Big Question: What is Masculinity?

Masculinity, as defined by the Oxford Dictionaries, is “the possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men.” As a society, we often deem men with broad shoulders, large muscles or chiseled faces as “masculine.” We immediately envision athletes and toned models. Coincidentally all of these descriptions link masculinity with physical characteristics.

In Hill Collin’s Booty Call; Sex, Violence and Images of Black Masculinity article, she further explores this notion of masculinity being associated with the use of the body, not the mind. She mentions how Black males are categorized  as masculine if they are hyper sexual and aggressive– two characteristics with negative connotations. Bell hook brings out the ironic truth that “the very same women who may critique macho male nonsense contradict themselves by making it clear that they find the ‘unconscious brothers’ more appealing” (bell hook 111).

Since arriving at Penn, bell hook’s theory has proven to be true. Based on my observations and conversations I’ve noticed the majority of heterosexual females are attracted to men who fit the stereotypical physical description of masculine, including those who also acknowledge and criticize this trend. This leaves society in a limbo- while we recognize the issues at hand we fail to successfully attempt to consciously change these prior notions. The ultimate question is where we go from here– do people change who they are attracted to, do said attractive and “masculine” males change their aggressiveness and hyper sexuality or does society change the stereotype of masculine?

Works Cited

Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans Gender and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Hook, bell. Outlaw Culture. New York. Routledge, 1994.

 “Masculinity.” Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. Print.


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