Masculinity refers to having the “qualities of a man in a traditional context” . The developments of these qualities in influenced by various factors among them are the environment, race, economic and sociocultural factors. All these factors determine the expectation of the society on the role of their men. The development of masculinity is closely related to the feminism issues such violence against women, sexual harassment, marginalization and rape among others.
Sociocultural factors play a critical role in influencing and shaping how men of any race develop their masculinity. The environment where one grows is essential in constructing his or her character, both in public and private areas. Boys begin to “learn how to become a man during early stages in their development” . Various factors influence the learning process among the family and the environment they live. These factors shape him and determine the kind of a person they become. For instance, a boy living in a family where the father often abuses the mother, whether physical or verbal can either take the dad’s behavior or become very protective of women. Similarly, a person who grows up in an environment where women are abused might develop a mentality that they deserve such treatment.
Areas such as learning institutions, playing grounds, churches mosques or temples, and homes are the familiar places where boys learn or get influenced to become men. Additionally, the peer groups, media, teachers and even coaches also impact the development of the boys into men. In essence, all environmental factors are essential in understanding the behavior as the boys learn from nearly everyone and anyone they meet. Understanding the behavioral experiences of the African-American is critical when one wants to get a glimpse of the development of their masculinity.
The influence of parents and families, peers groups (males), schooling and participation, is sporting activities plays a critical role in shaping the masculinity of boys, especially when they join colleges and universities. At this age, they are young adults learning to be independent of the close supervision of their parents making the interactions at this stage one of the most essential in their development. At birth, the boys in the African-American society are socially constructed to perform their gender roles that are slightly different from other races like white and Asians. For instance, the African-American community considers manhood as a “general and automatic process” as oppose to womanhood where one has to grow. Such social construction already puts the women in a disadvantaged position as there are a lot of conditions used in assessing if they have grown into womanhood. On the other hand, the boys are viewed as men even when they are still young and are expected not to exhibit some behaviors considered childish since such acts are meant for ladies. In such context, the boy grows up viewing the lady as a child and inferior being to him. Such perceptions are hard to go away when they become adults resulting in a poor relationship with the female counterparts. Men brought up in such an environment have higher chances of abusing their wives and other women as they consider them children. Perhaps this social construction explains the fact that women among the African-American society are abused more often compared to other races.
Learning institutions also play a role in the development of male masculinity among the boys as they provide an environment for socialization. The boys of color tend to perform poorly as compared to other races, especially the whites due to their view that the schooling does not conform to masculinity. This particular view is a result of various factors that influence them as they grow up. Firstly, for a long time, the blacks have lived in a society that limited their ability on what they can do. In most cases, these limitations were based on pure bias rather than the actual capability of a person. Additionally, the neighborhood inhabited by the blacks was “dominated by gangs” that controlled most aspects of their street life. As a result, the boys get influenced to believe in their physical capability rather than the mental ability. In one way or the other, such beliefs influenced by the environment affected their view on education and cemented the perception that it is for the weak. The weak in these societies are often ladies who are viewed as children by men.
Schools also serve as sites for socialization and the development of Black masculine identity. A study by Ferguson to explore the interpretation of masculinity by black boys in schools and the link between racial discrimination within the school environment. After the study, Ferguson found out that black boys were often remotely marginalized compared to other races. Additionally, she concluded that races played an essential role in determining identification within the school, social interactions and even interpreting events.
Participation in sporting activities among the young boys is also essential when it comes to masculine identity among the boys, especially in schools, as it helps them gain acceptance among their peers. Peer acceptance is critical as it directly impacts the self-esteem of an individual. A person who is accepted by his peers is likely to have high self-esteem and confidence compared to one looked down upon by his age mates. Moreover, the sports-related events provide an opportunity for the boys to interact with “hegemonic masculine attitude.” Many boys hence use the sports to demonstrate their masculinity to others, especially opposite sex. Men are naturally domineering creatures thus take pride if they outperform others.
Historically, the black men in the United States have always found themselves in a disadvantaged position compared to other races. For instance, during the slavery, they formed the lion share of slave population and had most of their rights like freedom of movement or participate in election denied by their masters. Primarily, the blacks were described as the beasts and had to be controlled by their masters. In this aspect, the masculinity of an African-American was defined by their physical attributes such the body size, height, and strength. These attribute formed the foundation for the development of the masculinity among the black race. Additionally, the unfavorable environment where they lived also made it necessary for the black men to have the physical strength for their survival.
However, the emphasis on physical strength placed the blacks on the wrong side of the law more often than not. It is a fact that the population of blacks getting incarcerated in the United States is higher than other races. Even the law enforcing agencies tend to use disproportional force when it comes to dealing with them. As a result, there have been several cases where the police are accused of killing innocent black suspects. Perhaps the use of the too much force is due to stereotypes that the black men are violent thus posing a danger to the police officers and other citizens. The stereotype is a result of continuous harassment and marginalization in the past, therefore, making them resort to using physical force as the only tool to defend themselves. For a long time, the court system was a designed in a way that limited the chances of them getting justice. As a result, the physical strength became one of the defining features of a man’s masculinity.
Moreover, the black women were viewed as hypersexual hence did not have rights to control their bodies. Primarily, the blacks (both men and women) for a long time were defined based on their physical appearance. The stereotypes were used in the justification of any vice committed against them. For instance, rape or sexual harassment against the black women was justified based on the fact they were viewed as hypersexual. In most cases, they were made to take the blame for the crime committed against them due to their physical attributes.
In conclusion, there is a close link between masculinity, race, and violence against women. Among the African-Americans, the emphasis on the physical appearance and strength as the defining factors of masculinity put women on the disadvantaged position as men tend to assert their presence by demonstrating their physical appearance. Additionally, referring to the black women as hypersexual makes them vulnerable to sexual harassment as such incidences are always blamed on them.
References
Matthews, Derrick D., Wizdom Powell Hammond, Amani Nuru-Jeter, Yasmin Cole-Lewis, and Travis Melvin. “Racial discrimination and depressive symptoms among African-American men: The mediating and moderating roles of masculine self-reliance and John Henryism.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity 14, no. 1 (2013): 35.
Monk Jr, Ellis P. “Skin tone stratification among Black Americans, 2001–2003.” Social Forces 92, no. 4 (2014): 1313-1337.
Seidler, Victor J. Unreasonable men: Masculinity and social theory. Routledge, 2013.
Tatangelo, G.L. and Ricciardelli, L.A., 2013. A qualitative study of preadolescent boys’ and girls’ body image: Gendered ideals and sociocultural influences. Body image, 10(4), pp.591-598.