Masculinity and The Ideal Citizen

By: Andreea Gustin 

This week, we focused on the topic of Consent, Coercion and Acceptance in relation to gender and sexual identity – specifically how these ideas played a role in authoritarian and fascist regimes in Europe. The sources we covered all centered on the theme of understanding how authoritarian and nationalist regimes used gender and sexuality to create the boundary between the “ideal” citizen and the opponent. 

One of the main focuses regarding this theme was the concept of masculinity. Kühne’s article, Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich, stressed the importance of, what he referred to as, “hard masculinity” to the fascist ideology in Nazi Germany. There was a lot of pressure on the men to be physically, emotionally and morally tough. This masculinity made up the ideal citizen; strong, aggressive, resilient and in control. 

However, what I also found interesting was the discussion of protean masculinity and “soft” manliness. This, according to Kühne, could be displayed if one was ready to prove – or even better if he had already proved – “hard” manliness. Soldiers were facing difficult and tragic situations and there was acknowledgement that they faced periods of weakness. However, it was not the periods of weakness or “softness” that mattered, but the fact that they were “manly” enough to overcome it. This piece was the one that got my attention the most out of this week’s sources because it was interesting to gain some perspective on the fluidity and ambiguity of the experiences of masculinity in this kind of all-male homosocial setting. 

2 Replies to “Masculinity and The Ideal Citizen”

  1. Hi Andreea! I also found Kühne’s article intriguing, particularly when discussing the fluidity and hierarchy of masculinity. It can be easy to associate masculinity with “hard” characteristics, like strength, stoicism, and power. The idea that soft masculinity in Nazi Germany existed is ironic, but soft masculinity helped soldiers of different classes and religions form social bonds outside of civilian society. This social bond was necessary to further the suppression of the individual identity for communal survival. Moreover, defining the masculine identity certainly created a hierarchy among men, separating the powerful from the weak. However, even “weak” men were still considered more powerful than any woman. The 1940 cover of NS-Frauenwarte depicted this hierarchy, as it featured the soldier, the farmer, and the worker with a woman in the background. This idea of a male social bond perhaps contributed to the longstanding concept of a “boys’ club” that historically excluded women.

    1. I hadn’t thought of overcoming weakness that way before,but I think you’re right. By allowing and encouraging men to have weak moments and giving them the chance to overcome their weakness, they not only enabled men to prove their “manliness”, but would also allow them to serve as examples to others serving within the ranks and inspire them to do the same. Whether by mimicking each other or competing to prove their manliness, Nazi Germany was definitely able to craft men dedicated to denying their weaknesses.

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