Manhood in America
Bit by bit, macho stereotypes lose ground in the united States.
TRADITIONALLY, the American male was measured against the stoic hero who shook off all doubts, vanquished all foes and offered women a muscular shoulder to cry on.
But that was before feminism, gay-rights activism, and metrosexuals. Husbands started to take on a greater share of housework and child care. The military began to welcome women and gays.
A romantic movie about gay cowboys, Brokeback Mountain, won three Oscars.
And this week, the ground shifted under the hyper-masculine realm of America’s most popular pro sport.
The National Football League, it seems, will soon have its first openly gay player.
Countless American men are trying to navigate these changes.
“Men are conflicted, ambivalent,” said James O’Neil, a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut who has written extensively on men’s struggles over gender roles.
“On one hand, they’ve been socialised to meet the old stereotypes.” he said. “On the other hand, particularly for men in their 30s and 40s, they have begun to say, ‘That’s not working for me. It’s too stressful.’ They’re looking for alternative models of masculinity.”
For other Americans, the upheaval is a good sign.
“Ultimately, confusion about modern masculinity is a good thing. It means we’re working past the outmoded definition,” wrote journalist Ann Friedman in a nymag.com article titled What Does Manhood Mean in 2013? last fall.
After World War II, at least on the surface, there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus of what American manhood was all about.
It was typified by Gary Cooper and John Wayne on the movie screen, by the American soldiers on foreign battlefields, by the executives with homemaker wives and no corporate worries about gender diversity.
The feminist movement that emerged in the 1960s fueled significant, though gradual, changes in many Americans’ perceptions of gender roles and stereotypes.
By now, although women remain underrepresented as CEOs, they comprise close to half the enrollment in American medical and law schools, and are being welcomed into military combat units.
Perceptions of manhood and masculinity also have evolved.
Surveys show that husbands are handling far more housework and child care than they used to, though still less than their wives.
Football icon David Beckham proved that a male sports star with a celebrity wife could embrace nail polish and flamboyant fashion without losing his fans.
“The women’s movement showed that women didn’t want to be restricted by their gender role, and it’s opened things up for men to not be restricted as well – they can be stay-at-home dads, they can be nurses,” said
It’s become accepted that fathers can share more of the work, and more of the joy.
Bonnie Grabenhofer, a vice president of the National Organization for Women, though from her perspective, the pace of change has been “agonizingly slow.”
Fatherhood remains a key element in the discussion of masculinity.
Christopher Brown, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, notes that the military is investing more energy these days in supporting soldiers’ roles as parents.
“Fathers are really embracing that broader role,” said Brown. “It’s become accepted that they can share more of the work, and more of the joy.”
Among the growing cohort of stay-at-home dads is Ben Martin of Massachusetts, husband of a physician. In a telephone interview, Martin, 35, said his goal “is to be as good a husband and father as I can be.”
Still, Martin says he knows few other stayhome dads. “I get curious looks sometimes when I drop the kids off at school,” he said. “It’s a little isolating at times.”
Gays as well as heterosexuals have played a role in the changing concepts of masculinity. Michael Sam, who recently told the rest of the country what his university coaches and teammates already knew, is already helping break down stereotypes about gay men.
But there were many examples before him, including Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis.
Louganis, while still in the closet, impressed the world with his fortitude at the 1988 Seoul Olympics by winning the gold medal despite suffering a concussion in a preliminary round.
“When it comes to gay men, the script is being rewritten,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of Glaad, a leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organisation.
“It’s a wonderful thing happening as the definition of manhood evolves, and it becomes more inclusive of more types of men.” – AP farm animals that she needed a permanent home.
Farm Sanctuary in New York is just such a place and they had a 12-year-old Holstein named Tricia, who seemed lonely and anxious after losing her cow companion to cancer a year ago.
Cattle are herd animals and she was the only one at the shelter without a partner.
“It was exciting to think that by giving Sweety a new life, we might also give Tricia another chance to enjoy her own,” said Susie Coston, national shelter director for the sanctuary.
Tricia, who was born blind, has been at the Watkins Glen, New York, sanctuary since 2008, when she was saved from slaughter.
There was red tape galore, medical exams for Sweety, and finally a road trip to pick her up on Feb 4 at a veterinary hospital in Lachute, Quebec.
Sweety arrived late that night and had to be given a cloth coat because she had lived in barns her whole life and her fur wasn’t thick enough for the cold.
The two cows mooed at each other from separate corrals before they were united the next day.
Nose to nose, Sweety, tall and bony with a white triangle patch on her forehead, bumped into Tricia, shorter and thicker with black-andwhite body swirls.
They nuzzled at each another affectionately.
It didn’t take long for them to become BFFs (bovine friends forever), shelter spokeswoman Meredith Turner said.
Sweety is still bumping into things, but Tricia often guides her clear of obstacles.
They eat and walk together and even bed down in tandem.
Love may be blind, Turner said, but for shelter workers, it was a matter of seeing and believing. – AP
Changing perceptions: In mid-20th century america, at least on the surface, there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus of what manhood was all about. The feminist movement that emerged in the 1960s fractured this consensus. — aP photos
Football icon david beckham proved that a male sports star with a celebrity wife could embrace nail polish and flamboyant fashion without losing fans.
In a year, don McCoy had gone from being a top executive in a high-tech startup to Mr Mum. he is pictured here with his daughter, Isabelle.