Conservative roll-back - the hard man returns

Younger men see themselves as providers. They don't show their feelings, and a third of them think fisticuffs against women are okay. With these results, a recent survey by the organization "Plan International" triggered debates in Germany last week. Despite certain methodological weaknesses, some of the study's findings are consistent with ours. They are consistent with our research findings. We have been observing a conservative rollback in masculinity for ten years now, increasingly manifested by a fascination with authoritarian structures, more or less open sexism and a return to supposedly outdated role models.

Trend toward male craft beer is an indication

The first signs of this development were the return of the rampant full beard, intended to demonstrate original, authentic masculinity. The trend toward craft beer marked a return to primal, original and strong brews with an unmistakable individual note and distinction - after the formerly so masculine distinctive pilsner had been served more and more like sparkling wine since the 1990s: cultivated, refined, leveled. Strong men were also celebrated at the 2016 European Soccer Championships - with the Iceland hype and the resurrection of the Viking, who articulates himself in muffled sounds and performs wild, archaic dances on the sidelines.

Toxic masculinity in German rap

What began as a game with attributes of masculinity is now being taken more and more to extremes, for example in the very popular German rap culture, which celebrates toxic masculinity in its song lyrics. In literature, French author Michel Houellebecq described the triumph of - Islamic-influenced - patriarchy with fascinated horror in his novel "Submission" back in 2015: a charismatic Muslim politician surprisingly wins the election in France. He reintroduces theocracy, patriarchy and polygamy without much resistance from the population. Men are allowed to have multiple wives, and in their professional lives, they are forbidden by law to compete with women.

In German politics, on the other hand, the AfD has been working assiduously for many years on a restoration of the old male image with its traditional concept of family

As a politician, Donald Trump embodies - not only in the USA - the rollback to the old masculinity. With Trump's election victory in 2016, which his sexist outbursts could not stop, the old type of man has literally returned to world power. In German politics, on the other hand, the AfD has been working assiduously for many years on a restoration of the old male image with its traditional concept of the family.

The war reinforces the development towards old male role patterns

The times of the corona lockdowns also partially reactivated old role patterns, and many a man attained hearth immunity faster than herd immunity. At present, the male image is being re-evaluated, especially by Putin's war of aggression on Ukraine. The fighting, death-defying man who defends his country and his family is seen as exemplary in the face of the Russian invasion.

President Volodymyr Selensky became an international icon of unbending leadership. With his assertiveness and unwillingness to compromise, his clear positions and his authority, qualities of the traditional, old image of men, which had been increasingly discredited in the course of the '68 revolt, became hopeful again. Since the 1970s, a postmodern image of the man has become dominant, portraying him as soft, reflective, sensitive, yielding, communicative and open to the needs of his partner.

Men are pulverized along with their potency symbols

Many men have followed this model, especially in private contexts, while the old role concepts and power structures have often been preserved in professional fields. In this transformation, the "new man" has also repeatedly been caught in a role diffusion between the easy-going womanizer and the guy with a clear edge. Due to the increasing relevance of the gender and feminism debates, quite a few men feel pulverized in the cultural change and discredited along with their potency symbols (car, executive chair, meat consumption).

The storming of the Capitol in Washington in 2021 by Trump's archaic supporters is not least an expression of a culture war that is also becoming increasingly noticeable in this country. In Leipzig, for example, the student milieu is predominantly woke, fights against all forms of discrimination, supports women's rights and the LGBTQ+ movement, eats a vegan diet and does not stumble, while the non-student milieu is largely close to the AfD.

Division of society in terms of masculinity

This kind of division runs right through society. It is therefore not surprising that 52 percent of men under the age of 35 in the "Plan International" study state that they see their role as earning money at work, while the woman has to take care of the household.

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