How to be a man
Contribution to Book
Spain in the nineteenth century: New essays on experiences of culture and society
Andrew Ginger and Geraldine Lawless
Manchester University Press
Rethinking the Nineteenth Century
‘Slugs and snails and puppy-dog tails, that is what little boys are made of’. Many of us are familiar with the nursery-rhyme recipe for little boys, but few have considered the ingredients that made Spanish men in the nineteenth century. During this period of shifting status borders and social jockeying—especially in urban centers—identity formation, and gender identity in particular, became a topic of anxiety and constant scrutiny. Conduct literature promised to address the issue of how to be a proper man or woman, turning men into hombres finos and women into ángeles del hogar. The right clothes to wear, the appropriate words and gestures at parties, how to treat a woman, these were just a few of the lessons to be found in Rementería y Fica’s best-selling El hombre fino al gusto del día, manual completo de urbanidad, cortesía y buen tono (1829). Such explicit efforts to normalize male behavior reflect a significant interest in establishing a hegemonic model of masculinity. This essay uses R.W. Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity to discuss the evolution of masculine ideals in the nineteenth century. Specifically, it examines the role of conduct literature and popular culture in shaping a new breed of man, one that culled the most desirable qualities of rough and refined masculinities as the gender discourse in nineteenth-century Spain attempted a delicate balancing act between the perceived effeminacy of strict social decorum and the dangerous hyper-masculinity of a bygone era.
McKinney, Collin, "How to be a man" (2018). Faculty Contributions to Books. 175.