The Crisis of Masculinity in Britain

crisis of masculinity

But have men never been more in touch with their emotions, and more honest about expressing them?

There is a “crisis of masculinity in Britain” because of the pressures rapid economic and social change have placed on masculine identity says Diane Abbott, a senior British Politician. The rise of a “Viagra and Jack Daniels culture” is an indication of the pressure young men are under to live up to “pornified ideals”.

Diane Abbott, a senior British Politician, said today in a speech at the think tank Demos in London, that a generation of men are in transit and unclear of their social role. Tomorrow, too many British men and boys will wake up isolated and misdirected by a boundless consumer outlook, economic instability, and whirlwind social change.

Tomorrow, too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood, expectations and boundaries from an early age, at schools, with other boys, and with their parents will remain silent.

Tomorrow, too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood, expectations and boundaries from an early age, at schools, with other boys, and with their parents will remain silent.

Abbott is the Opposition Shadow Public Health Minister and gave a lecture at Demos, which is focused on power and politics and challenges the traditional model of policy-making by giving a voice to people and communities.

Abbott argues that “this generation no longer asks itself what it means to be a man” and that instead boys are struggling with a “culture of hyper-masculinity” that involves “a celebration of heartlessness, a lack of respect for women’s autonomy, and the normalization of homophobia. I fear it’s often crude individualism dressed up as modern manhood.”

But she stresses that the problems men and boys face are not receiving sufficient attention because, “like the film Fight Club – the first rule of being a man in modern Britain is that you’re not allowed to talk about it.” Today’s generation is “caught between the ‘stiff upper lip’ approach of previous generations and today’s cultural tornado of male cosmetics, white collar industry, and modernized workplaces”.

The male role of the past, as provider and earner, has come under pressure from consumerism leaving Britain’s boys growing up in a culture of “hyper-masculinity,” which is fuelling misogyny and homophobia.

The rise of a “Viagra and Jack Daniels culture”—with men buying the drug as a performance enhancer rather than for medical reasons—is an indication of the pressure young men are under to live up to “pornified ideals,” she said in her speech.

To tackle this “masculinity crisis” she calls for a strengthened role for fathers in family life, with father-friendly parenting classes, meaningful parental leave for men, and more conversations between fathers and sons about manhood.

Tony Parsons, a broadcaster and columnist writing in the British edition of GQ, says Abbott is “barking up the wrong trouser leg” with claims that recession was producing a generation of brutes.

He suggests the Labour parliamentarian knows nothing about British men, who “have never been more in touch with their emotions, and more honest about expressing them.”

Glen Poole, in the left-leaning Guardian, says Ms Abbott’s speech is part of a wider attempt by her Labour Party to regain the initiative in a gender debate in which the ruling Conservatives have stereotyped a feckless underclass of absent fathers.

Poole says it is undeniable that men and boys face significant problems. They are more likely than women to commit crime, be homeless, or to commit suicide.

But he chastises the Labour spokeswoman for repeating a familiar, negative narrative about disaffected men who were hypermasculine, homophobic, misogynistic, and obsessed with pornography.

“Abbott is right to say that there aren’t enough men engaged in conversations about manhood, but is it any wonder when modern masculinity is described in such negative terms?” Poole said.

Image Credit: Flickr/Policy Exchange (Creative Commons)