Masculinity can be described as the presence of certain qualities, the display of certain behaviors, and following some predefined roles within society. As a socially constructed notion, masculinity is influenced by multiple factors including biology and culture. The universal categorization of men and women as biologically different and its relationship with gender construction is somewhat complex. A focus on masculinity studies emerged at the beginning of the early 1980s and 1990s. The development of ideas and theories related to masculinity aimed at establishing men as a distinct gender. However, the feminist theories of the 20th century established that gender is no more than a social construction and that masculinity and femininity are fluid terms that are historically variable (Kimmel et al., 2005).
Masculinity or Masculinities
The concept of masculinity has developed over time and the idea that it is evolutionary in nature started changing with the introduction of psychoanalysis and its focus on the emotional aspect of gender development. The second major shift occurred during the mid-20th century when the focus of masculinity moved towards gender identity and internalized role formation. Numerous theories have been put forth to describe masculinity in terms of its biological underpinnings and the roles and gender order of males in society. Since masculinity is defined through different aspects, there is no fixed definition for it. Therefore, the existence of masculinities alternative to its patriarchal form is possible.
Three-Fold Model of Structure of Gender
Promoting the concept of masculinity, this theory focuses on gender order and how different institutional structures intersect with individual identities to create a society where one gender can assert political, social, and economical dominance over the other. It uses power relations, production relations, and cathexis as the basis of this dominance. In a patriarchal society, therefore, men are more powerful than women; there is a variance in the division of labor and wages, and sexual practices are described in terms of consensual vs. coercive. In societies where hegemonic masculinity is prevalent, women are considered subordinate to men. Such a hegemonic view of masculinity also regards other men as subservient to the male population if they follow a marginalized view of manhood (Connell, 2005).
For long people have struggled to define what entails masculinity and whether it is something more than the social and cultural meaning associated with it. The proponents of masculinities believe that it must not be reduced to having a male body. Rather, the concept of masculinity is prevalent in our societies in many different ways. The trouble, however, is its accurate identification. The fact that masculinity is established when one of its forms asserts dominance over other forms of masculinity is a rather self-serving idea. The concept of female masculinity describes masculinity as a constructed idea (Halberstam, 2014). Women, today, have become increasingly ambitious and are more autonomous in fulfilling their needs. The reliance of women on men has significantly reduced in societies where gender equality is gaining popularity. It is interesting to note that a self-sufficient woman is often regarded as a masculine female. This highlights the underlying mindset that strength and independence are attributed to men and even if these traits are acquired by females they are termed as being masculine. Masculinity is, therefore, not a state of being a man by biology, rather it is a set of attributes that can be acquired by anyone.
As a school of thought, Camp first emerged in the 18th century and is described as an appreciation of the unnatural. It does not follow the strict ideals of male and female sexes, the gender-attributed roles for men and women, or the gender order that defines societies. It is rather a sensibility that presents the emotional aspect of the gender debate. Camp is regarded as an exaggeration of femininity in males and masculinity in females. While it is not inherently gay, camp culture has been widely acclaimed by the gay community. Due to its playfulness and openness to experiment with gender, which it considers to be a fluid state, the camp has transformed the concept of masculinity (King-Slutzky, 2010).
I believe that the world today is shifting towards more acceptable ideas of gender, gender roles, and gender order. In societies that have some gender equality, masculinity is no longer viewed as limited to biological men rather it can be observed in biological females through acquired attributes, as well as in the queer community. I also believe that masculinity is sometimes situational. Many feminine females might display behavior and trait commonly associated with masculinity. These may not necessarily be a part of their personality, but rather, a situational requirement.