Masculinity and Men´s History


  Within the context of the development of the third phase of the feminist movement since the seventies of 20th century was gradually consolidated the so-called men's movement - not very coherent movement compound of many men´s groups with different perspectives on issues relating to women's emancipation process and gender issues. We can see 4 main divergent groups in men´s movement.

  The first one was established in connection with the development of the feminist movement - for the direct support of its demands. These were mainly the liberal-minded intellectuals, accepting a feminist analysis of social practices and gender-based differences, which have tried to work together with women to promote the requirements of the liberal part of the feminist movement and to minimize gender-based discrimination in society.

  From the advancement of research in gender studies has benefited a group of men analyzing the role of men in traditional patriarchal society. In view of the male leaders of this current movement are the traditional masculine characteristics associated with the representation of masculinity in society, often disadvantageous for men themselves and even can be dangerous for them. Thanks to the societal stereotypes men can not show emotion, mental and physical weakness and playing of his role in society often leads to the cultivation of practices, which often negatively affect men's health directly, such as excessive competition, alcoholism, risky demonstration of masculinity through dangerous sport activities, etc. Representatives of this type of men's movement, challenging perceptions of traditional male roles as positive are asking for establishing of new model for "stronger sex", with possibility to escape from the yoke of duty and stereotypes, which according to their opinion as matter fact cannot really give to men any profit.

  Another part of men´s movement, sometimes known as the father´s movement, was made up of men frustrated by what they call anti-male prejudices in society. Their scope is nowadays visible also in Czech Republic, typically manifests itself in the agitation for equality in rights to child-rearing, or their custody after divorce. Its leaders, however, seeks to refute the generally prevailing stereotypes identifying female role with motherhood and raising children, and attributing to fatherhood minor role in process of socialization.
  Important group of men´s movement, consisted mainly from rigid religiously oriented Christian men, is aimed against any changes in society in consequence with women's emancipation.  Their rhetoric was developed in response to the gradual change in paradigm of the traditional view of male and female roles in society. According to their opinion as the results of emancipation process of women arisen problems and social changes, as for example atomization of families and disruption of traditional social structure based on partnership, cohabitation, and the subsequent socialization of children in the closed family. They take the view that disintegration of society is due to disruption of the fundamental values of civilization and the only way to correct it is a return to traditional (patriarchal) distribution of gender roles.
  In the seventies of 20th century was then established also scientifically based answer to the debates in society concerning new problems with masculinity and men´s roles. This answer is called men´s studies, based on the theoretical concepts of gender studies was established a group of academic researchers, which focused their attention on problems connected on the study of masculinity(-ies). Their activity was also partially motivated by the development of negativistic tendency of male movement and thus formed as a response from academic circles to a certain negativistic parts of men´s movement, which tried to discredit gender studies as an anti-male scientific based instrument.
  In the field of history this academic research claims its activities to fill a gap in gender research are caused by excessive concentration of the scientific community to issues related to women's history. The introduction of gender as the category of historical analysis not only influenced the development of women's history, but also stood at the beginning of men's studies, which began in the eighties to develop mainly in the U.S.A. and Great Britain. In gender studies began to be felt at once the lack of attention devoted to the development and differentiation of various forms of masculinity. And as the result of one-side oriented study of gender problems has been developed to the same phenomenon that was previously observed and described in classical non-gendered history – but now has disappeared the man from (gender) history.
  Many studies on gender issues were published, the majority of them just pointed out from the historical context the history of women and constitution of women as a social category. The men were in historical studies still presented as representatives of nation, class or universal representative of humanity, but not as representatives of their social role - gender. From the seventies, and especially in the late eighties began to develop the scientific infrastructure essential for the further development of men's studies. In 1992, The American Men´s Studies Association[1] began to publish The Journal of Men's Studies, representative periodical focusing on research on gender issues associated with men.
  In the framework of men´s history have been paid special attention to the revision of patriarchal order in history, causes and methods of its constitution. Acquired great influence in particular the study of Robert Connell, in which masculinity conceived as a specific configuration of gender practices that legitimize the superiority of men in the patriarchal structure of power relations.[2]
  Men's studies, however, persisted not only in attempts to find the causes of a patriarchal system and describe the constitution the traditional male role. On the development of men's studies had a large influence the fact that it has been constituted at the time when first works with the revisited view on the category of gender were published. Judith Butler´s definition of performative gender and the discourse analysis was certainly a considerable source of inspiration, as well as a pluralistic environment of poststructuralist philosophy. Since the beginning of men's studies, parallel to a study prompted an attempt to find ideal type of masculinity, has been also formed a study oriented to differentiate different types of masculinities and their development and interaction of their holders.
  Researchers, through monitoring the interactions of different types of masculine roles, came to the conclusion that the majority of typical forms of masculinities is not shaped by the binary opposition of masculinity-femininity, but rather are primarily due to the mutual constitution of differentiation between groups of men, whether is the differences arising from differences of race, class, or socially and economically-based inequalities.[3]

  It follows that men's studies are characterized more plural approach to history of men than women´s studies. Therefore we are not talking about the development of one specific type of masculinity, but rather about the changes, the emergence and formation of often very different concepts of masculinities dependent on differences of national, class and social identities. Nevertheless, also in terms of men's history we can find in history a few breakpoints, when we van speak about total change of paradigm of masculinity and its representation.

   The last major breakthrough in this sense occurred in connection with the beginnings of the constitution of bourgeois society from the late 18th Century. During the Enlightenment came into life a new concept of ideal masculinity. It is a principle based on biological sex difference based on anatomical differences between men and women. Category man and woman finally separated from each other and became the primary source of identity categories through which individuals affect their social life. Having established itself alongside the fundamental differences on the basis of anatomical knowledge, however, began to develop also a concept of so called hegemonic masculinity.[4]
  According to some scholars the concept of hegemonic masculinity fully enforces until the last third of the 19th century - a time when the company has definitely received a middle-class character of bourgeois ideals, in the previous period was the imprint of the ideal hegemonic masculinity complicated by different discourse within the religious, nationalist, but also Estates differentiated societies and groups.[5]The beginnings of the formation of the concept of the ideal man take place in the 18th century.
  The largest contribution on the promotion of concepts of ideal masculinity in discourse of majority society is attributed to several factors which began to influence society especially from the last third of the 18th century. Significant was especially a creation of field of public communication through which information could be distributed and, therefore, also stereotypes about different social roles more effectively spread in the broader social layers in the more uniform and unifying form than ever before. Of course, there has been some forms of male sociability (religious fraternities, alcohol and coffee societies, etc.) developed since the Middle Ages, but the membership in these have been limited to privileged or wealthy men. With the modernization of society from 18th century have been a number of phenomena linked to a large extent and crossed social boundaries. The printed media has gained extraordinary importance, whether in the form of a book or periodical, introduced was also the compulsory school attendance, in which occurred during the process of socialization clear imprint of stereotypes belonging to the representation and perception of male and female roles. Very important were also the reforms in the military forces, particularly the introduction of regular armies, and thus compulsory military service, a prominent factor which influenced transformation of the ideal type of masculinity.
  Insight into the development of an ideal type of masculinity gave George L. Mosse in the study The Image of Man,[6] comparative analysis of the development of stereotypes surrounding the category of masculinity in European and American context since 18th to 20th century. The subject of his research was the formation masculinity manifested in different contexts, such as ways of viewing of the male body in sculpture, ritual duels of honour between men, the distribution of generally accepted codes of male honour throughout the company, the formation of gymnastic associations and practicing of gymnastic activities itself, but also stereotype of masculinity developed in the fascist regimes and capture of men's roles in the interwar and postwar cinema.
  Mosse concludes that the modern ideal was born in the Napoleonic wars and, like many other cultural phenomena have also new ideal of masculinity spread quickly through Europe's cultural or, conversely, the direct political influence of Napoleonic France, and has then acquired such importance that it has been adopted as a normative by all subsequent political and cultural movements and became the basis for the perception of male roles in society at all.
  The hegemonic masculine ideal was rooted in the Greek ideal of beauty - a balanced presence of force and reason and generally accepted values - such as honour, courage and mental and physical endurance. The manifestations of that ideal often occurred in contrast to the so-called anti-types, namely, the archetypal characteristics of the opposite of ideal masculinity, which were mainly attributed to men from marginalized parts of society - Jews, gypsies, homosexuals or mentally retarded persons. The process of differentiation to these kinds of anti-types contributes to a much easier and safer interiorisation of dominant ideal of masculinity.

  A very important part of studies devoted to the history of masculinity, occupies a debate on the so-called crises of masculinity.
Extreme views are talking about the so-called permanent crisis of male identity, which lead to efforts to control public discourse and, through this control establish the role of men in society as a dominant. Sober views speak at least about one, but sometimes about a few crises of masculinity, associated with the development of Euro-Atlantic society. As the most evident is usually considered masculinity crisis accompanying European society in the time period of fin-de-siècle. Proclaimed culture of decadence that rejected the values of middle-class, economic crisis, calling into question the role of man as breadwinner and master of the house, homosexuality visible in the public space, but also the development and early successes of the female emancipation movement, the emergence of pacifist organizations, or changes in fashion styles, when women's fashion for the first time through the "reformed clothing " came closer to male-type clothing, challenged the rules and firmly anchored dichotomy belonging characteristics of what was feminine and what masculine.

  But despite the crisis, the ideal of masculinity formed in the late 18th and 19th century remained basically up to the present time. George L. Mosse finds the reason of such success and endurance of this stereotype to his connection with the same foundations of modern civil society.

  The ideal of masculinity no doubtful symbolizes the core values of liberal civil society - individualism, autonomy, the ability of human development through their own mental and physical strength to a better future. And since those ideals survive also their major challenge at the time of post structuralism, are still inherently associated with running the company today.


(Historical sources a contemporary theoretical articles are due to respect of copyright law intended only for study purposes. For this cause are protected by secure access. If you are interested in study, please contact:

M. Kessel, The Whole Man: The Longing for a Masculine World in 19th Century Germany. Gender and History, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2003, p 1-31. c) J. Svátek, Souboje v Čechách. In: J. Svátek, Obrazy z kulturních dějin českých. Praha 1891, s. 3-33.

J. Svátek, Souboje v Čechách. In: J. Svátek, Obrazy z kulturních dějin českých. Praha 1891, s. 3-33.

Všeobecný slovník právní, Praha 1989, s. 556-558.

V. Macek, Stav manželský a příprava k němu. Praha 1890, s. 115-120.


[1] [1] The American Men´s Studies Association – was established as independent organisation in the year 1991 from the National Organization for Men against Sexism (1984).
[2] Robert CONNELL: Masculinities. Berkley, 1995.
[3] Lynn SEGAL, Changing Men: Masculinities in Context. Theory and Society 22, 1993, p. 625-641.
[4] Robert W. CONNELL, Der Gemachte Mann. Konstruktion und Krise von Männlichkeiten, Opladen 1999.
[5] Wolfgang SCHMALE, Geschichte der Mannlichkeit in Europa (1450-2000). Wien 2003, s. 152.
[6] Georg L. MOSSE, The Image of Man : The Creation of Modern Masculinity. Oxford 1996