Masculinities: what is it all about?


Masculinities refer to the diversity of male behaviours, attitudes and identities that exist in our society. They include traits traditionally associated with masculinity, such as physical strength, competitiveness and aggressiveness, as well as more modern traits such as sensitivity, empathy and the ability to communicate effectively. Masculinities are influenced by factors such as culture, education, … and can vary considerably from person to person. It is important to recognise the diversity of masculinities and to promote positive and inclusive models of masculinity to foster gender equality.

Masculinity is therefore a social construct based on a set of attributes, behaviours and roles attributed to boys/men in a given society at a given time. “It is the set of elements that are socially recognised as belonging to men; it is therefore not a universal notion, it is socially and historically situated.

At the same time, if masculinities refer to the qualities, behaviours and attributes traditionally associated with men and masculinity. These may include physical strength, dominance, emotional stoicism and a focus on achievement and success. They are often defined in contrast to femininity, which is associated with qualities such as tenderness, empathy and emotional expressiveness.

Masculinities are not an inherent of all men, but rather a social and cultural construct that is shaped by a range of factors, including family upbringing, cultural norms and expectations, and societal influences. Masculinity can be expressed in a variety of ways, and may be subject to change and evolution over time. Additionally, masculinity is not a monolithic or homogenous category, and different men may express masculinity in different ways or to varying degrees.

Different viewpoints on masculinity have emerged over time, reflecting different social, cultural, and political contexts. The most common perspectives include:

  • Traditional Masculinity: This perspective emphasizes the importance of traditional masculine traits, such as strength, courage, and assertiveness. Traditional masculinity is often associated with heteronormative gender roles and is seen as a source of pride and identity for many men.
  • Feminist Masculinity: This perspective challenges traditional ideas of masculinity and promotes gender equality. It emphasizes the importance of qualities such as empathy, vulnerability, and emotional intelligence, and seeks to redefine what it means to be a man in the modern world.
  • Queer Masculinity: This perspective challenges the binary view of gender and embraces a more fluid and diverse understanding of masculinity. It recognizes that masculinity can be expressed in many different ways, and that gender identity is a complex and nuanced phenomenon.

The ways in which men express their masculinity can have both positive and negative effects on individuals and communities. For example:

Toxic Masculinity: The pressure to conform to traditional masculine norms can lead to harmful and destructive behavior, such as aggression, violence, and misogyny. This can perpetuate gender inequality and contribute to social problems such as domestic violence and sexual assault.


Positive Masculinity: Men who embrace more positive forms of masculinity, such as empathy, kindness, and compassion, can be powerful agents of change in their communities. They can challenge traditional gender roles and promote greater gender equality and social justice.


Changing Social Norms: As our understanding of masculinity evolves, social norms around gender are also shifting. This can have positive effects on society by creating greater acceptance and understanding of diverse gender identities and expressions.

The impact of masculinity on societal norms and our society is significant in positive and negative ways. The ways in which men express their masculinity can shape how society views and values gender, as well as influence social norms and behaviors. One way in which masculinity can impact our societal norms is through the perpetuation of traditional gender roles. When men conform to traditional masculine norms, such as being aggressive, dominant, and unemotional, they can reinforce gender stereotypes and contribute to the maintenance of patriarchal social structures. This can result in the devaluation of femininity and the marginalization of women in society.

On the other hand, men who reject traditional masculine norms and embrace more positive and inclusive forms of masculinity can challenge gender stereotypes and promote greater gender equality. This can help shift societal norms towards more progressive and equitable attitudes and behaviors. Masculinity can also impact societal norms by influencing attitudes and behaviors related to issues such as violence, aggression, and sexual harassment. Men who conform to traditional masculine norms may be more likely to engage in behaviors that are harmful to others, such as physical violence and sexual assault. This can perpetuate a culture of violence and contribute to the normalization of abusive behavior. Alternatively, men who embrace positive forms of masculinity, such as empathy, compassion, and non-violence, can promote healthy and respectful relationships with others. This can help shift societal norms towards greater acceptance and respect for diverse forms of gender expression and identity. By promoting more positive and inclusive forms of masculinity, we can help create a more equitable and just world for all.

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