For the most part, societies (a group of people which have common traditions, interests and institutions) have a large impact on the development of gender. Children grow up to learn from their parents, their neighbor, the baker down the road and it is this understanding of the world which constructs their lives. There is “socialization in general (the learning that neophytes do in order to become functioning members of society), and [there is] gender socialization in particular (the processes through which people learn to be feminine and masculine)” (Mackie, 1987:74). This research paper will deal with men in three fundamental areas of their lives: work, intimate relationships and family. To do this, the paper will only deal with men who have gone through “socialization in general” and who are in the changing process of “gender socialization”.
An infant or child has a crucial need for “experience with other human beings for its survival as a physical being and its development as a social being” (Mackie, 1987:77). In most societies, for the large part, males have grown up learning or expected to be a dominant figure, one with the power and independence (Doyle, 1989:108). In today’s “modern” society, males are not only affected by family, friends or neighbors; they are now heavily influenced by other mediums, such as, TV, music, movies, sports, books (fairy tales), and magazines. These are but a few influences which help shape the modern male.
Men in the Workplace:
Work occupies on average 40 hours a week, it therefore plays a considerably large role in peoples’ lives. The Feminist movement showed, along with other issues, that it was the environment and structure of the workplace, which affected society a great deal. The Feminist movement highlighted the harsh reality of gender inequality in our society. Consequently, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that males dominate, and have always dominated in the workplace. The reason for this unbalanced structure, as James Doyle suggests, seems to have validity when one looks at male’s extreme sense of competitiveness. “Competition and winning are considered masculine characteristics in our society” (Doyle, 1989:168). However, competition allows for only one winner. This “competitive spirit forces men to think that everything of value and worth in the world is limited or comes in fixed quantities” (Doyle, 1989:169). If men grow up learning that competition and independence (as mentioned earlier) is masculine, then having a job and providing, validates men. Men will compete at all costs to provide the best for his family. “Being a good provider stipulates that the more goods a male provides for his family’s material well-being, the more successful (that is, masculine) he is” (Doyle, 1989:173). Perhaps males assertion of masculinity through their job is a defense, “a way of insisting on the exclusion of women to protect specific jobs and more general job skills from increased competition (women)” (Nelson & Robinson, 1995:183). Men not only have to compete with other males, but now have to compete with women at the workplace, this in turn applies tremendous pressure on today’s male. Because of this pressure, politics, sexuality, family responsibilities, and intimate relationships between the two genders have become more tenuous.
Males in Intimate Relationships:
Men do not want to “lose” at their job and they bring this mentality into their intimate relationships. This makes men less likely to express their feelings; he would be weak or unmanly if he did so. If men view themselves as independent, then “he is less practised at recognizing others’, and consequently his own emotions” (Buchbinder, 1987:55). “For many men, sex focuses these feelings and becomes the only manner of expressing them” (Buchbinder, 1987:55).
Relationships today are demanding, they are to be equal in all aspects; men are asked to be more expressive, have more involvement in childcare (as we will see later), and equality in domestic work (Buchbinder, 1987:60). “In fact, husbands generally have more power and influence in a marriage than wives do” (Doyle, 1989:246). Although men have more power, “many men feel compelled to ‘bad mouth’ marriage,” often with fellow married friends (Doyle, 1989:248). Despite this apparent inconsistency, men seem to benefit from relationships more than do women (Doyle, 1989:248). According to Doyle, there are several benefits from an intimate relationship. The three obvious ones are: “the husband gains the services of someone–the wife–to cook, clean, and do the daily chores around the house;” “the wife acts as a kind of socioemotional bridge between her husband and others;” and “physical health care” (Doyle, 1989:248-9). Simon Davis reiterates this point in his essay, Men as Success Objects and Women as Sex Objects: A Study of Personal Advertisement; “an exchange process may be in operation, wherein a trade-off is made with women offering ‘domestic work and sex for financial support’” (Nelson & Robinson, 1995:250) Men have been, and for a large part still are, socialized to “bring in the money”, whereas women have been, and still partially are, socialized to take care of the children at home. This unjust “socialization in general” of the two genders, results with an economic dependence on the male. Further still, the effect of this inequality [that is, "women's desire to work outside the home and earn money"] is “the primary cause of marriage break down” (Buchbinder, 1987:52).
Males in the Family:
The best way to start this section is to use the words of Ralph LaRosa:
has happened to American fathers. Long considered minor players in
the affairs of their children, today’s fathers often are depicted
as major parental figures, people who expected to–people who
presumably want to– be there when their kids need them.
“Unlike their own fathers or grandfathers,” many are prone to say.
(Nelson & Robinson, 1995:365 [emphasis in original])
Most research shows that in the past, men were seen as a protectors and providers, but they now are expected to be more involved in the dynamics of the family. “The notion that a father played anything more than a ‘peripheral’ role in his children’s socioemotional development seemed quite absurd” (Doyle, 1989:254). Dinah Forbes claims that the reason for today’s fathers’ increased involvement in childcare is, for the most part, due to the extremely influential movement of Feminism (Buchbinder, 1987:60). Having the two parents involved in a child’s upbringing becomes an extremely important “force in [its'] development” (Doyle, 1989:254). But LaRosa states, “fatherhood is different today than it was in prior times but, for the most part, the changes that have occurred are centered in the culture rather than in the conduct of fatherhood” (Nelson & Robinson, 1995:375). In LaRosa & LaRosa’s study (1981) of the transition to parenthood, they “found that the father’s levels of engagement, accessibility, and responsibility were only a fraction of the mothers’, and that fathers tended to spend a greater part of their caregiving time playing with their children” (Nelson & Robinson, 1995:371). Men seem to think playing catch or swinging their kids will “do the job” but, often this is not enough. “[Men see] fatherhood as a job and that while [they were] ‘there’ in body, [they are] someplace else in spirit” (Nelson & Robinson, 1995:371).
Implications and Conclusion:
“One of the factors encouraging for change in a father’s role in his child’s care has been the large numbers of wives who have entered the paid employment force, making it essential that husbands and fathers share more child care responsibilities” (Doyle, 1989:254) One reason for the larger number of wives entering the job market is the insufficient income of a single wage.
The consequences of one gender having control in “most aspects of contemporary life from building codes, tax laws and health care plans to access to the labor market and wage levels”, are absolutely absurd (Nelson & Robinson, 1995:181). The implication for this statement is the need for gender equality. This has been made obvious by Feminists world wide, although the Movement began with a strong general agreement of sexual dissatisfaction among women. However, as long as men view Feminism and its movement as a challenge, then it is hopeless. In other words, men have to want to change. While this may hold true, changes have begun during which men seem to be getting pushed along, and may continue to view it as something that just has to be done. “Men have much to lose;” his independence and self worth are at stake (Buchbinder, 1987:12). If this is true, he will then be less apt to changes. Males have become accustomed to having this power and sense of autonomy, and as some may say “these feminists come along and expect to change things so quickly.”
Although there is, in fact, inequality between genders, we can conclude that there is a desire and need for change. Equality is not, as Forbes argues, simply a matter of reorganizing [the] practical responsibilities. It also involves reorganizing responsibility for the emotional work of developing and maintaining an intimate relationship (Buchbinder, 1987:61). Equality at the individual level will flourish and thus take effect with the outer levels, such as the workplace. Males must demonstrate as much compassion and willingness as women do for the male/female relationship, or there will be no change.
Buchbinder, H. 1987. Who’s On Top?: The Politics of Heterosexuality. Toronto: Garamond Press.
Doyle, James. 1989. The Male Experience. 2d ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown.
Mackie, M. 1987. Constructing Women & Men: Gender Socialization. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada.