University of Texas at Austin, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs162

Masculinity refers to the social roles, behaviors, and meanings traditionally associated with male bodies in a given society at any point in time. Because masculinity refers to a set of socially defined traits, it emphasizes gender over biological sex and allows us to understand cultural variations in “what it means to be a man.” Masculinity is not an internal facet of identity but produced within societal institutions and daily interactions (Kimmel 2000). Briefly, masculine practices differ across four dimensions.

First, masculinity varies by culture. Some cultures encourage a masculinity that is stoic and must be proved through sexual conquest or physical skill and domination. Some cultures may have political participation, emotional availability, or economic provision as key components of masculinity. Historically, Western men were seen as producers or laborers and frivolous or domestic consumption was feminized.

Second, masculinity varies within a society. Several different meanings of masculinity comprised of different masculine practices may all coexist in the same society. Sociology has explored how class, ethnic, and sexual identity shape an individual's gender identity. For example, what it means to be a man may be very different for a young poor gay Latino man and an older, upper middle-class black man with a family. However, both practices of masculinity are deeply ...

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