He Said: Modern Masculinity

Justin Topa, Assistant Life, A&E Editor

Some argue that we are under a new, ‘fourth wave’ of feminism that has led to a modern-day adaptation in the expression of masculinity.

Masculinity, in its current state, is a term used to describe traditional qualities expected of a male. While Dominic Rinaldi does view society as a large contributor in how people express their masculinity, the psychology major said he expresses masculinity based more on personal factors.

“The way I express masculinity is more or less based on situational cues. I try to avoid gender-policing and express myself in a way in which I feel comfortable based on my experiences and the situation I’m in during that particular moment,” said Rinaldi, who added, “I wouldn’t say that I police myself in the ways that society expects, though.”

Rinaldi, who is also a women’s and gender studies minor, said he does still see a pressure from society to act a certain way based on gender.

“I think there is some kind of precedence that has evolved in terms or how men should behave and there’s this matter in which our behaviors and the behaviors of others both dictate how we see things,” said Rinaldi. “For instance, there’s this idea that men are supposed to act superior in comparison to women. This, along with other social constructions, have developed causing personality to be stringent on outside factors. This can be very maladaptive.”

Rinaldi cites factors such as upbringing that contribute to the way he, and other males, have developed their sense of masculinity.

“It’s saddening to think that our youth grow up thinking that they have to fit a certain role within society and, if they don’t follow the outlook of what their parents or other role-models may expect, then they are at risk of an identity crisis or ridicule from others,” said Rinaldi. “This can emasculate people and making them feel like they cannot be successful, which is a shame because these are all socially-constructed ideas we have created.”

The psychology student said separating the values instilled within him from an early age from those he now views as essential has proven to be a difficult task.

“I was always with my parents and have gained most of my values through them. This has now created a conflict in which I realize that not all of the values I was instilled with can be carried with me and the way I feel today,” Rinaldi explained. “I love my parents dearly, and I do appreciate many of the things that they’ve taught me but they grew up in a different generation and under a different set of norms. As we grow up, we realize that not all of these norms are things we ought to continue.”

Rinaldi said that he also feels media adds another outside pressure in determining the norms of masculinity, specifically mentioning a commercial by Chevrolet titled “Truck Guy Focus Group” in which men who choose to drive a sedan rather than a truck are emasculated.

“The context in this commercial and others like it seems to create added negative pressures for the behavior of men,” said Rinaldi. “They perpetuate an idea that men should have a very rugged dexterity to them. If he’s driving a family sedan, that somehow makes him less attractive and less rugged as a male figure. There are plenty other advertisements negatively perpetuating masculinity in a similar way and this is creating a lack of diversity in what society is willing to accept from a man.”

While Rinaldi said that he sees added pressures for acting in a traditionally masculine fashion, he does think our generation is progressing to redefine the role of masculinity, but there is still work to be done before we get there.

“With any kind of social revolution, there’s always going to be a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Rinaldi. “While I do think the things that need to be said and done are being said and done, there’s still a need for repeatedly doing so before the message is received. There’s still a lot left to be done.”