7 Masculinities

Danielle Deveau

Over the course of the 20th century, multiple waves of feminism have resulted in shifting roles and expectations for women. However, in recent decades, it has become increasingly evident that focusing only on women, women’s roles, and femininity is insufficient. This approach reinforces the problematic concept of a gender binary. It also ignores the fact that in order to make life better for women and girls, all people must shift their gendered habits and expectations. For example, providing women access to job trajectories and careers previously only held by men did help women obtain more financial independence, but in the aftermath of this shift, many working women found themselves doing the “second shift.” This was the additional domestic labour that still fell primarily on women. It became evident that in order for women and men to obtain more equality, the lives of men (and their perceptions of men’s roles and masculinity) would need to shift. If women are working outside of the home, then men need to do more inside the home. This shift has been slower than the shift to equality in the workplace, with many women still being primarily responsible for the second shift.

"A dialogue box with three overlapping words: 'don't,' 'boys,' and 'cry.'"

Just as there are many diverse femininities, there are also diverse masculinities. However, hegemonic masculinity is privileged in western patriarchy. This describes an ideology of masculinity that requires men to be strong, in control, rational, and unemotional. It associates masculinity with aggression, competition, and dominance. While feminism has considered how this negatively impacts women, it is also important to understand how men and boys are also negatively impacted by the narrow notion of what it means to be a “real” man. Boys who do not live up to masculine stereotypes can feel insufficient. Men are more likely to be victims of male violence in public spaces. Men have higher rates of suicide than women. These all relate to discouragement of the development of key emotional skills, such as empathy, self-care, and the ability to diffuse violent confrontations. Just as women can be frustrated by the narrow expectations of beauty and femininity set out for them by hegemonic gender, men can be frustrated by the expectation that they not show emotion or that they should not be primary caretakers of children and elders.

Finally, individuals who do deviate from traditional notions of masculinity, such as trans-men and -women, gay men, or men with feminine behaviours and preferences, face discrimination in everyday culture. Trans-women are especially likely to experience violence because of the ways that their bodies deviate from expectations about masculinity. While it is currently widely accepted for Canadians to questions expectations around the roles of women and how we define femininity, attitudes about masculinity remain much more entrenched in Canadian culture overall.

Hegemonic masculinity: ideology that encourages men to be stereotypically physically strong, unemotional, dominant, and aggressive
Second shift: additional domestic labour that needs to be done after a day’s paid work, typically performed by women



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Gender in Canada: A Companion Workbook Copyright © 2023 by Danielle Deveau is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book