Peggy Orenstein’s article in The Atlantic exploring the sorry state of musculinity, as experienced by the American teenager, is well written and worth reading:
Feminism may have provided girls with a powerful alternative to conventional femininity, and a language with which to express the myriad problems-that-have-no-name, but there have been no credible equivalents for boys. Quite the contrary: The definition of masculinity seems to be in some respects contracting. When asked what traits society values most in boys, only 2 percent of male respondents in the PerryUndem survey said honesty and morality, and only 8 percent said leadership skills—traits that are, of course, admirable in anyone but have traditionally been considered masculine. When I asked my subjects, as I always did, what they liked about being a boy, most of them drew a blank. “Huh,” mused Josh, a college sophomore at Washington State. (All the teenagers I spoke with are identified by pseudonyms.) “That’s interesting. I never really thought about that. You hear a lot more about what is wrong with guys.”
In order to make masculinity less toxic, we (men especially) have to define it in positive, attainable attributes. To be masculine should mean (1) to have self-discipline, (2) to take responsibility for your actions (even when you are wrong), and, most importantly, (3) to care for people (friends, family, community, and those who are vulnerable) with your words and actions. Masculinity should be about using your strength-both physical strength and, more importantly, inner strength-to preserve and protect people, society, and nature, as best you can. I don’t think this is a new definition of masculinity, though. I think it is a very, very old one—one whose traits do not stand in contrast with femininity, but, instead, they overlap and support femininity—and feminism too.