According to the latest polls, 65 percent of Russian men are ready to give their lives for their country. Sociologists have asked this question as part of a study of gender stereotypes. It turned out that over 20 years, Russians' perceptions of real "masculinity" have remained virtually unchanged. However, these biases reinforce attitudes that negatively affect the lives of many men. At the request of Lenta.ru, feminists Daria Serenko and Sofya Sno explain why the whole world is experiencing a crisis of masculinity, and why it is important to talk about it.
This material is asked by the authors to be considered a congratulatory column for Russian men
Dear Men! On Defender of the Fatherland Day, we want to wish you strength, courage, courage and good health! You are our support and protection. Make women feel like a stone wall next to you. Thank you for being responsible for our country, that you perform feats and heroic deeds for us, that you are ready to confront any enemy one-on-one … No. Stop.
We don't want to wish you all this by inertia - we really want to think about you in this article. Feminists are often imputed that they do not think about the problems of men - well, in honor of Defender of the Fatherland Day, we will voluntarily and sincerely take the initiative to talk about this, because, firstly, we care, and secondly, many of our problems with you are interconnected.
February 23 is not quite a "man's day" - historically it is necessary to congratulate both men and women associated with the Armed Forces. But, since there are still few women in such structures, and the mandatory appeal in Russia applies only to men, the holiday has transformed into a general male (many Russians see it as gender-symmetric to International Women's Day on March 8).
And although the life practices of many young men say that they would not want to be forced to serve in the army, the tradition of congratulating even those who are far from defending the country on Defender of the Fatherland Day further strengthens the ideological connection between courage and militarism. The researcher of masculinity Marina Yusupova connects this with our past: historically, the USSR has always been a militaristic state, either in a state of war or preparing for war - the army was its stronghold, and military service was one of the most socially approved ways of being a man.
Since then, the army has ceased to be a universal social lift for men - it is increasingly perceived as an obstacle to education and career growth. The modern economy is structured in such a way that the market for intellectual labor is constantly growing, and there are fewer and fewer jobs that require physical strength. The indicators of gender equality are also increasing: women are slowly but surely gaining financial independence (according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, there are 99.5 years left until full equality is achieved). But the status of a man as the sole breadwinner of the family has already lost its exclusivity: the thesis "a man is a breadwinner and should earn more" was supported by many of Yusupova's respondents, while half of them had a different financial situation in the family.
There are many such contradictions, and they all indicate that there is no universal masculinity - it is mobile and constantly changing under the influence of social changes. For example, violence in any form is becoming less and less socially approved, and raising boys in a cult of strength hinders rather than helps them in adulthood.Sociologists call the notions of masculinity and femininity a "social construct", that is, the subject of a social contract, and not qualities inherent in us "by nature."
Many gender researchers believe that the entire world is experiencing a crisis of masculinity.
It is important to understand that men as a group are also not homogeneous: there are hierarchies (for example, between rich and poor men). The type of masculinity that is recognized as the most prestigious in society is called "hegemonic masculinity." What qualities this masculinity will have is determined by the men who are endowed with the greatest power in each particular society.
Researchers Nadezhda Radina and Alexandra Nikitina created a questionnaire on the basis of which they divided the types of masculinity into groups. They defined hegemonic masculinity as "a leader, physically and sexually active, capable of dominating women and other men, emotionally self-possessed, decision-maker, risk-taking, his classic example being the macho image." Only 10 percent of those surveyed matched it.
At the same time, men who did not fall into this group may feel guilty, frustration and dissatisfaction with life, as if there was no place for them. This is due to the fact that in a patriarchal society, boys are trained from childhood to be leaders and to the fact that the strongest survives. When life unfolds in a different scenario, difficulties begin. For example, those few men who would like to do only housework or take maternity leave are often the subject of ridicule, and men whose work is not considered "masculine" (ballet dancer, beauty blogger, nanny, etc.) may be judged by others.
In addition to the hegemonic, several more types of masculinity are distinguished, the most dangerous of which (both for those around him and for the man himself) is compensatory masculinity. It is associated with control and attempts to dominate women and is formed in men who did not cope with the competition and did not enter the first group. If in the hegemonic model a man strives for power both over women and over other men, then in the compensatory model, being not high enough in the male hierarchy, he tries to assert himself at the expense of a woman, placing her in his picture of the world in the background. Men of the compensatory model have the lowest indicators of socio-psychological adaptation: they have problems with self-control, self-esteem and acceptance of others, emotional discomfort and a desire to run away from problems. It is more difficult for these people to form close relationships and adapt to change.
However, it is important to understand that toxic masculinity (the cult of strength and the prohibition on the manifestation of vulnerability, sexual and domestic violence of men against other men) remains invisible and not discussed, while damaging everyone.
One of the most terrible examples of conditionally legitimate male violence against men is bullying.For example, during the ten years of the war in Afghanistan, 13,000 Soviet soldiers were killed during the hostilities, while bullying in the Soviet army during the same time claimed the lives of 38,000 people. This problem was raised by women - the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers.
Any comparison with a woman becomes offensive, which is generally associated with the status of all "feminine" as second-rate and inferior over the centuries.
One of the extreme manifestations of fear of the "female" is homophobia. In such a frame of reference, where any relationship with people, including romantic ones, is based on hierarchies and the establishment of dominance, homosexuality is perceived as a threat to masculinity (this is why homophobes so often ask gay couples which one is “baba”).Many homosexuals in Russia have lived double lives for years, and those who speak openly about their sexuality risk being mutilated or killed every day by other men who believe they have a monopoly on “correct” masculinity.
Another problem with the prohibition on vulnerability is related to the fact that men are less likely to see a doctor. Male mortality, according to the WHO report, remains much higher than female mortality, since self-care is traditionally a feminine trait. For example, in countries with HIV epidemics, men are less likely to be tested for the virus than women, less likely to receive antiretroviral therapy, and more likely to die from AIDS-related illnesses, the report said.
Men are less likely to seek psychological help: worldwide, the number of male suicides is 3-4 times higher than female, and in Russia this difference reaches 6 times. The death rate on the roads for men is also twice as high as for women, and the proportion of men who die as a result of homicide is four times that of women. Men are more likely to suffer from alcohol and drug addiction, which also increases the risks to life.
People who are ready to take on the coverage of men's problems are absolutely necessary for society - just as it needs activists who talk about poverty, racism, global warming and so on, but, unfortunately, the masculist movement in the form in which it is exists now, is occupied not with the problems of men, but with the fight against feminism and the development of conspiracy theories that shadow matriarchy reigns in our society (no, this is not so, there is a scientific consensus about the existence of patriarchy as a system that harms women and the least privileged men).
This leads to several problems. First, the activities of such movements are unproductive, since they direct their forces to fight not with those who are the real source of oppression and power, but with an imaginary feminist lobby. Secondly, they deprive themselves of the opportunity to unite with other activist and human rights movements on issues where it would be productive to join forces: for example, many feminists, just like masculists, are interested in fighting the compulsory appeal - at least because among many women are mothers. Thirdly, the activities of masculists (especially in the Internet space) ultimately created such a bad reputation for the movement that even those who theoretically agree with the need to somehow solve the problems of men in society, any attempts to start a conversation about uniting in male communities (a prominent representative of which is the misogynistic "Male State", whose leader was sentenced for incitement to extremism and fled to Poland) are scared away.
For men who realize that the current gender situation harms everyone (both women and men) there is a way out of the competition "Become the most courageous man and die of nervous strain" - to become allies of the feminist movement, because the ultimate goal of feminism is precisely to destroy the system harmful gender hierarchies as such (and not at all in the destruction of men).
But for men's problems to be solved more effectively in the near future, it is not enough for men to be just professional feminists. Yes, feminism does not deny that men also face the unfair attitudes of society, but at the same time, the struggle for the rights of men is definitely not the task of feminists: we do not know your problems from the inside. Therefore, the time has come to invent other ways to be a man, and only you can do it.
Do not be afraid that when you leave your hegemonic masculinity, you will lose your sexuality - perhaps, on the contrary, you will rediscover it.
We wish you not to be ashamed of the manifestations of gentleness and vulnerability - tears during a movie screening, confidential conversations and requests for help.Treat women as equals, tie up violence, take care of each other. And your health, if you listen to the rest of our wishes, your health will improve significantly.