• SumoMe

Men in the study chose boxing after braiding hair to "restore their sense of manhood."

In an interesting study by the University of South Florida, psychologists concluded that a man’s sense of manhood is a precious commodity that, when damaged, results in compensation or restoration.

The study went like this:

[Researchers] Jennifer K. Bosson and Joseph A. Vandello had some college-aged men do “feminine” tasks, such as braiding hair, in a laboratory. Others were allowed to do gender neutral tasks, like braiding rope.

After this, both groups were given the choice of doing a puzzle or punching a bag. The hair braiders overwhelmingly chose the punching bag, according to a release from the Association for Psychological Science (APS), which published the study. They needed to restore their sense of manhood. (Calgary Herald).

The researchers claim this result is largely because “manhood is widely viewed as a status that is elusive (it must be earned) and tenuous (it must be demonstrated repeatedly through actions).” Further, the researchers assert that womanhood is seen as a set of enduring traits that need no affirmation with their peers.

This study focused largely on what the study calls “machismo,” often interchanging manhood and manliness with machismo. I tend to find trouble with this (albeit interesting) portion of the study. Machismo is not manliness. True, machismo is both elusive and tenuous. This is because notions of machismo change over time (I don’t see anyone slapping another man with a dueling glove and pulling out the pistols these days). Modern machismo is focused around the big trucks, saggy pants, and gratuitous use of the word “bro,” rather than settling differences with the slower gunslinger’s death. Both are generational interpretations of what it means to be a macho man (I had to do it), and it’s ever-changing qualities are why it requires reaffirmation.

However, I argue that “manliness” is very similar to how the study defines womanhood: a set of enduring traits that need no affirmation with peers. Confidence, altruism, passion, perseverance, and respect are all manly traits that need no affirmation. Where machismo is presenting oneself to other men as an alpha male, manliness is proving yourself to yourself–that you can achieve your goals, care for others, live vigorously, make it through troubled times, and follow the golden rule. Machismo and manliness are fundamentally different in that many macho men lack true manliness, and many manly men lack machismo.

Aside from the (from my perspective) synonymous use of manliness and machismo, this study was an interesting method of establishing manhood. I would love to see the results of the study if each participant braided hair and then went in a room alone to choose boxing or finishing a puzzle. Was there any effect on the other participants or researcher’s presence?

What do you think? Is machismo the same as manliness? How do you see people creating or reaffirming machismo in today’s world? Leave your insights in the comments below.