Masculinity as Homophobia and other readings

March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the essay “Masculinity as Homophobia,”  Michael S. Kimmel points out an important part of masculinity is measuring up to the other males in life.  He asserts American manhood is really a fear of other men.  Masculinity, as he describes it, is a sort of defensive act to prevent being humilated and shamed by other men.  This defensive act is so deeply ingrained that some men act out in violence.  He says this is also why some men are homophobic, fearing being shamed, and also why they reinforce stereotypical masculinty to not be confused.  In short men have a constant feeling of powerless and judgement from others.  Kimmel even links this to the fact that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, and admitedly, statistics do suggest a large number is due to financial failure, possibly escaping being exposed as a failure through suicide. 

Michael Kimmel’s theory about masculinity is very interesting and I saw similar themes in another essay about masculinity.  Leonard Kriegel describes his fight with polio through the use of a masculine identity in his essay “Taking It.”  He also talked about comparing himself to other men and trying to impress his father among others with his independant and stoic will of a man.  While he did not denounce the ideas of masculinity outright he does comment at the end that his boys may be better off in a world where “masculinty” means nothing more than the name of a cologne.

So based upon these readings and other interactions you have had, do you think Kimmel is right about masculinity?  I agree with his theory but also am not a man and cannot testify to the truthfulness of what he says.  So I am curious what others think here, is masculinity a kind of fear of other men and being shamed?


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