What Is The Crisis Of Masculinity?

Updated April 4, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

What does it mean to be a man? Do you know how to answer that question? Does not knowing how to answer that question terrify you?

Men's inability to define their place in a changing society has become a crisis. Mixed messages have become the norm, and the idea of masculinity is shifting—hurting the men affected by it, which has the potential to hurt everyone else.

How masculinity became a crisis

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Before the last hundred years or so, nobody asked what it meant to be a man. Men and women were different, and that's just the way it was.

A British sociologist named John MacInnes said, "Masculinity has always been in one crisis or another.” There isn’t one person who came up with the crisis per se. Still, there have been many speculations from different sociologists and philosophers who have focused on the crisis of masculine identity and how it impacts our society.

Some experts claim the recent crisis in masculinity dates back to World War I. During the war, many women were taking over the roles traditionally held by men while they were off fighting. Post-war masculinity ideals were shifting already when men returned to women who had joined the workforce and were earning their own wages.

Since women's roles in society are changing, many men feel uncertain about how they fit in. For now, deciding what it means to be a man is an every-man-for-himself operation. Here we'll give you some tools and resources that you can use to answer the question for yourself.

The crisis of masculinity: An identity crisis at its core

Some people will joke about the crisis of masculinity like it isn't a big deal. We live in a time when women are gaining ground when it comes to freedom, power, and opportunity. While this is a great thing, it is eroding a historical sense of what it meant to be a man. Urban development means that many men no longer need to cut firewood and grow a garden. Hunting has taken a back seat to screen time, and YouTube is quickly replacing the front porch. This cultural shift has many positives, but you can't blame men for being a little confused. Culture takes time to change, and the crisis of masculinity is simply society adjusting to that change.

Of course, the masculinity crisis isn't men complaining about how women have rights and power and opportunities now; that's not the problem. The problem is that for a long time, masculinity meant a certain thing about femininity. It means to be a woman is changing, which means that many men aren't sure how to see themselves. The crisis of masculinity is a crisis of identity on a grand scale.

What does the crisis of masculinity mean for men?

The crisis of masculinity means several things depending on who you are.

Older men, for whatever reason, tend to see the crisis of masculinity as an attack on their values. Today, young adult men are the ones who are often the most affected by the crisis. Researchers have even suggested that increasing drug use and rising violent incidents in young adult men are widely the masculinity crisis results.

For example, Indiana University Bloomington professor Y. Joel Wong, Ph.D., found that men with traditional masculine norms—specifically, a paternal family hierarchy, self-reliance, and playboy behavior—were significantly more likely to develop mental health problems. It's not the fault of men; society has upheld and forced these traditional masculine norms onto men for hundreds of years. Now, society is shifting, and men with traditional masculine views are being dismissed in this shifting process. This leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress for these men.

This is a problem because we need to consider every group of people (even men who haven't suffered from sexism in the past) to create and implement sustainable solutions in society's mission for equality.

As mentioned, research suggests that holding onto past, traditionally masculine norms harms men's mental health today. One of these norms is self-reliance; due to self-reliance, men are less likely to seek help when they genuinely need it. Professor Wong explains, "Self-reliance may have been helpful in the past, but it is becoming increasingly outdated in our interdependent world."

Resolving the crisis of masculinity

It's easy to confuse toxic masculinity with traditional masculinity. Many people wrongly assume that masculinity is a crisis. That's not exactly true. As long as gender exists as a social construct, masculinity will exist as a part of that construct. To say that masculinity itself is the problem is dangerously reductionist.

The problem is that society has changed, and masculinity has struggled to keep up. Until it does, the crisis of masculinity will continue to hold back men and women alike. So, how do we resolve it?

One way is for every man to determine for themselves what it means to be a man. That is, what it means for them—not what they think it should mean to them or what they think it means for other people. This will help us to define a new masculinity that gives us a model on how to live life while giving us the tools that we need to live that life in a healthy way; without getting in the way of other people living their lives.

One place to start is with all of the positive aspects of conventional masculinity like strength, self-sufficiency, and responsibility. We can hold onto these things while dropping all of the negative aspects like bottling up emotions, being aggressive, and the need to be on top.

This approach can even help to rectify some of the problems with old masculinity. For example, how much sense does it make that self-sufficiency is masculine but knowing how to cook, sew, keep a clean house, and do your laundry aren't?

Advocates of the old masculinity will see this as they release more power to women. And it does give more power to women. It also gives more power to men. Life isn't a zero-sum game.

The crisis of masculinity and the romantic relationship

As we've mentioned, masculinity is important to how men see themselves. Not knowing what it means to be a man can lead to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and stress. Having rigid, outdated standards can also have the same effect. However, determining what it means to be a man can help you develop stronger mental health and build a more meaningful relationship with your partner.

Having your definition of masculinity can also help you to be a more confident man. That's because you can compare yourself to yourself to become a better person rather than comparing yourself to some nebulous idea of manliness to try to become a manlier man—whatever that means and regardless of whether it's a good thing or not.

Talking to an expert

If the crisis of masculinity is affecting your relationship or your happiness, there is something that you can do. You can talk to a licensed counselor. Licensed counselors are often experts in gender studies, but that doesn't mean that they will tell you what it means to be a man.

They will help you understand how to be comfortable with your strengths and address your weaknesses. They'll also help you express your feelings to start, build, and maintain a healthy relationship. Talking to a counselor does not make you weak. An expert can be a powerful tool to use in maximizing your happiness.

They won't set you up with anyone, but they can help you understand what you want from a relationship so that you can start to look in the right places.

Finding an expert

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An alternative in these situations can be meeting with a counselor over the internet. One service that allows this kind of interaction is Regain. Regain partners clients to one of the thousands of licensed and professional relationship counselors. Interactions take place over video chat, phones, on-platform chatrooms, or even via text. This makes it more convenient and more affordable than in-person relationship counseling. For more information about how online therapy can help you and your relationships, visit https://regain.us/start/.


Masculinity is in crisis, but that doesn't mean that you have to be. Whether through your soul searching or with a professional's help, you can keep your cool and find healthy and successful relationships that are fulfilling for you.

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