Men, boys and masculinities

Norms of masculinity affect how men and boys see themselves in relation to women and girls (gender identity), shaping their behaviour, and the behaviour they expect from others – male or female. These norms vary across different cultural contexts and social groups, and while some can facilitate social relationships, others uphold gender inequalities. Among adolescents, for example, they include expectations that boys’ views are more important than girls’, that ‘real boys’ do not do household chores, or that sexual harassment of girls is just ‘teasing’. 

Some norms of masculinity can also undermine the well-being of boys and men where, for example, they encourage risk-taking that endangers health or push older boys into the labour force at the expense of their education. Boys and men who reject prevailing norms of masculinity can also be subjected to gossip, ridicule and violence.  
Initiatives to promote gender equality are increasingly recognising the need to transform harmful norms of masculinity, and there is a growing body of evidence on how this can be done. ALIGN’s resources on masculinities bring together insights on how these norms fuel gender inequality and showcase effective strategies for change.