Is That a Man Purse?

Although there is a great deal of variance in the masculine cultures in any one community, when I travel the varied definitions of masculinity seem glaringly obvious. As I traveled through Europe, I noticed the differences in conceptions and representations of masculinity. It is hard to determine the root of these differences, but they have something to teach us. How can we use our understanding of these differences to affect how we think about beliefs of genuine masculinity?

Through many cultural inputs and over many centuries, societies develop concepts of what behavior is considered masculine. Subsequently, men idealize certain traits because of the supposed desirable nature that they possess.  In popular culture, the desirable masculine traits are thought to be clearly delineated: toughness and lack of emotional expression.  Variance of socially accepted masculine norms suggest that these traits might not be as concrete as they appear. There is great opportunity for change and flexibility.

Society can learn to accept an evolved masculine image, and we have already done so in different cultures throughout history. French men can carry small shoulder bags, and the French woman still find them attractive. As men, we do not have to adhere to the rigid notions of what it means to be a man. I am not suggesting all men should start carrying shoulder bags, but I think that any man, French, American or anything in between should not be afraid to show less traditional masculine qualities, like open-mindedness and sensitivity.


Soren Rubin