‘’Masculine Mystique’’?

Journalist Mark Rice-Oxley published an aricle for the Guardian on Tuesday 21st November which explores the vitally important issue that men also face oppression, not to the extent of women as Rice-Oxley highlights, but it has to be acknowledged if we are ever to achieve gender equality. This is such an important article to read in understanding feminine and masculine as social constructs (see link for it at the end of this review).

Rice-Oxley’s article is centred around the discussion of fatherhood in the 21st Century, arguing that we are treating stay at home fathers as an ‘oddity’. Some men have spoken out about their own experience as stay at home fathers for this article and it is so important to hear their perspective on the judgment they feel for it. It is not wrong for men to want to spend more time with their children.

“Dr Alpesh Maisuria has experienced this first-hand. The 37-year-old London-based academic says that even in more “enlightened” parts of the economy, bosses are not always understanding. “My value as a bloke in this country is to do with my productivity and output, much more than being a father,” he says. “I would suggest in many instances, even as an academic, the fact that I’m a father might be a hindrance to my bosses.””

Whilst women are striving to be respected in the workplace, we must also recognise that maternity leave is accepted as a traditional thing very easily in our society whilst men are facing judgement for paternity leave or wanting to stay at home on a permanent basis. Rice-Oxley also refers to Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’, published in 1963, which explores, to generalise, the depression women faced as stay at home mothers in the 50s and 60s. Rice-Oxley argues that ‘The question is this: 50 years later, are men facing their own “problem with no name”, a “masculine mystique” which imposes rigid cultural notions of what it is to be male – superior, dominant, hierarchical, sexually assertive to the point of abuse – even though society is screaming out for manhood to be something very different?’. We need to be exploring more about how men are feeling a sense of ‘emasculation’ for choosing to be a stay at home father.

The issues of class and the gender pay gap are also mentioned as being inextricably linked as is it is usually ‘middle-class’ families who can afford for the father to stay at home or at least work part-time whilst less well off families need the man rather than the woman to work in order to have that extra money that would not be earned otherwise.

Rice-Oxley clearly and brilliantly explores how societal issues of the burden of tradition, class and, the workplace amongst others are all intricately linked and need to be picked apart in order to understand how as a society we can decode the social constructs of masculine and feminine in order to progress towards gender equality.

This article was written to advertise the ‘Being A Man festival[which]addresses the challenges and pressures of masculine identity in the 21st century.’ It is taking place at the SouthBank Centre between 24th and 26th November 2017.