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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Understanding Hyper Masculinity

As men we will always need help in coming to terms with our hypermasculinity. It may forever stand as a chasm between us, life and our women partners and male colleagues – something to be aware of and manage accordingly.

Of this we’re certain: a baby is born to young parents and no sooner is it out of the birth canal the delivery team notes it has a penis—it is therefore labelled ‘boy’. From that moment onwards, and right through the lifespan, this ‘male’ of the human species is going to be bombarded with all manner of stimuli to conform to hegemonic masculinity, or in other words, to act manly.

Why is it men are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than women are?

Why is it also that men are more likely than women to underestimate the risks they take?

These are good questions in pondering the issues of hypermasculinity—the bane of many human relational outcomes. And this is what I want to focus on.

What Women Want (and Men Too)

Relating with people in an effective way means the acknowledgement—for men themselves—of the existence of tendencies to become overly male, a.k.a. being hypermasculine.

There indeed is an opposite problem for women i.e. hyperfemininity, and also, surprisingly, women too can be caught up in the trap of being hypermasculine—mainly as a function of competing with a greater number of hypermasculine males in their midst, particularly when they’re in a male dominated workplace or family.

The biggest issue with this form of over-weightiness of male behaviour is it’s rooted and established in a competitive spirit via peer pressure and many inexplicable norms, and this produces much defensiveness in the male(s) affected.

This is not surprisingly estranging to women who prefer a softer, more ‘in touch’ male. It is also estranging for males too because there is an inbuilt fight to either conform or confront—intuiting at a deeper level the flight or fight response.

Resisting What Seems Natural

How do we contend and work with something that’s so hard-wired into our DNA and nurture? That’s a sixty-four million dollar question without a definitive answer.

The only thing we males can do is come to terms with our awareness of it, and continue always to come back to the question, “Why?” Is this show of male aggression, strength, virility et cetera really serving us and our relationships well, and giving us good outcomes?

The answer to that question is almost always going to be a default “no”.

At least as we seriously and honestly question our hypermasculinity we’re diffusing it and, therefore, managing it.

Thankfully this age presents us with possibly a more ‘in touch,’ more comfortably ‘visible’ male, but the essence of hypermasculinity is never too far aware from any male.

For women it may be a case of being patient to a point, but then also having the courage to assertively challenge the behaviour (however hard that may be) when it begins to show up as problematic. Simply calling sensitive attention to it must be a good start.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Acknowledgement: to the presentation and research work of Dr. Dean Laplonge of Factive. One good link to Dr. Laplonge’s work is at: http://dmp.wa.gov.au/documents/Magazine/MineSafe_May10_ResearchNews.pdf

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