Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why doesn't the media talk about masculinity?

This week I found two articles that talk about the recent bombings in Boston, and the culture of masculinity, something the media generally won't touch.
"We are accustomed to seeing lone gunmen as disaffected and angry men — 61 of the 62 mass murderers of the past 30 years tracked by Mother Jones are male – and those labeled as terrorists as impelled by a larger and more organized political or religious motivation. But as the sociologist of masculinity Michael Kimmel wrote after 9/11, these are not so easily separated. He also wrote, “The terrors of emasculation experienced by lower-middle-class men all over the world will no doubt continue, as they struggle to make a place for themselves in shrinking economies and inevitably shifting cultures. They may continue to feel a seething resentment against women, whom they perceive as stealing their rightful place at the head of the table, and against the governments that displace them. Globalization feels to them like a game of musical chairs, in which, when the music stops, all the seats are handed to others by nursemaid governments." -- Irin Carmen from Salon 
"Angry. Young. Men. The description doesn’t explain the motivations behind every notorious bloodbath, but it’s a place to start—perhaps the only place to start. Men have testosterone, an aggression drug, coursing through their veins; levels rise under stress, and young men have more of it than older ones. (Give testosterone to female rats, and they will become uncharacteristically violent.) Moral development isn’t complete in humans until about age 21—“This is why we don’t put the 14-year-olds in charge,” says Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and moral philosopher. And men are likelier than women to act out vengeance, partly because their brains do not propel them to seek help, to pick up the phone or see a shrink, when enraged. And that male proclivity to assert power through violence has been true for males, and not for females, for millions of years, which is why when you give your 4-year-old daughter a toy sword to play with, she may just turn it into a fairy wand and go on with her day." -- Lisa Miller from New York Magazine 
Both are pretty good reads. The latter's focus on testosterone makes me a little uncomfortable; I lean more to the nurture side of the nature vs nurture debate. If men's brains aren't "propelling them to seek help" it's less about brain chemistry and more about how society views seeking help (admitting weakness) as anathema to masculinity.

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