Monday, July 21, 2014

Men Were Already "Becoming Less Masculine" In Britain 100 Years Ago

There's been a lot written in recent years about men becoming less masculine. Various reasons are cited (and most of these links below cite and discuss other studies).

For example:
So as I was reading Erik Larson's Thunderstruck, I found his brief discussion of this topic - in Britain just before World War I - an interesting perspective.  It begins with a mention of a best selling book in 1903 - Erskine Childers novel, The Riddle of the Sands, which looks ahead to a German invasion of Britain.  It ends:
 "'is it not becoming patent that the time has come for training all Englishmen systematically either for the sea or for the rifle?'

"But this question raised a corollary:  Were the men of England up to the challenge?  Ever since the turn of the century, concern had risen that forces at work in England had caused a decline in masculinity and the fitness of men for war.  this fear intensified when a general revealed the shocking fact that 60 percent of England's men could not meet the physical requirements of miliatry service.  As it happened, the genral was wrong, but the figure 60 per cent became branded onto the British psyche. [emphasis added]
Blame fell upon the usual suspects.  A royal commission found that from 1881 to 1901 the number of foreigners in Britain had risen from 135,000 to 286,000.  The influx had not merely diminished the population;  it had caused, according to Scotland Yard, an upsurge in crime.  Most blame was attributed to the fact that Britain's population had increasingly forsaken the countryside for the city.  The government investigated the crisis and found that the percentage of people living in citizens had indeed risen markedly from the mid-nineteenth century but had not caused the decay of British manhood, though this happy conclusion tended to be overlooked, for many people never got past the chilling name of the investigative body that produced it, the Inter-Departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration.  A month later the government launched another investigation with an equally disheartening name, the Royal Commission on Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded, and discovered that between 1891 and 1901 the number of mentally defective Britons had increased by 21.44 percent.  There was no escaping it:  Insane, weak and impoverished, the British Empire was in decline, and the Germans knew it, and any day now they would attempt to seize England for their own."

This is probably a perennial topic among human beings.  And a lot of it hinges on how a culture defines 'masculinity.'  Methinks the less that we measure masculinity against the roles played by John Wayne, the better off we'll all be. 

1 comment:

  1. Men started to become less "manly" the second guns were invented and anyone of either gender could kill the other. No more need for a long bow or broad sword, things a normal female could never hope to use. Guns, the great gender equalizer.


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