What happened to the old American male? For a long time, he appeared to be so sure of his manhood, definite and easy in his sense of sexual identity, and confident of his masculine roles in the community. Indeed, there are multiplying signs that not everything is well with the American man’s conception of himself.
Theroux (1993) argues that the whole issue/idea behind manhood in the US is pitiful; it is like wearing an ill-fitting coat during the entire life(Theroux, 1993, pg292). He sees manhood as piteous, pitiable, sorry, pathetic, and disgraceful. A man is under the intense pressure of keeping a family united, and the duty of providing income is placed on his shoulders. During the Vietnam War, men were forced to be manly and engaging into war. Those who rejected were considered as ‘hippies” since they did not have the sense of manhood. Compared to an average man today, being a man during that period was more difficult. Theroux feels that the phrase “be a man” is insulting and degrading, and he says, “Be stupid, be unfeeling, obedient and soldierly, and stop thinking” (Theroux, 1993, pg293). According to Theroux (1993), referring to a man as stupid means that men are despised in the society and perceived as dull, foolish, slow witted, and irrational. He believes this is the manner in which the society treats men. Men in America are expected to be soldierly and are perceived as stupid. Women have caused genuine crisis in masculinity following their unrelenting challenge on the power of men, which has uncovered the profound insecurity that is hidden beneath. Although the image of manhood is connected with control and power, its surface is characterized by terror and insecurity (Theroux, 1993).
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According to Guest (1976), men are perceived as strong, powerful, and emotionless. The life of Cal revolves around making sure that his family was satisfied and content. He felt lacking and incompetent at the moment he realized he was not able to provide his family with happiness, and he spent his time analyzing his personal self. As evidenced, men are expected not to grieve, show pain, lose control, and bold frustration. As men analyze their feelings, they discover anger at women as one of them. There is an increasing backlash against date rape campaigns, feminism, and sexual harassment charges at the workplace. It is apparent that men will go to any length to reinforce their manhood. For some time, men saw it fashionable accommodating feminism in the form of spirit. In some instances, they became respectful colleagues, happily acquiesced, equal opportunity lovers, and nurturing fathers. However, women persistently push for equality is changing men’s behaviors. Despite the fact that men still rule the working world, it is no longer fun with sensitivity being the core of it all. No matter how they complain, how sensitive they are, they are still men charred by the fire of gender guilt. The novel etiquette surrounding dating, flirting, and seduction seems to be as complicated as constitutional law (Guest, 1976).
Historically, according to Soto (1996), the image of masculinity of the male has swallowed and shifted to incorporate feminine traits. In the past decades, the image of the masculine is renowned to be the powerful working class. For instance, following the discovery of agriculture, women stayed at home while men worked on the fields. Men were exposed to filthy conditions and did manual labor to support their families. Hence, it encouraged the stereotypical association between construction worker and masculine man. The setting of “To Be a Man” by Gary Soto is in the sixties, and the author narrates the experience of a ten-year-old kid attempting to be a “man”. Soto believes that to be a man, one has to follow the masculine stereotype. Historically, both sexes were disposable in service of survival, with men risking death in war and women risking death in childbirth. However, the distinctiveness in the disposability originated more from biology where men were in need of socialization. As every society trained a cadre of its generation to be disposable, boys were consistently rewarded with social bribes of approval as required by successful socialization. Such bribes included promotion, hero status, and “purple hearts” for the love of women by risking their lives in war (Soto, 1996).
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