Adler's Theory of Masculine Protest

Instructor: Nicole Gaines

Nicole is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a master's degree in counseling.

Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler coined the term masculine protest to explain how women attempt to escape feminine roles. In this lesson, we will take a deeper look into how men and women express masculine protests.

Overly Manly Men and Tomboys

Do you remember the drill sergeant played by R. Lee Ermey in the movie Full Metal Jacket? You know, the guy that acts super tough, constantly degrades the soldiers he's training, and could not be viewed as feminine by any means.

Or have you ever met or been friends with a woman who refuses to do anything considered traditionally feminine or girly? She's the one showing the men how it's done and excels in jobs or activities that are usually considered to be masculine (firefighting, mechanics, skateboarding, to name a few).

Even though these two people appear to be very different, have you ever thought about what they have in common? Read on to see what one famous psychiatrist has to say about the topic.

Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler studied inferiority and was the founder of individual psychology.

What Is Masculine Protest?

Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler created the term masculine protest to describe the behavior of women who reject traditional feminine roles in favor of more masculine ones. And one big reason that women (and men, too) reject roles is because they want to gain power and feel more dominant in a situation.

But where does this sense of needing to feel dominant come from? It's fueled by feelings of inferiority, or the sense of being of secondary or lower status. For example, throughout history women have often been viewed as inferior and were (and to many people still are) considered to be the weaker sex. Women couldn't even vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920!

Even though women now have the right to vote and are often seen as being equal in many ways, there are still so many ways in which women struggle for equality. For instance, if you look at the current earnings of American women and men in the same position, women only earn 75 cents to the dollar a man makes. So even if a woman works just as hard as her male coworker, she will still not make as much as he does. In a situation like this, it's not hard to see why women might want to feel more masculine, because in the United States, you get paid more just for being a man. What kind of message do you think this might send to women?

How Women Express Masculine Protest

Women get nonstop messages from the media and advertising that they should look and act a certain way if they want to be considered beautiful or desirable or successful. The media highlights a very specific version of being a woman that includes makeup, dresses, high heels, and a timid demeanor. There are also some jobs that are considered more appropriate for women, such as teaching, child care, or nursing. If you think about the women in your life, they probably look a lot more diverse and unique than the women you see on television.

Women who participate in masculine protest are actively rebelling against the position that modern society has constructed for them. To them, the stereotypes about women in the media are trying to force them into a very small box, and they want to live in a bigger world that is not ruled by inequality and inferiority. One way women express this is by choosing traditionally masculine careers like firefighting, military service, or even professional mixed marital arts. These women tend to feel more equal and powerful in their own lives and in many ways they are slowly paving the way for all women.

Choosing a career as a mixed martial arts fighter could be one way to protest limiting feminine roles.

How Men Experience Masculine Protest

Do you like comic books? Have you ever thought about comics as an example of masculine protest? Well, they are! Superheroes with super strength, heightened senses, and advanced intelligences got their powers from feelings of inferiority. For instance, Batman's backstory is a great example. He became an orphan after witnessing his parents' brutal murder. From this place of feeling helpless and inferior, a superhero emerges to stomp out those 'damsel in distress' feelings.

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