Redefining Masculinity: A Revised Definition Must Undo the Ideology of Male Supremacy

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At an early NOMAS Men and Masculinity Conference, one workshop was titled “What is Positive, in traditional Masculinity?” It discussed some “traditionally-masculine” qualities, such as intelligence, courage, determination, logic, self-confidence, etc. It is not difficult to point to some ways in which “traditional masculinity” includes a number of positive traits. One can then envision a “new masculinity,” incorporating those positive ones, and none of the dysfunctional, destructive traits of traditional masculinity. But it is also important to see that there is nothing inherently “masculine,” about any of these positive human qualities. Women and girls can and do possess all of them. Psychological androgyny (comfort with having a wide range of skills) is a proven reality, and more psychologically androgynous people have been found to be better-functioning.

The problem also, with any discussion of the future of masculinity–toxic, healthy, positive or otherwise–is that it does not address the deep-seated misogyny and sexism at the heart of the ways in which gender is constructed and transmitted in the Patriarchy. Masculinity and femininity exist as concepts within the ideology of male supremacy, an entitled ideology of domination, in contrast to disrespect, oppression, and degradation of the feminine. This misogynistic ideology sees masculinity as the opposite of an “inferior” womankind.  Therefore, any attempt to promote a distinction between female and male traits represents collusion with the sexist male supremacist ideology that divides humanity into the gender binary.

Most of the historic and current men’s movements, other than the pro-feminist, are different versions of men’s rights ideology. In the face of real or perceived threats to male power and control they seek to protect and secure the privileges of male supremacy through maintaining the Patriarchal constructs of gender. Invoking ‘healthy’ or ‘positive’ alternatives within the concept of masculinity still maintains the structure for macro and micro everyday biases that define all oppressions. These biases excuse and support domination of and violence against one group (women) by the other (men), in individual and collective behavior and institutional policy.

NOMAS’s feminist analysis is that even as men pay a price– living in a restricted/limited range of humanity– for collusion in the patriarchal supremacist ideology, men are NOT disadvantaged by this adherence. Individually and collectively men benefit from maintaining a patriarchal system. They are advantaged by the domination, of the masculine, that is embedded in all of the male-centered social institutions, including, but not limited to, religions, the legal, political, and educational systems, employment and corporate life, and core interests of family life, marriage, and female fertility.

Therefore NOMAS, the oldest pro-feminist men’s movement, now favors the more advanced ideal of essentially undoing all the old gender role requirements and expectations, of “moving beyond” all the traditional sex-role assignments and stereotypes, and encouraging each person to have and evolve whatever personality, characteristics, and traits we may choose, or aspire to. Thus in some real sense, we would be content for the entire cultural-construct of “masculinity”, along with the Patriarchy that supports it, to gradually fade-away altogether. NOMAS seeks basic, transformational, and radical social change of central aspects of our entire culture. NOMAS proudly stands for advancing the basic core principles of equality and social (i.e.  gender, racial, economic, and environmental) justice, and is aligned with movements of liberation, from current and historic systems of oppression, including traditional gender roles and norms.

Moshe Rozdzial, PhD

NOMAS Co-Chair