The 1960’s saw a major upheaval from the strict and rigid social codes and norms imposed by the 1950’s. America was in the post World War II generation and wanted nothing but a return to normalcy, and this was backed by a booming economy that brought the nation a standard of living the world had never before seen. Everything was black and white, roles were clearly defined, and people . America’s returning GI’s were the good guys who had won against a clear enemy. Men were expected to be providers, career men, fully engaged in the rat race of America while remaining upstanding citizens, fathers and husbands.
Men provided, but did not hold a role as a caretaker of the children. They did not clean the house. They were sexually dominant, always making the first moves in romantic relationships, and they were strong. This generation of men was not permitted to show much emotion aside from anger. They are often remembered by their children as stoic, slightly removed from family life, incredibly hard workers with a high sense of morality and a clear distinction between right and wrong. This may be the last generation of American men who knew exactly where they belonged in society and felt like they were truly needed.
Now enter the 60’s, a time of social and political revolution that saw major movements in Civil Rights, women’s rights, and the ending of the Vietnam War which left society questioning the leaders of the nation they had once loved. A rise in divorce, women in the workplace, and changes to those traditional roles that held so firmly during the 50’s began. It demanded a change in what masculinity meant, and it doesn’t seem that men have adapted well since. Today masculinity is regarded as a lost art. The hyper-masculine displays common in advertising or ordinary life seek to take back masculine influence by defining it as aggressive, domineering, successful and sex-driven. Oddly enough, this idea of masculinity has led to prolonged adolescence, with young men spending more time in their parent’s basements living out their college days than getting well paying jobs, starting families and taking on more responsibility.
Some people have taken to blaming the 60’s for the current crisis of masculinity we see enduring today. However, I believe masculinity to be so necessary and powerful, such an equal and disruptive element to human society that it is unstoppable. The truest and highest ideals of masculinity were never upheld in the stoic father of the 1950’s. If they had been their children would not have started a revolution.
In the 60’s there was a new role that men took on, and it was largely in their activism. We see revered men who risked their own lives for the causes of social justice, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., college students who demanded an end to what they viewed as an unjust war, and a desire for truth in the political systems of the day. This did not fit the 1950’s ideal of manhood, but did that make it any less masculine?
We are in a torrential downpour of cultural relativism, where men feel the loss of the archetypal heroes they once admired at a deep, often unperceived level. Not only do they lack one particular role model to look up to, but they feel the loss of definite need and reliance on them to do a specific job, to carry out a specific work in society. Women surpass men beginning in grade school, and in the most recent recession, women outnumbered men in the work place. Colleges have seen men enrolling at the lowest rates in American history. More children are being raised in single parent homes than ever before, mostly by women. This is definitely due in part to the cultural revolutions that occurred in the 1960’s.
Maybe part of the 60’s allowed men to shed the false expectations of masculinity that didn’t resonate with the deeper truths therein. After all, can a man really be boiled down to the job he does? Can we really see through to a man’s soul by looking at his paycheck? Clearly there are parts of the 1950’s man that we still greatly respect, look up to, and even aspire to live out and regain in today's world. But the revolution of the generation of sons and daughters raised by these fathers show that there was something deeper, dare I say more spiritual that they were longing to touch. This aspect of the masculine heart is what we are still searching for to this day. Do you dare to set out and find it?
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