The Image of Man Essay
Throughout the past few centuries, man has been notorious for his masculinity. However, masculinity was labeled by the changing societies and ideals, creating different aspects of manliness. By objectifying human nature, people began to stereotype. By stereotyping, it mad it easier for people to understand by perceiving and to a great extent passing judgment on another human being.
The stereotype of masculinity seemed to arise somewhere in between the second half of the eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. With the beginning of the modern age, Europe started to enter a more visually oriented age, therefore making the formation of the male body become key. Europeans began to homogenize, or look at man as a type, rather than an individual. They believed that there was no reason for individual change and wanted the men to accept measure up to the ideal of masculinity. Masculinity was strengthened due to the positive stereotyping, however for those that did not conform to this label or fit in with the ideal, were negatively stereotyped. Nationalism and masculinity went hand in hand. As masculinity became adopted as part of the national stereotype, they initiated their growth together. Mass stereotyping was bourgeois orientated. At first, mass stereotyping was for intended purposes of being and open ended process, yet it eventually turned into a distinct ambition. Women, during this period, projected chastity and innocence. While men and women were thought of as not equal, they were thought as to compliment each other. Racism, especially towards the Jewish and Africans, became clear and developed from the judgment of masculinity. Because the ideal had already been set and put into play, the counter parts, Jewish, Africans, or others, had no room to advance. The ideal of masculinity started to sway as the Enlightenment approached and came. The model was of humanistic spirit, rather than the anatomy and returned to the ideas of socialist men such as Max Alder. However, this shot at changing the normative male stereotype failed.
The bourgeois was the main component in shaping the ?modern man?. But, there were previous contributing factors to the molding of this masculine stereotype. Medieval ideals lasted well into modern times. Chivalry was a main factor and to be called a coward was a great insult. The duel had been a ritual since the sixteenth century and was fought for male honor. Aristocratic ideals consisted of the linkage of blood, or lineage and descent. Theses ideals were primarily based on warrior caste. The ingredients in forming this modern masculinity, was through the combination and adjustment of both aristocratic and bourgeois classes. This merging of classes started to reflect in the way society saw man. By the end of the eighteenth century the standard of masculinity was measured by looks, appearance, and behavior. In Germany, the bourgeois male code of honor was used as a status symbol. Jewish people were gradually excluded. And the elite fraternities would have male dueling. In France, the duel was not to kill, but to display manly qualities. By the end of the nineteenth century, the emphasis was basically pointed at justice and equality. ?If a man defends his honor for sole purpose of appearing honorable, the honor code ceases to fulfill its original function and becomes a travesty. (20, endnote #21) This justice and equality began when the duelers would handshake at the end of a match. Duels went on and became a form of exercise and meant not only moral toughness, but physical as well. The duels along with other undertakings started to set a standard, which becomes known as the new masculine modern stereotype. The masculine ideal valued the physical, moral, and visual perceptions, and became a symbol of society and nation. The Enlightenment focused on the joining of the body and spirit. Johann Kaspar Lavater’s theory comprised of seeing people through their physical, such as their color, nose, eyes, and bodily structure. He stated that the Greeks were more beautiful than the people of today and if a man could base his beauty on the Greeks then they would attain moral posture. This general principle was derived from actual concrete evidence such as engravings and statues. With the turn of the nineteenth century, came the gymnastics ideal, which was the beginning of the sculpted body. Sports and gymnastics ranged from swimming, dancing, fencing, skating, riding, and marathons. Guts Muth, who had later followers in France and Italy, pronounced, ?A fit beautiful body indicates a noble soul.? Unlike other countries, such as England believed in team sports to portray manliness. These organized sports gave the impression of a ?truly chivalrous football player?, and regarded sports as a manly virtue. Men also could not be seen without a women, or be in isolation. There was a definite sex division, and women were perceived to be a step below a man. A woman was considered an object of male power. The outsiders, or the countertype to the modern man was due to one’s origin, religion, or language. People that were not considered in the social norm were the Jewish, gypsies, vagrants, criminals, insane, and sexual deviants. The Jewish were the main target in German novels in the nineteenth century, since they were looked at as being without roots, unsettled, and a menacing presence. Gustav Dore, the creator of ?The Wandering Jew?, a woodcut, was used in anti-Semitic propaganda. Anthropologists during the eighteenth century denoted the difference between whites and non-whites, by pointing out the diversity of the facial measurements to those of the superior European species.
The Great War gave way to many changing ideas. The old masculine stereotype and counterpart were being challenged and revised by the new society that was forming. Two new ideals were also being formed; the warrior and the socialist. The warrior seemed to add new features to the already existing manly ideal of the First World War, while the socialist seemed to created a whole new stereotype and rejecting the already in play normative stereotype. The warrior ideals were courage, sacrifice, and camaraderie. The warriors considered the war a test of their manhood. To serve a higher force above the individual was considered the paradigm of warriors, which is then self-explanatory as to why nationalism and masculinity are so closely intertwined. The Great War had added new qualities to the ideal of manliness such as will power, hardness, and perseverance. The qualities that the men used to fight in the war were then taken home with them and used on an everyday basis. War and the qualities it generated, did not redefine masculinity. It simply strengthened old ideas. While the war went on, another ideal opposite to the warrior ideal started to grow. The socialists rejected the war. This ?new man? model consisted of a masculinity based on solidarity, renunciation of all force, and rejection of nationalism. Marx Adler, an Austrian socialist wrote a book called Neue Menschen, Gedanken uber Sozialistische Erziehung (A New Humanity: Thoughts About Socialists Education, 1923). In his book he writes about a ?new man? by belief in humanity. French Communists and German Communists, a second ?new man?, possess and produce an image of aggressive virility. The socialists and communist’s ideals, although attempted repeatedly, never become firmly rooted. Both warrior and socialist ideals failed due to the fact that they were too extreme and too opposed to the already disposition of men and women.
The traditional ideal of masculinity is still here today. After the First World War, the ideal of manliness seemed to get tougher as the war ended. Violence was prone to be seen in various places such as movies, television, and comic books. Women receiving abuse from men was found quite frequently after the war, but mainly in the United States rather than Europe. The ?Beat Generation? during the 1950’s in the United States, which also destined the youth of Europe, seemed to have a high experimentation rate. Men were experimenting with men as well as women, and both sexes with drugs. The music of the time, encouraged dancing, which in turn encouraged the re-evaluation of the body. Women started to not follow the fashion rules and would not adorn themselves, while men grew their hair long. This ?Third Gender? as they called it, soon became a widely known mania. Today, the image of man is based on respectability. The stereotype of man has been around and through every aspect of society. The question should not be about the stereotype disappearing, but it eroding. Throughout the years the male stereotype reflected the public image of manliness. The stereotype signifies one of the most long lasting and essential conventions of yesterdays and today.
I believe that the world can be a more peaceful place when humans start to realize that life is too short to be fighting with one another. Respectability rules here too. In order for anyone to listen and understand each other, we need to respect each others opinions. I think that stereotyping is an unhealthy idea. When we stereotype we automatically segregate people for the sheer fact that there is an unspoken rule about that typical stereotype. If everyone could get past trying to put people in a place and work on recognizing who they are, I believe we would have a much more peaceful world.
Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity
George L. Mosse
Oxford University Press, Inc
New York, New York