The Construction of Masculine Identity in Lithuanian and Japanese Society
Despite the geographical distance separating them and their different historical and cultural backgrounds, in both Lithuanian and Japanese society, the roots of patriarchy have remained strong right through to the present day. In both societies, the institution of the family is highly valued, and traditional, hegemonic images of masculinity are dominant. However, contemporary Lithuanian and Japanese society faces a decline in the traditional patriarchal definition of masculinity, which creates space for confusion in the construction of new patterns of modern masculine identity. Different cultural traditions and expectations about body aesthetics, lifestyle and the fulfilment of social roles highlight different ways of coping with the problem of searching for new social norms regarding masculinity. This present research aims to compare Lithuanian and Japanese men’s perceptions of masculinity in the contemporary changing societies of Lithuania and Japan. The construction of masculine identity in both societies is compared by analysing the change in perceptions of masculinity and the assumption of new social roles (employment, marriage, fatherhood) in the light of different cultural backgrounds. Images about the physical characteristics of a ‘real man’ and their interrelationship with perceptions of masculinity in terms of the fulfilment of different social roles are also considered to be an important subject for analysis. The research methodology relies on a qualitative approach. By using semi-structured interviews with single and married men aged between 30 and 35 in Lithuania and Japan, as well as an analysis of Japanese and Lithuanian polling data regarding male and female views about the socially expected attributes of masculinity and the male role in a family, this present research aims to answer such questions as: how important are bodily characteristics for the construction of masculine identity alongside with changing social experiences (employment status, marital status, fatherhood etc.)? Do men face problems in meeting the new social expectations of them as men in the family sphere? How does culture affect the construction and functioning of gender identity? Unlike research which focuses either on masculine image creation in media/society without searching for the shifts and transformations of these images triggered by changes in men’s social status, or focuses solely on the ‘familial’ characteristics of masculinity (gender roles in a family, male-father role, etc.), the present research provides new academic insights by exploring the construction of modern masculine identity in Lithuanian and Japanese societies from multiple angles: the relationship between perceptions of masculinity and changes in social roles, the cultural impact of coping with problems of masculine identity construction, and the relationship between the physical and social requirements of masculinity in different societies.