Masculinity in Estonian Public Discourse: Perpetual Crisis?

Raili Marling (Tartu University)

Masculinity seems to be in a state of perpetual crisis in the Western world today, including in Estonia, where the ‘threats’ to ‘true masculinity’ are believed to be both external (e.g., EU legislation) and internal (e.g., Estonian women). The present-day media hype effaces the fact that masculinity crisis as a discourse has been prevalent in the West at least since the late 19th century and has been almost inexorably linked to modernization. Building on the work of Bederman (1995) and Forth (2008) the paper will, first, outline the associations between masculinity, the nation and modernity and, second, transpose the discourses into present-day Estonia to test their viability in the post-industrial context. Although theoretical in its intent, the paper will be illustrated with case studies (editorials from the Postimees, the film Kirjad inglile (Letters to the Angel)). The core problem investigated is the contradiction between the reality of male power and the discourse of male weakness and, more broadly, the function of the masculinity crisis in gender order.

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