'Hypermasculinity' and You: The Problem with Your Biceps

An article by JR Ridley in the October 5 issue of The College Fix highlights a new type of masculinity criticism: our muscles can be too big for “healthy masculinity,” which apparently involves emotional vulnerability and sensitivity.

According to one Jackson Katz, the first male to minor in Women’s Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, sexual violence and domestic abuse are men’s issues, and he feels they are linked to the size of our muscles and our guns in popular culture.

Citing an increase in the size of G.I. Joe’s biceps and of action heroes’ pistols over the course of 60 years -- while ignoring (or more probably ignorant of) the fact that better physical training and firearms technology has made these obviously desirable developments possible -- Katz concludes that being perceived as menacing is a necessary and increasingly more customary part of masculinity.

He prefers the emotionally vulnerable, sensitive form of masculinity (the estrogen variety?) to the standard American testosterone version: competitive, stoic, and aggressive.

Does this imply that women, too, should be emotionally vulnerable? Why should anyone be emotionally vulnerable?

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(Pictured: Unhealthy male) 

Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues and sponsor of a panel discussion on “The Male Code” of rape and violence in one of the linked videos in the piece, states that she became so depressed while contemplating the events surrounding the situation in Steubenville, Ohio, that “I got so depressed that I literally got into bed and cried for a few hours.” This is preferable to stoicism and competitiveness?

I suppose that Katz’s background as an academic and gender violence consultant has prepared him to question the traditional roles of men and women. Since the beginnings of human culture, normal human sexual dimorphism -- the physical differences between the sexes -- assigned roles to men and woman based on the realities of the differences in physical capacity between them. Many societies and cultures throughout the world, even today, require men and women to pursue different tasks as vocations. The sexual ramifications of physical work, child-rearing, personal and family defense, and their carryover to social identity have inevitably produced roles defined by sex.

As technology has progressed, these distinctions have blurred, but try as we might, we have been unable to reduce the human species into an androgynous gray smear. Sexual dimorphism persists, even if the roles previously assigned on its basis have become less important to liberal arts majors.

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(Dr. Katz, World's Healthiest Man, lectures the sickly and weak.)

And some of us still occupy positions within society that are more physical and elemental than those occupied by tenured academics. Some of us even like it that way, choosing to split our own wood and clean our own houses.

As a strength coach, I believe everybody needs bigger muscles. Everybody.

You, your dad, your mom, and your sister need bigger stronger muscles, because you’re healthier and you live longer and more productively when your physical existence is optimized by more muscle mass. Nothing within the stark reality of sexual dimorphism requires women to be weak, even though many of you have convinced yourselves that it’s okay.

In my opinion, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be physically strong.