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Jennifer K. Bosson, Joseph A. Vandello & T. Andrew Caswell

In: The SAGE Handbook of Gender and Psychology

Chapter 8: Precarious Manhood

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Precarious Manhood
Precarious Manhood
Jennifer K. BossonJoseph A. VandelloT. Andrew Caswell

In his cross-cultural study of manhood, anthropologist David Gilmore (1990) observed anear-universal tendency for people to treat manhood as a precarious social status, one that isdifficult to achieve and, once earned, easy to lose. Across dozens of cultures that otherwise differin many ways, adolescent males must earn their status as ‘real men’ by undergoingpainful, difficult, and/or dangerous tests of physical endurance. Even successfully passing theserituals, however, does not ensure one’s manhood status permanently: ‘Real men’must demonstrate their manhood status repeatedly through action, and those who fail to do so aredeemed unmanly. In contrast, womanhood is typically treated as an ascribed rather than achievedstatus in that it emerges naturally from biological changes and, once earned, is ...

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