Not long ago I wrote an essay about the expression of love and how love, as garden of emotions and feelings, affects masculinity. I was eager to know how masculinity is defined and how it’s related, if it is at all, to the emotional expression of oneself.
Although a great amount of people would agree in seeing the expression of love alien to, or better to say not in accordance with, manliness, I strongly disagree. Now I might sound too “romantic” or “deep” (like some of my male friends would define me in a dismissive way hearing me talking), which is not the case anyway. However I think it’s in the man’s own good to be open to the possibility and to re-consider whether love and its expression are masculine or feminine.
We cannot talk about the link between masculinity and the expression of love without placing the issue under historical view, and to be totally honest, it seems to me that what we experience today is a conservatism from the past we are not ready to bin yet.
We would all be in accord that in general men are taught to be brave, courageous, to have firmness of character and to be bold in any and every situation. A medieval writer named Pietro d’Abano put it down perfectly. The latter is reported by historians and according to him “the male spirit was [or at least expected to be] livelier, given to violent impulses, […] long-suffering at tasks of labour, eager in deeds, able, noble […].” So you will understand that to be tender-hearted, gentle and sympathetic was indeed seen as elements of emasculation; but you have to understand also that in the past (and in some places in the present as well) the male figure was the only protector and provider of the family and therefore by default, of the society. (And at this point there are some gender equality issues that would have been interesting to acknowledge.)
Now, I understand historical facts but I have one problem with this particular one: if the expression of love is in antithesis with one’s manliness, isn’t odd to experience the birth and growth of courtly love in the Medieval Age? While discussing this issue, a friend of mine studying Literature pointed out that courtly love was mere intellectual exercise for the cultivated mind, however the case of Dante (Italian medieval writer, man of admirable intelligence, who having a wife and having been politically active, had those responsibilities that a man was required to exercise, is reported to have been “slave of love”, which “[…] incited his genius, proving this by his graceful rhymes in the Florentine idiom, which were made by him in praise of his beloved lady and for the expression of his arduous and his amorous conceits […]”) make it difficult for me to fully understand the whole case.
However, I believe medieval society was opposed to the expression of love in association with masculinity because of its power to reduce in captivity-like stage the sensible human.
According to a friend of mine today we still witness the expression of love seen as sign of femininity and therefore not worthy of a man. She sees love perceived as soppy, wet, moist and therefore unmanly. In her general view, it can be said that today we experience rational lovers, who rebuke romantic gestures and see those who do otherwise as less of men; however the case may be, these ideas seem to be linked to an unnecessary conservatism from the past, as mentioned above, and perhaps to some lack of confidence.
However, it is due to say that in this modern epoch the male figure is no longer the main provider and protector of the society (or at least he is not expected to be the only one). On this note therefore, it can be argued that to believe love and its expression unmanly and non-masculine is to deny manhood the chance to liberate itself from social conventions, daring consequently to expand its possibilities.
Surely there is at least a man out there who feels absolutely and perfectly masculine and can express his love without shame or without doubting his manliness. I strongly believe that to reinforce the notion of masculinity is to lock in a cage; it is to covey in categories the male figure, to limit his self-expression, attaching to him qualities, duties and responsibilities that are not necessarily welcomed.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE, THIS BIBLIGRAPHY WILL DEFINITELY HELP
Alighieri, D. Divina Commedia, Raffaele Donnarumma and Cristina Savettieri (eds.) (Perugia: Palumbo Editore, 2007)
Alighieri, D. The New Life translated by Charles Eliot Norton (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867)
https://archive.org/stream/newlifedanteali03nortgoog#page/n3/mode/2up last accessed on 30/04/2014
Boccaccio, G. Life of Dante translated by George Rice Carpenter (New York: The Grolier Club, 1900)
https://archive.org/details/translationofgio00bocc last accessed on 05/05/2014
Cadden, J. The Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
Cross T.P. and .Nitze W.A. Lancelot and Guenevere: a study on the origins of courtly love (New York: Phaeton Press, 1970)
Jaeger, S. C. The Origins of Courtliness: civilizing trends and the formation of courtly ideals, 939-1210 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985)
Spearing, A. C. Textual Subjectivity: The Encoding of Subjectivity in Medieval Narratives and Lyrics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) chapter 6
http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187240.001.0001/acprof-9780198187240-chapter-6?rskey=armW40&result=3 last accessed on 30/04/2014
Bullough, V. L. and Whitehead Brewer, G. “Medieval Masculinities and Modern Interpretations”, in Jacqueline Murray (ed.), Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities (New York: Garland, 1999) pp. 93 – 110
Bullough, V. L. “On Being a Male in the Middle Ages”, in Clare A. Lees (ed.), Medieval Masculinities: regarding men in the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994) pp. 31 – 45
Demetriou, D. Z. “Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity: A critique”, Theory and Society Journal, volume 30, issue 3, June 2001, pp. 337 – 361 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1017596718715 last accessed on 06/05/2014
Karras, R. M. “Separating the Men from the Goats: Masculinity, Civilization and Identity Formation in the Medieval University”, in Jacqueline Murray (ed.), Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities(New York: Garland, 1999) pp. 190 – 213
ΜcNamara, J. N. “An Unresolved Syllogism”, in Jacqueline Murray (ed.), Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities (New York: Garland, 1999) pp. 1 – 24
ΜcNamara, J. N. “The Herrenfrage: The Recontructuring of the Gender System, 1050-1150”, in Clare A. Lees (ed.), Medieval Masculinities: regarding men in the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994) pp. 3 – 29
 Bullough, V. L. and Whitehead Brewer, G. “Medieval Masculinities and Modern Interpretations”, in Jacqueline Murray (ed.), Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities (New York: Garland, 1999) pp. 93
 Boccaccio, G. Life of Dante translated by George Rice Carpenter (New York: The Grolier Club, 1900) pp. 46
 Ibid pp. 47