First and foremost, for any Amy Winehouse fans reading this—-yes, the title is named after one of her earlier songs. In her song, What Is It About Men, she sings a heartfelt ballet how her father’s behavior and infidelity throughout her early childhood deeply affected her and leaves a lasting impression in her own personality. Her lyrics in her second verse talks about emulating her father’s behavior, “My alibi for taking your guy, history repeats itself, it fails to die, and animal aggression is my downfall, I don’t care ‘bout what you got, I want it all” and personifies the anger and aggression towards her father’s lifestyle, as she intentionally wishes to destroy healthy relationships, while analyzing her self-destructive ways in relationships brought about by her upbringing. Her lyrics poetically describe her contradicting emotions about the role men take on in her life, and how their abusive, hypermasculine personalities create a significant impact on her own. As she becomes increasingly apathetic towards her destructive nature, she left me wondering, just what is it about men?
Hypermasculinity is a concept so deeply woven into the fabric of history it has become a normal aspect of life for many because it corresponds with gender roles set in place by society to constrain certain behaviors to an assigned sex. But, there are many who rebel against this notion as the nature of hypermasculinity severely impacts emotional development in males, because it teaches them repressing emotions is a defining factor of what it is to be a man and promotes the desensitization of abuse by and against men.
The idea of men revealing their genuine emotions through artistic form, even towards their significant other, is perceived as ‘feminine’ and still somewhat controversial, as it is not considered socially acceptable behavior for a male; males who possess high emotional intelligence are often seen as effeminate, and subjected to derogatory name-calling by both males and females, because society perceives their behavior as non-conforming to their gender role. All these cumulative factors are the main reason why masculinity is, ironically, such a fragile concept, despite the intent to portray it as the quintessential ideal of a man.
Even within the LGBTQ community, some male-identifying individuals are pressured to strip themselves emotionally to fit within the constraints of their perceived role, being forced to embody the idealization of masculinity to be accepted.
Studies show an astronomical, 76% of suicides are carried out by men and considered one the leading causes of death in men under 50 due to the lack of resources provided. Because society is so ingrained within the concept of hypermasculinity, assistance for men in dire psychological and/or physical circumstances is very scarce. As a result, lack of resources forces men to deal with their issues alone, and repress their emotions, intentionally, to implement a sense of masculinity by exhibiting control over their situation, regardless of severity.
Hypermasculinity has also been directly associated with higher rates of insecurities, such as self-esteem issues, self-destructive behavior, and unhealthy relationships, because of difficulty maintaining an excessive masculine persona in comparison to human nature’s desire for emotional connections in relationships. “Men feel they must fulfill this masculine role in order to be a man, and when some men inevitably cannot, the message from society that they are not real men is understandably too much for them to bear. But more than this, many men are unable to deal with the disassociation from the emotion that the hypermasculine persona requires.”
Still, hypermasculinity is being taught an early age and progressively becoming worse. On a regular basis, I see men shunning their young sons for crying or simply wanting affection, reacting in a violent or threatening manner if the child continues.
Psychologically, the child learns through classical conditioning, and usually teaches his sons by modeling his father’s behavior, this leads to a vicious cycle continued through generations of men that are taught abuse and hostility is an intrinsic part of development for males.