American Masculinity: Defined By War Essay

American Masculinity: Defined By War Essay

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War has been a mainstay of human civilization since its inception thousands of years ago, and throughout this long and colorful history, warriors have almost exclusively been male. By repeatedly taking on the fundamentally aggressive and violent role of soldier, Man has slowly come to define Himself through these violent experiences. Although modern American society regulates the experiences associated with engaging in warfare to a select group of individuals, leaving the majority of the American public emotionally and personally distant from war, mainstream American masculinity still draws heavily upon the characteristically male experience of going to war. In modern American society, masculinity is still defined and expressed through analogy with the behavior and experiences of men at war; however, such a simplistic masculinity cannot account for the depth of human experience embraced by a modern man.
Whether engaging in European trench warfare or fighting through the jungles of Vietnam, a soldier must learn to cope with the incredible mental stress brought on by the ever-present threat of a grisly death. The physical stress introduced by poor nutrition, a harsh and hostile environment, and the cumulative physical effect of emotional trauma only serves to make a trying situation even more taxing. It is out of this violently stressful environment that the coping mechanisms that characterize wartime masculinity arise.
A natural response to such a violent environment is to simply behave in a way that portrays no weakness. If the soldier does not show any signs of weakness, he finds it much easier to convince himself that he can survive by his strength. In asserting his control over himself by hiding all of his weaknesses, h...


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...y and war still abound; however, these analogies cannot capture the full masculinity of the modern man as they do not allow for the formation of intimate personal relationships, such as that between husband and wife, which lie at the heart of ordinary civilian life.



Works Cited

Kriegel, Leonard. “Taking It.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Ed.
Estelle Disch. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. 194-196.

Messner, Michael A. “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of
Masculinities.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Ed. Estelle Disch. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. 120-137.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Broadway Books, 1990.

Petrie, Phil W. “Real Men Don’t Cry… and Other ‘Uncool’ Myths.” Reconstructing
Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Ed. Estelle Disch. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. 221-226.

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