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              In his essay “Shame-O-Phobia”, David Wexler provides a riveting account of the pressure that men face to exhibit a certain extent of masculinity in every thing they do. The social construct of masculinity depicts the ideal man, and the further one strays from that ideal the more their perceived manhood diminishes. That social construct defines masculinity as being tough, independent, unwavering and emitting little to no emotion. When men’s actions epitomize the characteristics of this ideal they gain “man points” and the opposite ensues when they stray from this ideal. This unwavering societal pressure creates an atmosphere where men struggle to display or partake in certain behaviors and actions that may be perceived as unmanly or to a greater displeasure, feminine. Wexler provides an account of an incident that occurred while vacationing with his wife in Paris. His wife asked him to carry her purse down the street but Wexler could not bring himself commit such an act that would surly undermine his masculinity. He knew how ridiculous his refusal was, but the pressure and the associated societal humiliation outweighed the commonsensical reaction to his wife’s request.

It is not often that we hear discussion, debate or outrage concerning the mental and physical effects that derive from societal pressures men encounter from the moment they come to exist. At least in my case, it would be a rare occurrence to stumble upon an Internet article or news segment seriously discussing the societal repressions and subsequent consequences that men continually struggle with. As a female, I have never critically contemplated the effect societal burdens have on men. The notion, that before a man makes a decision to engage in certain activities or behaviors he must first consider whether or not it goes against the conceived ideal masculinity and would result in the diminishment of his perceived manhood is something I have never pondered. Witnessing a man publicly display an emotion, such as crying, rarely transpires and when it does that man would be subject to intense ridicule from both men and woman. This is something I have always been aware of but it was not until I read Wexlers’ article that I gained an understanding of the complex nature behind what society expects a man to be, and furthermore, the self-imposed expectations a man exerts upon himself. Societally structured sexism is a struggle that does not escape either sex.  Solutions will only arise through a widespread awareness of the problem and until then, the discussion must be centered on illuminating the existence of this serious problem and its implications.  Forcing people to contemplate this issue will ensure the growth of a movement pursuing and advocating a change of our mental predispositions surrounding masculinity and manhood.


  1. jaclynnicole says:

    Your post does a very good job of breaking down the arguments in your article as well as making the article easy to understand for people who either haven’t read it, or didn’t understand it. I agree that society rarely addresses the effects of gender stereotypes towards men which are just as important to look at as women’d issues are. I think that the main reason they don’t get addressed is because of the general view of feminism being only for women, which isn’t true since it addresses every gender issue that exists in our society, but people just don’t know that this is something that is discussed. I think that we can fix that by finding ways to let people know that feminism is also about what sexism and gender stereotypes do to the way men are presented in society, and this will also help make feminism more accessible to everyone in general which also fixes the general problems with peoples views of the subject.

  2. Jack Manska says:

    Personally I had a difficult time identifying with the male gender stereotype discussed in “Shame-O-Phobia”. I am certain this male stereotype exists. It is often portrayed on television and I have overheard it in public areas. I have found that most of my closest friends are women or men who do not subscribe to this stereotype. I cannot understand the thinking of male who cannot hold his wife’s purse in any situation. Hell, I had no problem playing Pretty Pretty Princess with my daughter on our front porch on beautiful sunny day. If you ever wonder if your mate is self-secure the next time you need feminine hygiene products, ask him to pick them up for you.

    • ninazm21 says:

      Lol well I’m glad there are some guys who are secure enough to do “feminine” things but there are definitely a lot of guys out there who will not do any of the things you just described under any circumstances.

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