By Erika Kellerman
Hypermasculinization is the exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior. It’s emphasizing the importance of physical strength, aggression, sexuality, etc. In today’s society, it’s rare you see men with disabilities, both mental and physical, lanky men, or men of color in the mainstream media. There are specific types of men on the covers of magazines, billboards, and on Television: unfortunately, tall, white, muscular, and masculine men are the default. This is mainly due to gender roles, established when children are very young, and the desire to be masculine grows with them as they become adults.
Heterosexual men are expected to be “manly.” They are expected to be strong, not to cry, and to be the “breadwinners” of their families. Growing up, men are told to “man up” and to avoid femininity in its many forms. They are taught that their aggressions are “normal,” that being mean to girls shows you like them, and that it’s okay for them to beat up on their friends because, “Boys will be boys!” Men are also expected to have a lot of sex. As boys become men and they better recognize strong male figures in the media, some will become more self conscious, wishing they could look like Channing Tatum, Michael B. Jordan, or Ki Hong Lee. Because they believe they need to become that “strong male,” the archetypal athletic man, most men don’t express their feelings, or their desire for change. This can result in mental illness, and eating disorders.
I was curious as to how men on Carlow’s campus view masculinity, so I came up with a list of mostly yes/no questions. I asked five different men—Kalil Grimes, Charlie Scharbo, Mario Delsignore, Chris Pipkin, and Rajeev Singh—the following questions, in order to gain insight, and better understand how men on campus think in terms of masculinity.
- Are men manly if they like sports?
- Are they manly if they don’t like sports?
- Can men cry/be emotional/show emotion?
- Are men considered masculine if they can cook?
- What is a feminine color?
- Can men wear the feminine color?
- Can men wear makeup and still be masculine?
- Can men wear dresses/skirts?
- Can men have long hair?
- Can men be sexual assault victims?
- Can men be feminine but not homosexual?
- Can men write poetry/novels/music and still be considered masculine?
- Can young boys play with dolls/have stuffed animals?
- Can homosexual men be masculine?
- Can men suffer from depression/eating disorders?
- Have you ever been told to “man up?”
- Can men be self conscious about their bodies?
- Can men be feminists?
Most answers were not surprising. Males/females/non gender conforming people alike are taught to think a certain way—that dresses, skirts, and makeup belong to specific genders. Gender roles are prominent even in the lives of young children, allowing them to believe that pink is a “girl” color, boys play with trucks or action figures, and so on.
Luckily, a groundbreaking Barbie commercial was just recently released for the public to see. The commercial starts off like any normal Barbie commercial: It showcases the doll, but this time, a little boy is dressed up in flashier clothing, similar to his female counterparts. Not only does he play with the Barbie doll, but he even speaks in the commercial! This is monumental for children in this day and age. This commercial is opening doors: not only will it someday be “acceptable” for boys to play with Barbies, it will be acceptable for them to choose what they want all the time, regardless of its feminine nature.