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Measuring Masculinity by the Size of a Paycheck


John Collier, "Tannhäuser and Venus," 1901

536 words

This morning I made a post on The Spearhead titled “Is Masculinity a Matter of Money?” in response to conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager [2]’s recent essay on the four legacies of feminism [3].

The question was rhetorical, of course. My answer is “no.”

Masculinity isn’t merely a matter of money. If it were, any woman (or any man) with money would be regarded as manlier as a result of wealth alone. Is Bill Gates the epitome of manliness? Mark Zuckerberg? Oprah Winfrey? Justin Beiber? Karl Lagerfeld? All are successful and have access to substantial resources. None, with the notable exception of Oprah Winfrey, would be regarded by most men as being “manly.”

(The Oprah bit was a joke, fellas.)

My favorite comment on The Spearhead came from user “Corky Again [4]”:

Funny, but when I think about the most admired men I know from history, none of them are admired for being married or for having money.

They’re admired for winning battles, inventing stuff, creating beautiful paintings or sculptures, writing great poems or novels, exploring new territories, going to the moon, scoring the winning touchdown, expounding a philosophy, founding a religion. Etc.

Many of them were only able to do those things because they eschewed marriage and the bourgeois lifestyle. They were loners, outsiders, men going their own way…

The idea that full manhood is achieved only through financial stability, marriage and family is a womanly way of looking at manliness. It makes women the center of the male universe, and implies that success or failure as a man is directly related to achieving female approval.

This isn’t what feminists were supposed to have wanted for men. In The Forty-Nine Percent Majority, a 1976 book that I believe to be the source of many enduring feminist memes about masculinity, a whole section is devoted to breaking down the idea that men should confuse their masculinity with their earning potential.  In an article reprinted from Ms. magazine, psychiatrist Robert Gould wrote:

“In our culture money equals success. Does it also equal masculinity? Yes – to the extent that a man is too often measured by his money, by what he is “worth.” Not by his worth as a human being, but what he is able to earn, how much he can command on the ‘open market.’”

Gould finished his thinking on the matter hopefully, hoping that one day “masculinity will be equated not with moneymaking prowess but with a man’s power to feel, express and give love.”1

Gould’s warm fuzziness aside, feminists have been kicking this issue around for a while.

These days, they seem to be on the other side. Now the liberal Kimmels [5] and Hymowitz’s [6] and the Garcias [7] are aligned with neocons like Praeger and Bennett.

Today, the message from all of them is that a man is not a real man until he gets a good career, makes some money and gets married.

Sounds kind of old fashioned, really.


1. Brannon, Robert, and Deborah S. David, eds. The Forty-Nine Percent Majority : The Male Sex Role. Gould, Robert. “Measuring Masculinity by the Size of a Paycheck.” Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1976. 113-18.

Source: http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2011/11/measuring-masculinity-by-the-size-of-a-paycheck/ [8]