Masculinity Research News

Can John Wayne Represent Stage 5 Masculinity?


John Wayne looking out to Stage 5

There is a provocative comment in response to the recent Good Men Project interview about The Five Stages of Masculinity. The commenter noted:

This is what gets me about all the people who try to “analyze” masculinity. They will say “oh well, masculinity should be whatever you want it to be…” But it’s a total lie. “Whatever you want it to be” only ever seems to count if you wear a skirt, get six piercings in your face, wear eyeliner, shave half your head and dye the remainder pink. If someone wants “their” masculinity to be John Wayne, well then that’s “toxic” masculinity.

Fair point, because if you’re serious about masculinity being whatever you want it to be, surely you have to accept, in this instance, the archetype of John Wayne? In short, John Wayne absolutely has a place in Stage 5, but here’s the important difference between the stages:

  • John Wayne at Stage 2 is about regulation: he says, “this is what masculinity should look like”
  • John Wayne at Stage 4 is about choice: he says, “this is what my masculinity looks like for me and I don’t expect anyone else to adhere to it”
  • John Wayne at Stage 5 is about the end of categories: he says, “I am John Wayne and I have no inclination to call it masculinity.”

The people the commenter refers to who try to analyse masculinity would probably be Stage 3 on The Five Stages of Masculinity. Stage 3 has an authoritarian edge that is oddly similar to Stage 2. Stages 4 and 5 are more libertarian in nature.