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Masculinity in The Modern World

For many men, heterosexuality is not just about being attracted to women - it's also about following a strict code of behaviour to affirm one’s masculinity. Traditional notions of masculinity can be restrictive and limiting for men and are usually defined by characteristics such as physical strength, emotional stoicism, dominance, and aggression. Men were expected to be the primary breadwinners, protectors, and providers for their families.

However these expectations are not the same for Gen Z (the generation born between 1997-2012) and don't necessarily have the same pressures or societal expectations. Generally speaking, Gen Z's views on masculinity are now shaped by a number of trends and shifts in societal attitudes and cultural norms. One can argue this is leaving young men feeling somewhat trapped in between generations as masculinity is now a very complex and multifaceted topic whereby some men may now struggle to know where they fit.

Gender fluidity and diverse gender expressions

Gen Z is known for being more accepting of LGBTQ+ identities and more open to alternative expressions of gender and sexuality than previous generations. This means that the traditional stereotypes of what it means to be "masculine" or "feminine" are being challenged and expanded.

For example, figures such as Harry Styles who has become a role model for many young men due to his positive and inclusive attitude towards gender, sexuality, and personal expression. As a musician and fashion icon, he has challenged traditional gender norms and stereotypes through his clothing choices, which often blur the lines between masculine and feminine styles. He has also been vocal about his support for LGBTQ+ rights and has spoken out against homophobia and transphobia.

"To not include everyone [in discussions about gender and sexuality] is fundamentally wrong. And it’s important to me to make that doesn’t feel like politics. It feels like fundamentals." (2019, The Guardian)

In contrast to previous generations' ideas of "toughing it out" or suppressing emotions, Gen Z tends to prioritise mental health and emotional well-being. This can manifest in a willingness to express vulnerability, talk about mental health struggles, and seek help and support when needed.

Toxic masculinity

Gen Z is also more likely to recognise and call out toxic masculinity - the harmful attitudes and behaviours that can arise from rigid or extreme adherence to traditional gender roles. This can include behaviours like aggression, dominance, and objectification of women. By recognising and addressing toxic masculinity, we can create healthier and more equitable gender norms that benefit all members of society, including boys and men. This includes promoting emotional intelligence, rejecting harmful aspects of traditional masculinity, and encouraging men to seek help when they need it.

Gen Z is also known for challenging traditional gender roles and expectations in a variety of areas, including relationships, work, and family life. Many young people are rejecting the idea that men should be the primary breadwinners or that women should be the primary caregivers, and are instead seeking more egalitarian relationships and lifestyles.

Role models

On the other hand, I believe the lack of diversity within male role models has led some Gen Z to follow the likes of Andrew Tate who has gained a following among some young men for his views on masculinity and success. He is a former professional kickboxer who has since become a self-styled entrepreneur and "pick-up artist" (someone who offers advice on how to attract romantic partners). Tate's rise in popularity among some young men can be attributed to his unapologetic embrace of traditional gender roles and masculine ideals, which can appeal to those who may feel that these values are now being undermined or rejected by mainstream society.

“The masculine perspective is you have to understand that life is war. It’s a war for the female you want. It’s a war for the car you want. It’s a war for the money you want. It’s a war for status. Masculine life is war.” - Andrew Tate

He often promotes the idea of "alpha" masculinity - the idea that men should strive to be dominant, confident, and assertive in all areas of their lives. I believe that it is important to understand why a figure like Andrew Tate is liked by so many young men and the potential risks this is putting on both men and women and the progress we have made as a society.

Men and boys can play an important role in promoting gender equality by being allies and advocates for women and girls. This involves challenging harmful stereotypes and behaviours and supporting efforts to promote gender equality and inclusivity. However I do believe there is a lack of masculine male identifying role models who can offer this advice and teach young teenage boys how to be accepting of themselves and reach out for help when they need it. Despite this, Gen Z's views on masculinity play an important role towards diversity and acceptance and are allowing a space for a more important focus on emotional well-being and mental health.


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