New Masculinities: What Are They?

In the media, books, and social networks, there's a lot of talk about new masculinities. Let's see what it's all about along with some examples.
New Masculinities: What Are They?
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Reviewed and approved by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 22 June, 2023

Masculinity is understood as the behaviors, social roles, and attitudes assumed by male children, youth and adults. It’s mediated by biological and cultural factors, so it’s a very complex construction. Today we’re going to take a look at new masculinities, which are the behavioral trends, social roles, and attitudes of the new male generations.

If you were born during the eighties or nineties, the ideas that you’ll find below will seem more than obvious to you. However, it must be borne in mind that, for millennia, certain paradigms of what society believes a man should be have prevailed in a good part of humanity. Let’s see how these paradigms have been broken down and what has replaced them.

What are the new masculinities?

As experts point out, the social construction of masculinity evolves in response to changes in society and culture.

During the last few decades, the social movements that have encouraged gender equality, sexual freedom, and the greater participation of women have had a direct impact on masculinity. To understand what these new masculinities are, it’s good to contrast them with traditional or hegemonic masculinity.

It’s precisely in this struggle of contrasts that we find the heart of the matter. Traditional masculinity is one that has prevailed for millennia in a large part of society. That is, the figure of the dominant, aggressive, rude man with leadership attitudes. It also alludes to the idea that the man is in charge of looking out for the home and putting food on the table, and the woman looks after the children.

Specialists point out that both traditional masculinity and traditional femininity are based on well-defined stereotypes, which we have seen time and time again in literature, cinema, and education.

Due to the aforementioned social changes, this hegemony of what is considered masculine has mutated into new trends that radically distance themselves from these principles. Despite this, some researchers propose the term hybrid masculinities.

Hybrid masculinities allude to the assimilation of traditional values in conjunction with the new modern stereotypes of masculinity.

The reason is very simple: when accepting the new masculinities, the dominance of the values that have traditionally been attributed to men isn’t completely eliminated. Instead of completely substituting some values for others, in practice, there’s a process of hybridization.

How do the new masculinities manifest themselves?

The new masculinities and the concern for the image
Although it used to be frowned upon for a man to worry about certain aspects of his personal image, today this issue is changing.

As these experts indicate, new masculinities manifested themselves first with a greater participation of men in caring for their children. This change wasn’t only due to social pressure during the 20th century, but also to financial needs.

Certainly, for a couple of decades, the inclusion of women in the labor field has demanded that men also take charge of looking after their children.

In this case, the new masculinities are related to paternity. This is the best example to understand the new masculinities, although, of course, we can cite many more. Let’s see some ways in which this idea is currently being developed in the men of the new generations:

  • The commitment to monogamous relationships
  • A greater openness to express feelings
  • Receptivity when respecting the leadership and participation of women
  • A change in the paradigms of dressing
  • Greater care of personal appearance (in contrast to the typical image of the disheveled man)
  • Downplaying who earns more in a relationship or who pays the bills
  • Active participation in household chores
  • Regulation of speech expressions
  • Less tendency to dominate, excel or impose their idea or vision of the world on others
  • Less tendency to drink alcohol and smoke
  • Greater independence in general (especially when managing basic activities by yourself)
  • Greater attention to academic training
  • Lack of concern for showing their strength or power in front of others
  • A tendency to seek help when they aren’t able to do certain activities (especially those that, traditionally, man should know about)
  • Greater openness to accept and understand the sexual preferences of others
  • An openness to jobs that don’t require strength, dominance, or power

Many of these statements may be obvious to our readers, but the truth is that until only 60 years ago (or less) they were to be found in many unlikely contexts. This is just a selection of how new masculinities develop in today’s society, although we can of course list hundreds of other examples.

Due to all this, some use the term masculinity in crisis to refer to the rejection or forgetting of the values that have traditionally been coined for men.

As we have already warned, these changes are encouraged by social changes, so they’re constantly evolving. It’s for this reason that it isn’t possible to determine universal qualities of the new masculinities, since year after year they evolve just like society does.

The researchers point out that these changes in human values are also encouraged at the political level. Among many other things, they do so through global campaigns that condemn gender violence and greater participation of women in high-ranking positions in state management.

Educational plans, advertising, movies, literature, and the media also promote new masculinities.

Final thoughts

The new masculinities are quite diverse.
The important thing about new masculinities is to understand that the concepts associated with sexuality and gender change over time.

Men born at the end of the last century are more receptive to assimilating the trends of the new masculinities. Specifically, those who live in Westernized countries. Indeed, the new masculinities aren’t something we find in all nations, or not to the same degree that we have shown earlier.

For example, one cannot speak of new masculinities in countries with highly orthodox practices. There’ll certainly be greater flexibility in certain contexts, but it won’t be comparable to what has been achieved in European or American countries. Older adults, the result of their education and the context in which they grew up, are less receptive to it, and they may even go so far as to condemn it outright.

Be that as it may, new masculinities seem to be gaining more and more ground in society. In many ways, they represent a greater freedom for some men to express themselves outside of the traditionally established canons. It remains to be seen how the next decades evolve along with other changes in society.

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