With the advent of the new “social equality age”, the studies of masculinity and femininity have come to denote the two opposite visions of the world. Where masculinity studies confirm the oppressive nature of feminization, femininity on the contrary, confirms the dominant and mostly negative nature of male power. Unfortunately, both visions are too limited to be true; moreover, we consciously limit ourselves to a set of gender prejudices, which prevent us from overcoming the boundaries of outdated knowledge. We consciously refuse from seeking better explanations to present day gender and social norms. In reality, it is in their desire to recognize flexibility of gender roles and to establish more emotive and exciting relationships with society that men appear reluctant to reveal their real strivings, thus confirming violence and domination as the essential components of masculinity.
True, where men seek to identify themselves with already traditional male domination, and to teach others the standards and norms of gender conduct, they are mostly unprepared to face the challenges of femininity in real social contexts. In his essay, Bob Lamm provides an extensive and highly useful review of his experiences in educational environments. He is probably the only one to have recognized his complete unawareness with regard to female realities, as well as the limitedness of the current masculinity studies. “The truth is that I had no understanding of how absurd and sexist it was for a man to teach a course on men and masculinity without a good grasp of feminist literature. The truth is that I had no idea of how much I didn’t know” (Lamm 50). Really, how much do men “don’t know” about women? Moreover, how far can men go in their reluctance to recognize their own feminine illiteracy? Lamm teaches us that it is only through open interactions and at times painful experiences that men can gradually open their eyes on the way women function in this world. What seems really surprising is that Lamm refers to simple things like being more attentive to women or being able to listen to women as a part of male way to feminist female awareness. Finally, and this is of critical importance, those who find enough strength to review femininity from a new perspective also have to witness, how male domination gradually vanishes, turning dominant men into “another fucked up, insecure man – only with more power than the male students” (Lamm 51).
Lamm’s argument stretches beyond traditional boundaries of gender discussion and is suggestive of the complicated interrelationships, which male and female representatives of society seek to avoid. As men realize that rape is not abnormal act of crime but is just another striving to confirm gender dominance, and as female student groups work to reveal the most hidden and complex facets of gender studies, men have but to admit that “the notion that men are indispensable to women is the worst kind of lie” (Lamm 54). This, however, does not mean that femininity studies are associated with objectivity and that feminism is free from gender prejudice. In reality, the studies of feminism promote increasingly limited views on masculinity and position it as the source of violence, inappropriate dominance, and gender humiliation. While these certainly have their place on masculine behaviors, it is at least inappropriate to limit masculinity to considerations of patriarchy. “Part of the problem is that patriarchal ideology, which defines the experience as masculinity, is extraordinary diverse and detailed. I think this is possible because, as an unconscious language, patriarchy permeates all the ‘official’ definitions of state institutions” (Tolson 74). According to Tolson, and through the prism of his practical experiences, masculinity stands out as too rational and too repressive, which is certainly far from being true. Tolson obviously seeks to create a full and objective picture of the major feminist fallacies, and he seems unbiased in his practical judgments. Unfortunately, his experiences are limited to those of a male peer group, and do not expand to create a vision of masculinity-femininity culture, which is too inflexible to respond to the emerging gender realities.
In reality, the tendency for feminists to simplify dominance concepts and to associate masculinity with patriarchy has already shaped a new gender culture. In this culture, “patriarchy perpetuates the oppression of women” (Tolson 75) and is further re-affirmed by work-based masculine norms, which have also become the subject of Willis’ gender debate. In the context of gender studies, traditional images of masculinity and femininity exemplify one of the many divisions in class culture, where production becomes the instrument of social and cultural progress. It appears that femininity and masculinity standards are being exercised and confirmed by a whole set of realities, and expanding the boundaries of feminism and masculinity studies is impossible without taking into account that “another important element of this culture is the massive feeling on the shop floor, and in the working class generally, that practice is more important than theory” (Willis 115). Here, Willis implies that we are the direct victims of this workplace culture, but simultaneously, we are too reluctant to overstep these cultural prejudices.
Objectively, and these arguments go in line with those mentioned by Tolson, persisting rationality is our major problem; masculinity is identified with rationality, while more emotional female society views this rationalization as the integral component of their striving to gender equality. However, this equality will not be possible unless professionals and scholars in gender come to recognize severe limitations in the knowledge they seek to promote about sex roles in society. In this context, the main task is to expand the boundaries of masculinity and feminist studies, reducing the impact of rationality and giving place to objectivity and non-bias in everything that pertains to gender.