women in society, where women in general are marginalized to men. There must be a separation of understanding masculinity as something related to power, maleness and domination. However, masculinity like many abstract terms is not so easy to be pinpointed. Even the understandings of societies are not the same. That is why we have different masculinities. So, it is a must to understand the nature of masculinity, the meaning of being masculine and why it is understood differently. This task is the task of researchers to study masculinity even more academically.

The twentieth century is the fruitful age in which masculinity was much investigated. Several researchers and scholars started to study men and masculinities in different places of the world. This thesis presents several definitions by several scholars and researchers among which Michael Kimmel from America, John Tosh from England, R. W. Connell from Australia and others. The researcher has surveyed the works of these scholars from different places in the world in order to have a global understanding of masculinity and to come across shared understanding of what is meant by masculinity. This is done through the critical investigation of some literary pieces of a specific era called Victorian period. R. W. Connell finds that Masculinity is simultaneously a place in gender relations, the practices through which men and women engage that place in gender, and the effects of these practices on bodily experience, personality and culture. This definition tells us that masculinity is not the property of men, and reminds us to be wary of using the terms ‘men’, ‘male’ and ‘masculinity’ interchangeably. R. W. Connell focuses on the factor of culture in the understanding of masculinity. John Tosh argues on the concept of masculinity of nineteenth-century Britain that manliness was only secondarily about men’s relations with women. Self-control, hard work and independence were the dominant code of Victorian manliness. John Tosh focuses on the historical factor more that the cultural factor. Michael Kimmel sees masculinity as homophobic in the sense that any symptom of femininity in a man is sure to draw effeminate criticism from his peers. Men, who subscribe to this lessen structure of masculinity, are afraid of any peer men. Michael Kimmel focuses on the lack of feminine features is the essence of being masculine. He sees it as the antonym of femininity. All these definitions contribute to give a holistic view of masculinity. No single definition is satisfactory without the other. All of them make us aware of what is meant by masculinity. Away from the theoretical background, masculinity is a performance rather than rules to be followed. Masculinity is to be performed through certain actions with other people whether men or women. This is the gist of what is meant by masculinity.

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