Policing the crisis of masculinity

Media and masculinity at the dawn of the new century

Authored by: Brenton J. Malin

The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415527699
eBook ISBN: 9780203066911
Adobe ISBN: 9781135076955


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In the 1990s, popular and academic sources began to notice an apparent change in Western ideals of masculinity. In the US, diverse voices expressed dissatisfaction with the so-called traditional manhood that had characterized the 1980s, seeing its emphasis on hyper-masculine toughness and emotional control as dangerous to both individual men and the wider culture. Reminiscent of the “consciousness-raising sessions” that had been popular with women in the 1970s, Robert Bly’s (1990) book Iron John encouraged the formation of groups that brought men together to share their feelings about manhood. That same year, the right-wing religious group the Promise Keepers first met, filling a football stadium with men prepared to discuss how hyper-masculinity encroached on their spiritual and family lives. Noting similar reactions elsewhere in the US and throughout Europe, starting in the mid-1990s, journalists commented that an apparent “crisis of masculinity” had taken root not only in the US, but also in England, Australia, and Scotland (Lewis 1995; Raven 1998; Greig 2004). By 2003, one could write, as did one British journalist, “we all know that there’s a crisis of masculinity throughout the Western world” (Sawyer 2003: 6).

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