Masculinity & Femininity

By: Nicole Beswitherick

In this week’s readings, we learn a lot about fascism in relation to the role of women and masculinity. What stood out to me was the key theme of the active participation of women in all situations of these readings and how they related to fascism, dictatorship, and masculinity. In Laurie Marhoeffer’s article, it was mentioned in a nutshell that men-men relationships were viewed as this bad and evil thing, especially by the Nazi party. As most of us can gather, homosexuality was not always as accepted as it is by today’s standards. However, while all of this was going on, while it still wasn’t considered a good thing, lesbianism was not “as bad”. The author states that asking whether lesbians were persecuted for lesbianism obscures what happened. This is because neither terms serve well in an analysis of this historical issue. Marhoeffer also includes statistics like, only 2% had a run-in of any kind with the Gestapo, and only 17% of women or “transvestites” were concerned they would have an encounter. It is also known that women are typically more affectionate and loving towards friends than men are. So criminalizing lesbianism would allow for many unfounded denunciations. In a humanities class at Carleton, I learned in my first year that in the old testament of the Christian Bible, things like this are viewed similarly from a historical standpoint as opposed to a religious one. Men-men relationships were frowned upon because to not love a woman is unmanly, but a relationship between two women was not looked upon as much because they are already the “weaker sex”. That is the summary of it anyways.

In the reading by Lopez and Sanchez, women played another key role in the Spanish Civil War by hiding and helping in the survival of men. However, they’d be murdered for it, along with other reasons. Women still fought on the front lines in this war, but the reading said it would be only about 1,000 women. I think that during this era, and of WW2 Nazi Germany, there was this strong persona of what a man should look like, and what a woman should look like. Thomas Kuhne gave a good example when showing a photograph of a man pushing a baby stroller. This was looked down upon because that was a job of a woman. This ideology has been engraved into the heads of so many men and women, and yet we wonder why there is so much toxic masculinity. Men, in this time specifically as it is the focus, were told they cannot push the baby stroller, instead, they must work, fight for their country, etc, etc. They are supposed to be these figures that are strong, powerful and brave. I think this is also partially why it was (and still is) difficult for some men when women can do the same work as them and sometimes better. It really hasn’t been until recently that society is normalizing, for example, that men can cry and show these “feminine” emotions.

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