The Sociology of Masculinity
Hess, Markson and Stein (1990) defines sociology as: 1. The systematic study of human behaviour, 2. The groups to which one belongs, 3. The societies that human beings create, and within which their lives unfold. Sociology is an attempt to understand how membership in one’s social group affects individual behavior. Following from our brief review of the Biology and Theology of Masculinity, we would have learnt that 1. A man’s masculine identity is a fact of his biological reality, and 2. Masculinity is an “institution” ordained by God primarily for the purposes of headship, provision and protection. The social parameters of masculinity are essential to the development of a balanced and healthy masculine traits. Therefore, how can we observe the sociological manifestation of masculinity?
From as early as childhood, a growing boy begins to make observations of his world. Under the guidance of his parents, he is carefully instructed and directed in ways that are deemed acceptable within the social and cultural reality of primarily his parents. The child observes the behaviour of those around him and his primary influencers; such as his parents, and hence learns what will ultimately be what he accepts as socially appropriate. This essentially defines a process called socialization. This process was alluded to in the book of Proverbs ch. 22:6, which says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The “way that he should go,” in this context, speaks to the correct path which is supported by the Biological and Theological reality of such a child.
The process of socialization essentially prepares the boy to understand the fact of his masculinity to be linked to his biological and theological reality. The declaration in scripture which says “Male and female created he them,” sends a resounding message of a critical distinction which must be preserved. Our boys need to be socialized regarding the proper use and expression of their masculinity. No boy is born a perfect gentleman. He has to be nurtured into becoming such a man. It is often said that the “child is the father of the man” because we can gaze into the soul of a society, by observing how it socializes its children, particularly the males. The boy, as he grows, learns (ideally from his father) how to lead effectively, learns to exercise both power and restraint, learns the virtue of courage and the principle of labouring unto provision. In every culture, the expression of these important traits will be represented differently. We will explore “Masculinity in the Jamaican Society” in subsequent devotionals. If a boy learns the correct expression of manhood from his father, what do we expect to happen in the absence of his father or a consistent father figure to impart this critical lesson?
The sociological dimension to Masculinity essentially is the training of a child through socialization, to attain and exemplify consistently the following traits; Leading effectively, Exercise with Wisdom both Power and Restraint, the Virtue of Courage, respect for Women, the principles of fatherhood and the principle of Labouring unto Provision. These traits will all be explored individually in subsequent devotionals.
We will next explore “The Psychology of Masculinity.”