June 1, 2010

What is Masculinity?

I’ve really been thinking a lot lately about masculinity. At the same time, I can’t define it. I’m reminded by the 1964 statement from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he tried to explain what is obscene, by saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . but I know it when I see it . . . ”

My current working definition of masculinity is about the same as Justice Stewart’s definition of obscenity. I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. I’d also add that I know it when I feel it. There’s something magical about someone who is comfortable in his masculinity yet doesn’t overdo it. I like a guy who just is who he is and doesn’t have to demonstrate, project, compensate for or justify anything!

Since I’m having such a hard time stating what it is, let me spend some time with what it isn’t. Masculinity has absolutely nothing to do with gender. Gender more related to outward presentation and anatomy; even these two things don’t correlate in everyone! Masculinity has nothing to do with body type, looks or age. Masculinity has nothing to do with what we wear, the car we drive, or how we make a living in the world.

Masculinity is about certain qualities. For me, masculinity qualities are about integrity, openness, independence, responsibility and achievement. Yet, the paradox is that these qualities aren’t the exclusive realm of the masculine. Assertiveness is a masculine quality, yet aggression (or unchecked assertiveness) is completely inappropriate.

I know I’m asking more than I’m answering here, but I’m really curious about exploring this area, so I’m sure there’s a lot more to write about!

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