Welcome to GQ's New Masculinity issue, an exploration of the ways that traditional notions of masculinity are being challenged, overturned, and evolved. Read more about the issue from GQ editor-in-chief Will Welch here and hear Pharrell's take on the matter here.
GQ: Your new book, Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography, with co-author Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, debunks some commonly held ideas about the connection between testosterone and masculinity. What do people get wrong about this hormone?
Katrina Karkazis: High T is thought to be the substance in the body that produces masculinity—physically, through muscles and hair, but also behaviorally. But it doesn't actually map on very well to what we understand as masculinity.
What's an example of a stereotypically masculine behavior that actually has nothing to do with testosterone?
Aggression is a great example. Researchers say the relationship between testosterone and aggression is weak or nonexistent.
How do you think the idea that masculinity is rooted in biology impacts the way that our society views gender?
As #MeToo was heating up, there was a conversation between the writers Ross Douthat and Rebecca Traister. She asked him what's at the root of this, and he said testosterone. I think he was joking, but people believe that. And if we accept that gender hierarchies are tied to evolution and biology, then it seems impossible to change.
Testosterone often gives men a pass for their negative behavior, and a pass for their success. With titans of Wall Street, for example, testosterone didn't have anything to do with those men reaching the highest level in their field—there are other structures that elevated men and suppressed women. If biology and testosterone aren't the explanation, then we have the much harder work to do of addressing the social causes.
So, if we move away from the idea that biology explains the behavior we associate with gender, how could that open up the definition of “masculinity” a little wider in our culture?
I hope that we can stop attaching so many behaviors to masculinity as though they're exclusively the province of men. Because they often happen to be things that are valued, like risk-taking or athleticism. Conversely, I think we’re reaching a point where we can shove more under the umbrella of masculinity. Men staying home and parenting their children, or men expressing feelings in public ways, can be understood as masculine. There are many things that are shared human behavior, shared human feelings, that don't need to be labeled masculine at all, or else can be fit under the umbrella of masculinity.
How masculinity is morphing and modernizing, according to 18 influential people who are shaping our culture now.
Originally Appeared on GQ