For a long time we have been undergoing a pervasive, national educational effort to change our concept of masculinity. In the past I coined the term, Demasculization Syndrome or DMS to characterize the impact of this movement. Recently, I was curious to find out how the masculinity perceptions of these four controversial men with heavy media coverage and high recognition levels would rate with younger people. The latter are taught that men must be sensitive to women’s needs, non- violent and control their tempers, not use abusive language, not be a sexual predator and so on and so forth. Alec Baldwin, the hot tempered guy who also uses foul language; Charlie Sheen the coke addictive prostitute lover; Eliot Spitzer, the hypocrite about his public and personal “positions” with prostitutes and Anthony Weiner who shows his privates to women by sexting on cellphones certainly don’t fit the new masculinity prototype.
I conducted an informal, non-scientific survey in 28 people: 18 women and 10 men. I asked them to rate each one of these men either as ‘masculine’, ‘not masculine’ and ‘no opinion’. Interestingly enough, there were little differences between the sexes.
Though I didn’t ask specific questions behind their choices, by our conversations I did get a sense of the qualities most admire in Baldwin and Sheen. They were strength, being ‘alive’, ‘have balls’ and irreverent, likeable, physically attractive and would, for example, like to meet them over dinner.
Then I thought of who men and women in my generation –I’m somewhere between 70 and 80– would consider masculine and express similar types of sentiments. Clarke Gable, John Wayne and Sean Connery jumped to mind.
Though hard to believe, only a few souls are aware of this: Most studies and surveys, including this one, are flawed and not to be blindly accepted. (More on this in a later post). But the consistency of opinions of this survey certainly should encourage experts on social issues to further explore, in studies that aren’t flawed, how men and women perceive masculinity instead of continuing to teach the young and not-so young, otherwise. Would it be interesting and illuminating to compare the qualities of the Gables, Waynes and Connerys to the Baldwins and Sheens?