Changing Male Image

August 29, 1980

Report Outline
New Attitudes and Values
Men's Altered Family Roles
Insights into Male Sexuality
Problems for the Young and Aging
Special Focus

New Attitudes and Values

Transformation of the Masculine Image

If the 1960s was the decade of youth, and the 1970s was the decade of women, then the 1980s could be the decade of men — at least in the opinion of some social trend watchers. “American men are on the edge of a tidal wave of change — a change in their very identity as men,” feminist Betty Friedan said recently. It is a change not yet clearly visible or completely understood, but its effects could be as important and far-reaching as those wrought by the women's movement, she added. “Men's liberation,” as the new phenomenon sometimes is called, is seen by many as the “second stage” in the sexual revolution. “Now it is the male consciousness that is being raised,” said Dallas psychologist Michael E. McGill. “The whole way men look at themselves — their work, their social responsibilities and their emotional lives — is undergoing a tremendous readjustment.”

A generation ago, the accepted male role emphasized such traits as competitiveness and aggressiveness, while the accepted female role stressed such qualities as gentleness and passivity. In the past, “those polarities were relied on as evidence of psychological health,” said Evan Leepson, a behavioral psychologist who practices in New York City. “Today, however, established sex-role definitions are being replaced with more meaningful descriptions of human behavior.”

This is reflected in alterations in family life and sexual attitudes that have begun to blur traditional male and female roles. The rapid increase in the number of working women has forced men to redefine their responsibilities both at work and at home. As wives have assumed a greater part of the economic burden of supporting their families, husbands have had to share in more of the domestic tasks of homemaking. At the same time, psychologists say, men have been freed from many of the “functions of dominance” — pressures to conform to society's demands that they act as aggressive bread-winners, always keeping their feelings under wraps.

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