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Masculinity and Power

I’d like to discuss Michael Kimmel’s article “Masculinity as Homophobia,? especially the portion titled “Power and Powerlessness in the Lives of Men.? (144)

What caught me off guard, yet gave me that ah-ha moment, was when I read, “…the feminist critique of masculinity often falls on deaf ears with men. When confronted with the analysis that men have all the power, many men react incredulously. ‘What do you mean, men have all the power?’ they ask. ‘What are you talking about? My wife bosses me around. My kids boss me around. My boss bosses me around. I have no power at all! I’m completely powerless!’? (145)

Kimmel explains men’s disbelief in their reigning power as the essence of masculinity: men are so consistently focused on gaining power that they often feel powerless. This is what keeps them motivated to seek out power and prevent them from wanting to be seen as weak. Women’s greatest fear is rape whereas men fear being laughed at (142).

In regards to gender equality, I think we’re approaching the time in which the focus on the clear ability of women to participate as equals needs to be switched to the focus on the masculinity crisis. Women can’t go any farther until this issue is addressed. It is a roadblock for all humanity. So many people suffer for ego-stroking’s sake.

To turn the subject a bit, I have a question to which there may or may not be an answer. In thinking of the social constructions of gender roles, in that there is nothing essential to “man? or “woman? to the social scientist, are those who identify themselves as women capable of possessing masculinity as Kimmel defines it?

In the Freudian view, boys are attached and desire their mothers but eventually, they will reject this relationship and emulate their fathers (136). In order to do this, they reject anything that resembles their mothers’ activities (rejecting femininity). I suspect this process isn’t exclusively for boys, and I could easily imagine a young girl going through a similar transformation.

As a young woman, I think I have experienced masculinity. I have had strived for power, and I have had huge anxieties of appearing weak. I have shamefully put others down in order to feel powerful. Where did this come from? Perhaps these activities are merely a result of my strive to participate in a man’s world?


I think the impact of the natural tendencies of mankind, as seen through the lens of the animal kingdom is extraordinarily interesting. What natural inclinations do males and females have across the living realm? Freud and natural aside, every living thing becomes somewhat prone to the envoronment he or she is born into. I was born into a world where i played football, baseball, ninja turtles, and the woods. All of these are somewhat aggressive and involve things and emotions which Barbies, dance class, ect. do not necessarily. My point being the obvious male-female facets which are thrust upon us by the society we live in, and not through natural order (though I am not saying that there are not instances ie: men ARE bigger than women, but some female mammals are the protective member). The distribution of power is different in different environments: between the interior of a car, and the kitchen, mindsets are formed when the commercial and social environments around us put these assumptions of duty on us, and power fits into the equation somewhere.

I forgot to put my name in that last comment.

I have also done some of the things you mentioned (strived for power, had huge anxieties of being weak) in your last paragraph. I also think I'm correct in saying that many young women have done these same things. I think it comes from trying to be the best that we can because women in this society have more options than they've ever had. However, I still think its intersting that these qualities are looked as masculine when so many women do them everyday. . .

Having never taken a psych class, I'm not qualified to discuss Freud other than what was was mentioned in our reading. From my comprehension of the reading, Freudian masculinity is anti-femininity. As a boy grows he rejects his mother, and the process creates the division of what we consider male and female...a man is everything a woman is not. This is a polarizing effect and causes major social implications. The constant movement toward being opposite leaves little room to find common ground.

I really appreciated the way you addressed the importance of focusing on masculinity as a way to dismantle gender hierarchies. I completly agree; I think "the dominant" is not always positioned as so, and it is about time that whiteness, masculinity, heterosexuality, and other priviliged positions or identities be analyzed. To ignore them is to allow them to continue unproblematized.

You mentioned Freud and I wished you would elaborate more and perhaps elaborate more on both the author's analysis of Freudian theory and, if applicaple, Freudian theory on it's own. What about the process Freud describes (that you repeated in your blog) reinforces certain masculinities?