Put a magnifying glass on young boys and their relationship with masculinity. This is the goal set by FAD’s Reina Sofía Center in its latest report on adolescence and youth. Coordinated by Ana Sanmartin, sociologist and deputy director of the organization, La caja de la masculinidad. Construction, Attitudes, and Influences on Hispanic Youth is an x-ray picture of how youth are positioned to face gender mandates and stereotypes.
For this, the report, based on interviews with 1,700 young men, used the metaphor of a box of masculinity, which represented the traditional values associated with it: strength, exaltation of masculinity, taking on gender-differentiated roles or legitimizing violence or control over women. And depending on the answers, place the boys inside, outside or on the edge: only 14% are clearly inside, fully complying with these postulates. 41.3% are out and reject them, while 44.7%, the largest group and “most difficult” to analyze, according to Sanmartin, are on the fringes. They question some mandates but not others.
Which research findings are most salient?
In general, the youth are moving towards equality, at different speeds for them and for them, but at the same time there are significant minorities that seem to expand and agree with certain postulates. We found two elements that were not seen in previous studies. These are two statements that seem to be widely agreed upon, albeit more so among boys. that “women’s violence against men is not sufficiently addressed” and that “men are vulnerable to false complaints”. We are very concerned about how this idea of equalizing violence or victimizing false accusations of gender-based violence is being perpetuated in an attempt to undermine what we have advanced.
What influence can the extreme right have in this regard?
What the far right is doing is fishing in an already existing fishing ground. There is always a pendulum movement on these issues: as feminism becomes more visible and we have more equality legislation, there is a backlash against these advances. Perhaps there were those who were already there, lethargic, but now the discourse is legitimized. Through the counterargument in social networks, in political parties, on public figures… This is Vox, of course, but not only. There is a whole discourse that has shown well the dissatisfaction that exists among male youths, based on a certain certainty that we think has already been overcome.
Much of this discourse is in the so-called manosphere, an online community of men against feminism, also analyzed by the Reina Sofía Center. To what extent do you support these discourses among young people?
The specific impact is difficult to measure, but it is clear that digital penetration among the young population is huge. These communities, which can be residual, become complete when online, they reach everywhere. They are few, but with a very clear agenda and very active, playing a lot with their sense of humor and tools like memes, which represent a very powerful arrival for young people. Otherwise, maybe this discourse could not reach so much space.
Research indicates that a minority of young men are in the ‘masculinity box’, but almost half are on the edge. What does it mean to be in this category?
Indeed, this is the largest group. They question many elements of traditional hegemonic masculinity, but not all. They align internally with more overt traditional masculinities, but those on the fringes represent what today looks like a reworking of hegemonic masculinity. There are many elements that do not suit them when compared to what is inside them. They get more than a couple, that each of them should have their own space, or that women are not born ready to care or deny that jealousy is proof of love, but they are more postulates like that feminism does not deal with real problems And it’s a political weapon that you can’t argue with feminists about because they’re quick to accuse you of being macho or that women are more manipulative.
The report states that this group is the most difficult to interpret…
Yes, their approaches are full of contradictions and ambiguities. And perhaps in them lies the essence of the question of what is currently happening to masculinity among young people. On the other hand, being on the edge, we don’t know if they’re going in or out or where the balance will tip.
The research points to the influence of the so-called post-machismo, which is currently called the strategy of adapting machismo to the new social and cultural context.
We can’t prove that all guys who are on the edge have this goal on purpose, but we do identify with these post-macho positions in their approach in general. These discourses are more difficult to identify because they question macho elements that are hardly sustainable today. They will take a stand against inequality or gender-based violence, and there will be those who call themselves feminists, but when they lie, there are many other elements that do not question structural or fundamental inequalities.
For example, positions that directly deny gender-based violence gain a higher level of approval among young people, but those on the fringes are more in line with what we mentioned at the beginning that false claims leave. Vulnerable men. They are not going to protect the fact that we are no longer there as a woman, at home and taking care of children. Or they intend to position themselves in favor of professional equality, but are probably too meritocratic without considering what basic conditions women or men have. This hegemonic masculinity looks different, but the pillars remain the same.
Social and feminist changes of recent years are clashing with the rigid concept of traditional masculinity, causing, as the scientific literature describes, “identity stress” in men. Do many young people experience this?
This is something general, yes, that we admit a lot. The thing is, there are traditional values of masculinity that are being questioned, but at the same time, the pressure on guys to aspire to this highly corseted model continues, and it’s stressful. Because in reality this is a model in which none of them fit. Continually occupying this space leads to their great imbalance. We see this in research: those who are framed by masculinity feel more pressure, exercise and experience more violence, report themselves to be more unhappy, have more mental health problems and suicidal thoughts… strive to be that “real”. The man and her capture clearly make the boys very uncomfortable.
And what to do about it?
It is not easy. You have to continue doing a lot of pedagogy. I don’t have a recipe, but I think we should try to reach these guys, win them over. The big challenge we have as a society is to create ethical, egalitarian, and attractive male models for young people. Because we’re talking about egalitarian masculinity, that’s ideal, but a lot of young men don’t want to be that kind of male model. It’s hard for them to find references of men they want to aspire to and look up to. There are many movements of men on this path, but this masculinity should be a public reference.
Finally, in addition to research, statistics on sexist violence in recent years indicate an increase in crimes committed by young people. More violence or more reporting?
I believe there was violence, but a couple of things are happening now: first, we didn’t have as much data as we do now, and second, it’s actually coming out now, and we can recognize the violence in abundance. Perhaps what was not previously identified as violence, for example, control, which is most common among adolescents, now is. It has to do with good pedagogy, the fact that young people can recognize violence, which we’ve seen less of before, and maybe there’s some reaction to the achievements, a violent reaction. But in general, I believe that violence has not increased so much, but the perception and ability to denounce it has changed.
Source: El Diario