Post- Modern Man: On Masculinity, Fatherhood, and Work
Today there is widespread consensus among men from all backgrounds, cultures, and socio-economic statuses that men are ready and willing to take a more active role in the lives of their children. Also, men today are resounding with one voice that the variables that make a man are no longer the same variables as their fathers swore by.
men have been viewed as workaholics; they live by the masculine ethic, which was
to work hard. They knew that in
order to get ahead in the world, or to move up the corporate ladder, they had to
throw themselves into their work, sacrificing their family and their own
women move more and more into the work force, and with social change and
economic shifts, men are rethinking everything about themselves.
There is this “new man”, a man who is no longer shuttered and
sheltered by “male” ideologies. This new man has never been seen before.
now, he has had to live by standards and principles imposed him either by
himself or by society. In his modern days, women and the media held the modern
man in contempt. Modern man for a
long time carried the burden of “breadwinner” whether he wanted to or not.
Modern man could never seem to get fully in touch with his emotions, and
therefore he hid them underneath his veal of toughness and rigidity.
the process of time, judgments were passed on modern man. He was charged as being a dead-beat dad.
He was also accused as giving in to the pressure of carrying his family
on his shoulders. Modern man for the longest time could only sit there as the
charges rang out, charges stemming from not cleaning the house to abandoning the
media, women, other men, and the government all had their chances of laying
various charges against modern man. However,
just before the verdict came in, and right after the last charge rang out
against modern man “men are not really needed in the home” man peeled off
the clothes of modernity and put on his “post-modern” attire.
man is different. The post-modern
man is concerned more about how can he model before his family, in a new way,
what it means to be a man. The
post-modern man longs to have more intimate relations with his children.
He is not simply talking about it- he is doing it.
For the post-modern man talk is cheap.
Being crippled and in some cases paralyzed with the negative effects his
father had on him, post-modern man is fully in-touch with who he is and is not
afraid to try more than way emotion or attitude.
In this paper, I will explore the post-modern man.
First I will explore his post-modern masculinity.
My goal is to show that the post-modern man is no longer concerned with
brute strength nor is he concerned with being the cool-headed, action-oriented
protectors and problem solvers. Instead,
he aims to demonstrate that men are more concerned with being lovers, good
husbands, and providing good fathering (Levant 1995, p. 176). The post-modern man is learning that sensitivity and
responsibility are the true marks of masculinity.
Second, I spend considerable time exploring the variables that makes for
good post-modern fatherhood. I will
highlight the fact that the post-modern man wants to do and is doing whatever it
takes to be more involved in the childrearing process.
The post-modern man is tired of taking the back seat to mothers when it
comes to childcare. The post-modern man wants to make it clear that just because
he does not care for the child in the same way the mother does, he is not wrong
for doing it the way it works for him.
Third, I will relate the
post-modern man’s concept of work as it relates to his post-modern masculinity
and his post-modern fatherhood. The
goal of this paper is to provide strong enough evidence that men deserve and
should be viewed in another light. My
goal is to dispel the critics and their views about men.
I attempt to lie to rest the modern man and all of his flaws, and present
to case that there is a new man on the horizon-- he is the post-modern man.
Modern Man: On Masculinity
any other time in history, men are ready to rethink and reshape their
masculinity. In modern times, men
were taught to be tough, repress their feelings, and to never shed tears.
Living in those modern times men were often times required “act” like
a man and to “manly” things like mow the lawn or shovel the snow, they had
“think” like a man. These and
many other pressures were placed on the modern man.
Where did all this kind of thinking come from?
Men’s Lives, Kimmel and Messner provides a foundation for such
thinking. They believe that much of
this thinking came about in childhood as boys played sports.
They assert that many of the men they studied said that they began to
play sports because of another person in their family (male) played sports
(Kimmel and Messner 1995). Most
boys wanted to be just like their other males in their family
majority of boys say that they got into sports because their brother or uncle or
even because their father played sports. Although
that may be the case, many young men who grow up in single mother homes played
sports also. Many times young boys
are placed on teams where there is an overwhelming male presence.
No wonder why when boys grow up thinking they are superior.
This is due in large to the way we as adults socialize our boys.
we want to believe it or not, we adults plant the seed of segregation and sexism
in the mind of our children. As we
continue to segregate children, we will only continue to increase the idea of
sexism and segregation in the mind of children. “Young boys may initially find that sports
gives them the opportunity to experience some kind of closeness with others, but
the structure of sports and athletic careers often undermines the possibility of
boys learning to transcend their fears of intimacy” (Kimmel and Messner 1995).
What that means is that we teach our boys how to be so competitive while
forfeiting the idea of intimacy. In
these sports, boys are taught to be competitors, minimizing what it means to be
As boys become men, these ideas and concepts of masculinity, i.e., being aggressive, overly competitive, and tough all carry over with into manhood and are then manifested in other parts of their lives. The modern man has been trapped in this web of masculinity for many, many years. The modern man has boxed himself in with only knowing how to be tough, a competitor. However, the post-modern man is marching to a different beat. He is willing to show his masculinity in different ways and in different aspects of his life.
it comes to childcare, the post-modern man has profoundly redefined masculinity.
At one point in time, men were considered too macho and that it was not
the manly thing to be active in the child rearing process.
That is not the case with the postmodern man; he is no longer timid and
reserved in providing childcare.
change that is seen in childcare by the father is that he is not at a distance.
The post-modern man is in touch with his emotions and wants to be close,
even intimate with his children. In
their article, Brandth and Evande explore the importance men place on being
close with their children. “Being
a good father…means being a close person for your children, being genuinely
concerned about your children and interested in following their development,
giving them closeness and contact and showing them that your are fond of them (Brandth
and Evande 1998). This is what
providing good childcare is about. Masculinity
does not shy away from this responsibility--it embraces it.
It meets the challenge and then overcomes any of the obstacles in its
way. One of the things that the
postmodern man has overcome in terms masculinity is in the area of work.
postmodern man believes in work. However,
it is no longer like the modern man’s concept of work where he throws all of
himself into his work. The
postmodern man is different. Work
is a major basis of masculine identity for the postmodern man (Brandth and
Evande 1998). The modern man
never knew, even in some cases refused to learn, how to balance work and family.
He was driven by the good provider norm.
Levant (1995) explains that the good provider “used to be that men
could come home from a day at the steel mill…felling something akin to the
hunter’s sense of manly pride and satisfaction in having really sweated and
faced danger to provide for their families” (p. 175).
He believed that if he worked hard enough, his family would appreciate
him and he would in turn feel like a “man”.
modern man worked so hard trying to prove his masculinity in how much work he
had to do in order to provide for his family, that he became a workaholic.
Levant (1995) explains, “It’s no wonder, then, that men invest
themselves so deeply in work. Given all the satisfactions and rewards it
provides it’s perfectly possible…for men genuinely to find work more
enlivening than anything else” (pp. 184-185).
postmodern man fights hard every day to eliminate this type of behavior.
He has let go of the reins he placed on his wife to stay home and clean
the house. The postmodern man has
seen the benefit of a dual earner family. Things
have changed for the postmodern man. He
is tired of the rat race. He has
relinquished the title of breadwinner and has adopted other means of assuring
that the family is provided for so that he does not, essentially, have to kill
himself in the process. Not only
has the postmodern man figured out that he does not have to kill himself working
hard for his family, he has also found other meaningful way to express his
masculinity. There are sweeping
changes in the way the postmodern man considers masculinity.
In a recent study conducted by Ronald Levant, he explores many of those
traditional masculine norms only to find that men today are quite different from
the modern man.
it comes to the avoidance of femininity, it used to be that men drew a hard line
between masculine and feminine behavior. However,
the postmodern man has come to terms with and feels that is it important for him
to get in touch with his feminine side. Also,
the postmodern man disagrees with the notion that a man should never cry in
public, as where in modern times, men were to told to restrict the expression of
emotions. In coming to terms with his feminine side, it has led to a
greater appreciation for intimacy.
terms of intimacy, the postmodern man no longer views his woman or women as sex
objects, but he strives for more intimacy, sensitivity, and the idea that a man
should love his sex partner. The
modern man was not seen as a man unless he achieved lots of things and had
status. Although that is still
important to the postmodern man, achievement is not the only thing that matters
and he is willing to share power more.
modern man was taught at an early age how to ‘stand on his own’.
The postmodern man understands that he can’t do everything on his own.
It is o.k. for him to ask for help.
Beginning in his youth, the modern man was always supposed to be strong
and aggressive, eagerly wanting mommy to ‘feel my muscles’ (Levant 1995, p.
The postmodern man has boldly challenged the traditional masculine code, and he has done so successfully and with the approval of many women. The postmodern man is still “masculine.” What he has done is that he has allowed himself to express it other ways and in other styles. Coming to terms with these various expressions of masculinity undoubtedly flies in the face of the modern man. That is o.k. I like to think that if you have been trying something for so long and has not produced the desired results, then one should change his/her approach. That is exactly what the postmodern man has done. He has found the courage to journey into uncharted lands, and surprisingly he is gaining back much of the ground that he lost in modern times.
no other area is this profound postmodern effect has taken place than in the
family. The postmodern man has
found a way to incorporate his masculinity into his family life.
These two go hand in hand, feeding off of one another.
His ideas and philosophy has dramatically changed.
As I explore the postmodern man and the profound effect his masculinity
has had on fatherhood.
Postmodern Man: On Fatherhood
the most challenged and often scrutinized segments of society has been
fatherhood. It has been in the
“frying pan” for some time now. It
has been peeled, pulled apart, dissected, and examined unmercifully by the
media, women, and in some cases other men.
Why has fatherhood attracted so much attention?
The reason why I think it has received so much attention, either positive
or negative, is that fatherhood is an honorable estate.
It is my assessment that people today are angry with fathers.
They are angry because some are behind on child support payments, will
not take out the trash, and simply will not put in the time to help raise their
children. What I do believe is true
is people are reluctant and in some cases unwilling to recognize that
fatherhood, postmodern fatherhood, is the one key element in reclaiming our
families, neighborhoods, and the honor of our children.
Most men would say that they do not need a father or have made it on
their own without the help of a father. On
the contrary, I think if given the opportunity, deep down within, they would
want to have some relations with their father.
Fatherhood is honorable, attractive, and deserving of respect. The modern man, however, has tainted that image of
fatherhood. He allowed the modern
masculine code to dominate his thinking. In
Fatherhood, Marsiglio writes, “Although negative images of fathers are
not new to the cultural landscape, they may have become more prominent in recent
years partly because of greater media exposure” (Marsiglio 1995, pp. 3-4).
The media has portrayed fathers as sex hungry infidels who do nothing but
get women pregnant and leave them. With
the changes in the economy and the lack of job opportunities, father abandoned
the home. Hood writes, “With the
increasing rates of out of wedlock childbirth and divorce, absent fathers are
becoming numerous (Hood 1993, p. 27). For
a man to be a real man, a postmodern man, he cannot afford not to have
stipulations and requirements placed upon him.
Without those requirements, there will be a steady increase of absentee
The modern man, when it came to fatherhood, was viewed as problematic,
meaning that he was “non-essential” in the home.
David Popenoe (1996) states, “In pre-modern times, the absence of
father was considered a tragedy. The
father who left their children voluntarily left his children was considered
unmistakably deviant” (Popenoe 1996, pp. 3-6).
The postmodern man views fatherhood in very different light.
have shown that fathers (the postmodern ones) are more involved in the rearing
of the children than a generation ago (Woodworth, Belsky, Crnic 1996).
Women have been the focus of childcare for the past 4 decades.
They have been given the credit for nurturing, teaching, and feeding the
children. For whatever reason men
have been shut out of the childcare research, the postmodern man is making a
Studies have provided many variables that indicate why men are becoming
more involved in childcare. One
variable is marital satisfaction. According
to Feldman, Nash, and Aschenbrenner (1996), fathers who experienced greater
marital satisfaction were more involved with their young children.
The postmodern man is making all necessary attempts to create a happy
marriage. He is interested in the
condition of his marriage, and if the mother helps in establishing happiness,
then fathers will play a more intricate role in the childrearing process.
Another variable is social networks.
Studies show that “men with more extensive and satisfactory networks
were more interested in their role as parent and spent more time with their
toddler” (Riley 1990). The
postmodern man believes that if he has a good network of friends to hang out
with, being responsible with his time, then he will spend more time with his
children. Everyone needs time away
from the house. If he has family he
wants to spend time with, he should be able to do so.
The mother would not have to worry about him abandoning her, because the
postmodern man is responsible. Having
a good family and good friends helps the postmodern man to become involved in
childrearing. Along with that,
having a good stress-free job helps also.
If the postmodern man can go to work and feel good about his job, and
experience occupational satisfaction then, as studies suggest, he will spend
more time with his children. One
study showed that “men with more challenging and intrinsically engaging jobs
treated their children less harshly than men with less satisfying occupations”
(Greenburg, O’Neil, Nagel (1994). Being
a father is stressful. Men have
tendencies to take out their frustration on their children.
However, the postmodern man releases that tension and aggression on his
job. If his job is stimulating
enough and allows him to not get so stressed, he then has the energy to spend
with his child and do so in a loving tender manner.
This is in contrast to the modern man, who works stressful jobs, bringing
that stress home and taking it out on his family.
It only seems obvious that if he is happy on the job, then the chances of
coming home, getting involved in household chores are great.
In terms of housework, men who do more household chores are more involved
in the lives of their children. The
postmodern man, thanks to the changes in the economic system, is spending more
and more time in the home. Mom has
followed her dream of getting into the work force and Dad has not stopped her.
In fact, studies show that when it comes to child care, the more time the
mother spends outside of the home (at work) the more time the father spends with
his children (Aldous, Thoroddur, and Gail 1998).
These variables are causal for the postmodern man to feel good about
himself and raises the chances of him being involved in childcare.
While these are more pronounced for the postmodern man, yet another must
dual earner family is another variable that is making considerable headway for
the postmodern man. Dual earner
homes means both parties are bringing in an income to support the family, not
just the husband. Many women began
to want to use the father as a means of saving money rather than putting it into
childcare centers. As dual earner
families become the dominant structure for families with children…there has
been an increase in the number of families who avoid the use of paid child care
by substituting fathers for paid childcare providers (Glass 1998).
did mothers know that fathers, especially the postmodern father, have wanted
this opportunity for years. Fathers
have wanted to provide care for their children, but the mother has stifled them.
Mothers are often always around when fathers want to spend time with
their child (Glass 1998). The reason why this is a problem is because men have
scrutinized for the way the care for children.
Just because fathers are a little more tough and rougher with children
does not make them bad parents.
point has to be made clear that some fathers do provide haphazard childcare and
are some cases reluctant to do at all. However,
that was the modern man. The
postmodern man is far more responsible and prepared to take on more childcare
the mother works, research shows that fathers are then able to carry out their
child rearing responsibilities the way they know how to do it.
The economic squeeze has benefited the father more than it has hurt him
(Glass 1998). He enjoys staying
home. In some cases, the postmodern
man says that he takes his child for long walks, goes fishing, and even spends
quality time with his child. I hypothesize that the level of a father’s involvement in
childrearing is related to the mother’s employment status.
This is directly related to the amount of hours the mother works.
It is also clear that couples in which the wife worked full-time were
more likely to share equally in the physical care of their child (Darling-Fisher
and Tiedje 1990).
this evidence demonstrates is that the postmodern man is in full control of his
masculinity, which has a direct causal effect on his fatherhood.
Although there are still many modern men around, the research indicates
that men are stepping up to the plate and meeting the responsibility with
eagerness. With this said, I am
compelled to argue against Stacey’s remarks when she said, “if there is a
crisis, it is primarily a male family crisis” (Stacey 1996). Stacey clearly
has failed to realize that men are not the same today as they were decades ago.
Crisis does not have to come from only male families, they come from
female families also. Stacey
and the rest of society will have to open their eyes and see that there is a new
masculinity, a new fatherhood, and a new way that men view their work, this new
man is the post modern man. He will
no longer allow himself to viewed as a waste of time or a good for nothing; he
is here and he is here to stay-so we need to accept it.
Men have made considerable strides towards changing the image that once
plagued them. Those changes have
come not only in masculinity and fatherhood, but also in how men view work.
The Postmodern Man: On Work
It is important to look at how the postmodern man views work. The way that the postmodern man approaches fatherhood is directly linked to his concept of work. They go hand in hand. The postmodern man has found ways to incorporate in his time with his family. He does not bury himself into his work, forgetting about his family. He now makes his family the number one priority.
work is a fundamental part of a man, it does not have to consume him.
In accordance with masculinity, work is a major basis of masculine
identity (Brandth and Evande 1998). The
modern man was driven by the ethic of “breadwinner”.
From boyhood to adulthood he was told that this is what makes you who you
are--how hard you work. The
postmodern man can deal with the fact that he does not have to work so hard,
although there still some cases where that is not the case.
terms of childcare, the postmodern father finds satisfaction with taking off
work to spend time with his family and to provide childcare. The role of “provider” has become less important the
postmodern man (Brandth and Evande 1998). As
stated earlier, the postmodern man is more concern with spending quality time
with his children and working on becoming more sensitive towards his wife.
Therefore, the postmodern man finds work that provides him with a great
deal of independence and has less stress so that he can provide proper
developed such a rich identity with work because men grow up being prepared for
“the real world”. According to
Levant (1995, pp. 176-177) we have been socialized to work and must learn all
the manly skills and trades that come with being a man. Why do men work? What pay-off does work give men?
men have believed so strongly in working because so much of their masculinity
depended on it. In modern times, a
man is a man only if he could work his head off.
This is what identified a man. In addition, traditionally, men believed
that they were to be the only provider for their family.
Many marriages went down the tubes and many men became workaholics based
on this way of thinking. Levant writes, “that’s when a man fells most in his
element, when he’s working. He is
much less confident of his skills as a family man, because he never learned how
to do relationships” (Levant 1995, p. 176).
The postmodern man has a very different character. The postmodern man is learning how to balance work and family. According to Levant, “men are beginning to refuse job transfers and to make more use of paternity leave and flexible work schedules to spend more time with their family” (Levant 1995, pp. 187-188). Even with the postmodern man being more assertive in this area, there are still many modern men who are thorn in the side for the postmodern man.
The postmodern man has come a long way in terms of his new idea of work, but he still finds this area one of the most challenging. As stated earlier in this section, he feels that the work is most challenging because of the way that he grew up. Men are socialized to work. With this knowledge, however, men must take better care of themselves when it comes to work.
Men have an ability to ignore signs of wear and tear on the body. He does know when to say when and stop the work. This is of serious concern for men. Stress is a factor that plagues many men. Levant (1995) believes that men need to face up to the fact of stress and do something about it. He adds, “instead of paying attention to these symptoms, men ignore them and try to bull through. However, a man cannot reduce stress by ignoring it” (p 190).
Although the postmodern man still struggles in the area of work, he understands that being a good provider does not always mean in terms of dollars. As I have discussed earlier, the postmodern man largely believes in more intimacy and being more of a nurturer. With a better idea of work, he helps in providing good childcare and is prides himself on being a good husband.
Many social organizations promote good fathering and are there to support men who are trying to do the right thing. It is my position that we as a country must give men another chance. No one, even men themselves, can over-look the damage that has been left by men. It has been a long hard road for men to travel. From king of the castle to being thrown out of his castle, men have seen and felt it all.
This is not a prescription to heal the wounds caused by bad fathering or workaholic men or even overly masculine men. However, it serves as a notice to the reconditioning and reshaping of men. He is postmodern because he sees the mistakes he has made and is willing to correct them. He is postmodern because he is no longer known by his muscle tone or deep voice. He is postmodern because like a real man, he has taken a step back, has assessed his condition, and has found ways and means to improve his condition.
As a society, we owe the postmodern at least a chance to get back into the saddle again. Let it be known the postmodern man is here. He looks a lot different from the modern man. Maybe that is part of the struggle. Maybe we want the modern man to continue to exist so we have another social problem to chide and probe. It is my attempt to promote the advances of the postmodern man and to become a beacon of hope and a voice for the speechless.
Much more research is needed, however, on the postmodern man. If there are those out there who are bold enough to step out of the traditional way of thinking about men, and can appreciate the strides made by the postmodern man, then they should stand up and be heard. We are different from our fathers. We are different not in biology or physiology, but in ideology. Our attitudes are different. Our emotions are different. Our character is different. We are postmodern men.
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