The sociologist Mélissa Blais and the political scientist Francis Dupuis-Déri wrote in 2012 in Le discours de la « Crise de la masculinité » comme refus d’égalité des deux sexes : histoire d’une rhétorique antiféministe, that a facet of anti-feminism takes the form of masculinism, of which “the discourse affirms that men are in crisis because of the feminization of society”. According to them, “it seems ridiculous to say that feminism has gone too far and that men are now under the control of feminists in particular and women in general.”
And what if, conversely, feminist influence on men enables them to emancipate them? Today, the image of man in the media has evolved: beauty standards are gradually turning towards men with feminine style and features, we now see the man cooking in food advertisements, his role of father is more and more put forward… The man, in a way, through the rise of feminism, would then also emancipate himself from the woman.
If the crisis of masculinity designates a set of doubts and questioning of the traditional role of men, by refusal of equality between the sexes, the issue of this article is quite different: indeed, it should on the contrary analyze the progressive challenging of masculinity and its intrinsic link with feminism.
Since young, a man is taught to be strong, not to cry, to be a “real man”. These sexist claims are part of a larger framework of toxic masculinity in which boys are prohibited from showing their emotions and weaknesses. Suzannah Weiss, American feminist writer, discusses the consequences of the cultural construction of masculinity in Bustle magazine’s article 6 Harmful Effects of Toxic Masculanity: rape culture, absence of any emotion, incitement to violence… It is important to emphasize that these behaviors are not innate, they are only the reflection of a mimicry. Nevertheless, thanks to the emergence of feminist trends, we are gradually witnessing a new and more relevant perception of masculinity.
Feminism, a doctrine advocating gender equality as well as the emancipation of women in society, has emerged more than ever in the 20th and 21st centuries through multiple political reforms (abortion, right to vote…) or movements such as #Metoo. By demanding gender equality, feminism also deconstructs societal norms regarding male virility. Gradually, the image of the strong, virile man is becoming outdated and sexist.
This tendency is particularly visible through the treatment of masculinity in cultural representations: music, films, literature, series… If stereotypes of hegemonic masculinity, such as the innate, acquired and natural power of man , are omnipresent in the film industry (James Bond, Star Wars…), they are called into question by the arrival of new standards. Some recent films thus question the ultra-masculine vision of man and raise awareness among their audiences with vulnerable characters (Call Me by Your Name, Le Grand Bain, Moonlight…).
This image of the vulnerable man then rubs off on society. Indeed, beauty standards, evolving according to trends, are a reflection of current culture. Some men who embrace their femininity are glorified today. If Prince and David Bowie were its precursors, Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet are at the heart of an undeniable new stereotype of beauty: the female man. This trend does not happen by accident. Indeed, it coincides with the rise of feminism, also influencing the male standards enacted by the consumer society.
Thus these personalities, who have a decisive influence on the rest of men, completely free themselves from the alienating mechanisms of toxic masculinity. The philosopher Olivia Gazalé, author of Mythe de la virilité (2017) in which we find the formulation “We are not born a man, we become it”, affirms that the feminine revolution will be carried out after the masculine revolution, when will have freed themselves from diktats unconsciously maintaining misogyny and homophobia. She adds that “for men to change the way they look at women, they have to change the way they look at themselves”. The emancipation of women and the deconstruction of male toxic masculinity are inextricably linked.
If it is certain that feminism has irreversibly influenced the male condition, the fact remains that it is not the only element in this evolution. Indeed, at one time, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, men sought to free themselves from certain prerogatives that were specific to them and assigned to them for centuries, in particular as head of the family, often responsible for money returning to households, and as mentioned previously, the weight of the lie of an absence of emotion and sensitivity. Alain Souchon is the first French singer, notably in “Allô maman bobo” to have expressed this suffering and this recognition of the emotion of a man through his texts, questioning the spleen of modern man who does not recognize himself in the male standards enacted. In addition, the absence of war for fifty years in the West has made man lose his place as defender and savior of the family and the country, which has undeniably changed his relationship with masculinity.
This evolution of the perception of man and his virility also goes hand in hand with the level of evolution of societies. The evolution of gender equality is the work of advanced societies, both economically and intellectually. The future, if it is on this path of progress between the genders, will undoubtedly erase the stereotypes related to the masculinity of the man.
Thus, the evolution of society means that men and women face the same difficulties, and look more and more alike in their actions. This progressive equality that is being created today in work and social recognition goes hand in hand with a recognition of the closeness between men and women, in terms of their sensitivity and the expression of their emotions.