Archetypes in Competition: Couldn’t They Just Get Along?

I’ve been reading Michael Kimmel’s Manhood in America: A Cultural History and in the first chapter he introduces a few archetypes of manhood, or masculinity, that were prominent as the United States first became a country. He argues that the “Self-Made Man” archetype became the dominant one over the course of America’s history, and actually gained dominance fairly early on. This led me to wonder if the various gender archetypes are/were always in competition for ideological dominance in the United States, or if they could have been (and are) peacefully coexisting. Is is always a struggle for hegemony? Don’t people construct their gendered identity from a mixture of archetypes, drawing on characteristics inherent in each one to form a masculinity they can successfully embody? Or even unsuccessfully embody. Is the ideal always one archetype, or can is be cobbled from facets of different ones?

For example, one archetype Kimmel discusses places an emphasis on civic duty–that a man’s masculinity was measured in how he contributed to his community. Cannot that coexist with the Self-Made Man’s emphasis on personally acquired wealth?

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Filed under Gender Trouble, Historical

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