Against all evidence to the contrary, American men have come to believe that the world is tilted – economically, socially, politically – against them. A majority of men across the political spectrum feel that they face some amount of discrimination because of their sex. The authors of Gender Threat look at what reasoning lies behind their belief and how they respond to it. Many feel that there is a limited set of socially accepted ways for men to express their gender identity, and when circumstances make it difficult or impossible for them to do so, they search for another outlet to compensate. Sometimes these behaviors are socially positive, such as placing a greater emphasis on fatherhood, but other times they can be maladaptive, as in the case of increased sexual harassment at work. These trends have emerged, notably, since the Great Recession of 2008-09. Drawing on multiple data sources, the authors find that the specter of threats to their gender identity has important implications for men's behavior. Importantly, younger men are more likely to turn to nontraditional compensatory behaviors, such as increased involvement in cooking, parenting, and community leadership, suggesting that the conception of masculinity is likely to change in the decades to come.
About the authors
Dan Cassino is Professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Executive Director of the FDU Poll.
Yasemin Besen-Cassino is Professor and Chair of Sociology at Montclair State University. She is the editor of Contemporary Sociology.
"This fascinating study reveals how threats to traditional masculine identities can fuel political polarization and anti-female backlash, but also shows that some men respond by reworking their definitions of masculinity in positive, egalitarian ways."
—Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s
"This compelling, highly readable, wide-ranging book deftly maps the shifting terrain of American masculinity and the complex relationship between men's identities and social behavior. Masculinity is dangerous, but fragile; based on traditional roles, but highly adaptable. As Besen-Cassino and Cassino illustrate, this malleability also sows the seeds of social change."
—Philip N. Cohen, University of Maryland
"This timely, well-researched social scientific study is based on the premise that men perceive themselves to be less advantaged than they once were compared to women and, in response, engage in what the authors describe as compensatory acts, sensing a threat to their masculinity. ... Recommended."
—S. J. Bronner, CHOICE