ScienceDaily (May 3, 2011) Think It’s Easy to Be Macho? Psychologists Show How ‘Precarious’ Manhood Is
Manhood is a “precarious” status — difficult to earn and easy to lose. And when it’s threatened, men see aggression as a good way to hold onto it. These are the conclusions of a new article by University of South Florida psychologists Jennifer K. Bosson and Joseph A. Vandello. The paper is published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“Gender is social,” says, Bosson. “Men know this. They are powerfully concerned about how they appear in other people’s eyes.” And the more concerned they are, the more they will suffer psychologically when their manhood feels violated. Gender role violation can be a big thing, like losing a job, or a little thing, like being asked to braid hair in a laboratory.
In several studies, Bosson and her colleagues used that task to force men to behave in a “feminine” manner, and recorded what happened. In one study, some men braided hair; others did the more masculine — or gender-neutral — task of braiding rope.
Given the options afterwards of punching a bag or doing a puzzle, the hair-braiders overwhelmingly chose the former. When one group of men braided hair and others did not, and all punched the bag, the hair-braiders punched harder. When they all braided hair and only some got to punch, the non-punchers evinced more anxiety on a subsequent test.
Aggression, write the authors, is a “manhood-restoring tactic.”