The nurses also knew they didn’t fit in the traditional mold of masculinity. Many said they were troubled by past recruitment campaigns that played up the masculine aspects of nursing, like one that compared the adrenaline rush to mountain climbing. Instead, they said they embraced the notion that being caring should be considered a masculine trait, too.
Americans say they look up to masculine men more than feminine women, according to a Pew study released this month. But it’s not just gender that dictates these beliefs. Racial makeup and political affiliation play a role: Republicans are more likely than Democrats to describe themselves as masculine. Black men and women are also more likely than whites and Hispanics to identify as “very masculine” or “very feminine,” Pew found from its survey of 4,573 people across the nation.
The outrage may be more selective and change agonizingly slow, but even in the most patriarchal societies of the Americas, the pushback is gathering force. From Mexico City to Buenos Aires, a new generation is speaking up, driving policy changes and calling out the creeps in power for whom a leer and grope -- or far worse -- were part of the script.
Globally, India has one of the largest cohorts of young men between the ages of 13 to 26 years. Their situation within the country, however, needs to be addressed. Far too many of them are under-educated, under-employed, and stuck in a low equilibrium. Far too few of them have positive role models and secure family lives. In addition, most of them wrestle with the perception of masculinity, which, in a feudal society like ours, is very conditional. It is commonly believed that you are not masculine enough if you are emotional, sensitive, or compassionate; that you are not “man enough” if you are not strong, if you are not the breadwinner in your family.
An America built on this peculiarly gendered individualism has crippled women in today's America. It also cleared the way for powerful men to abuse their power in a vast number of ways, including by assaulting the women they dominate. For a generation they have committed this abuse with impunity. It seems that era is over.
Jackson Katz, an author and filmmaker who studies gender and violence, said giving boys more positive role models and getting them to think critically about gender stereotypes is a key component to violence prevention. “Boys growing up in the U.S. are taught from the earliest ages the quickest way to gain respect is through violence,” Katz said. “For boys … who have had no access to validation and respect, violence is the quickest and most accessible means at proving your manhood.” If these definitions of manhood and strength are redefined and expanded, and boys see those traits in men, violent images of manhood could fall away, he said.
The fear that girds the lack of platonic touch among American men also fuels the destructive force of their hands, a 2002 study in the journal Adolescence found. Dr. Field was the lead author of the study, which looked at 49 cultures. “The cultures that exhibited minimal physical affection toward their young children had significantly higher rates of adult violence,” she said. But “those cultures that showed significant amounts of physical affection toward their young children had virtually no adult violence.”
This is the double standard at the heart of masculinity: Men are taught to regularly say and do things to women that they would never say or do to other men, that they would never want men to say or do to them. That is not due to some timeless “male libido” driving their behavior. It’s because masculinity is founded on the myth that men alone are rights-bearing persons and women are subordinate, passive, second-class beings who either need the protection of or deserve to be subjected to men.
A Call to Men's programs help men and boys to identify everything from the media's influence, to what demonstrates consent, coercion, and nonconsent, to the myths and facts of sexual harassment and assault. Most important, they teach them how to interrupt the cycle by speaking up and making respectful choices. These practices allow men to embrace a healthy manhood and to create healthy relationships with women and girls.
"Felt pressure for gender conformity indicates the degree to which individuals feel pressured by parents, peers, and themselves to adhere to traditional gender roles and norms," the scientists explained in the study. The pressure exerted on these kids, in other words, wasn't really coming from the media, books or other sources; it was being transmitted between people, on the playground, in the classroom and at home. And the results shed a lot of light on how toxic masculinity is, and how young it starts being a problem.