From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Masculinity refers to qualities and behaviors judged by a particular culture to be ideally associated with or especially appropriate to men and boys. Distinct from maleness, which is a biological and physiological classification concerned with the reproductive system, masculinity principally refers to socially acquired traits and secondary sex characteristics. Cicero wrote that "a man's chief quality is courage." Virile (from Latin vir, man) is a near-synonym for masculine. The complement of masculinity is femininity.
Ancient literature goes back to about 3000 BC. It includes both explicit statements of what was expected of men in laws, and implicit suggestions about masculinity in myths involving gods and heroes. Men throughout history have gone to meet exacting cultural standards of what is considered attractive. Kate Cooper, writing about ancient understandings of femininity, suggests that, "Wherever a woman is mentioned a man's character is being judged — and along with it what he stands for." One well-known representative of this literature is the Code of Hammurabi (from about 1750 BC).
- Rule 3: "If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death."
- Rule 128: "If a man takes a woman to wife, but has no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him."
Scholars suggest integrity and equality as masculine values in male-male relationships, and virility in male-female relationships. Legends of ancient heroes include: The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Such narratives are considered to reveal qualities in the hero that inspired respect, like wisdom or courage, the knowing of things that other men do not know and the taking of risks that other men would not dare.
Jeffrey Richards describes a European, "medieval masculinity which was essentially Christian and chivalric." Again ethics, courage and generosity are seen as characteristic of the portrayal of men in literary history. In Anglo Saxon, Beowulf and, in several languages, the legends of King Arthur are famous examples of medieval ideals of masculinity. The documented ideals include many examples of an "exaulted" place for women, in romance and courtly love.
- Model of masculinity under fascist Italy
- Victorian masculinity
- Men's spaces
- Manliness (book) (2006)