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The magazine had a feature that asked men on the street how much they could bench press and then brought them into a gym to put their statements to the test.Most couldn't bench what they claimed they could, and that got Cheryan thinking: What would those men do, she wondered, now that their masculinity was threatened?Would they acknowledge that they weren't as strong as they perhaps thought? So Cheryan devised the handgrip experiment and a second one that required a male group of students to take a computer-based masculinity test with multiple-choice questions about consumer preferences and personal attributes.
And new University of Washington research finds that men who believe they fall short of those ideals might be prompted to reassert their masculinity in small but significant ways.
Published last week in , the research sought to understand how men respond when their masculinity is threatened, and looked at two specific strategies they might employ: playing up their manliness and rejecting feminine preferences.
Identifying the various strategies men use when their masculinity is threatened, Cheryan said, can help with understanding male behavior in real-life situations.
'Men have a lot of power in our society, and what this study shows is that some decisions can be influenced by how they're feeling about their masculinity in the moment,' she said.
If women believe they are falling short of those expectations, Cheryan said, they might make choices with potentially negative consequences to demonstrate that they fit gender norms -- for example, avoiding classes in traditionally male fields such as science and technology.
Cheryan got the idea for the experiments from a men's fitness magazine she was reading while working out at the gym several years ago.
Men who were told they scored low on masculinity tests were more likely to act aggressively, harass women and belittle other men.
Additionally, unemployed men were more likely to instigate violence against women, and men who were not their household's primary breadwinner were less willing to share in housework duties.
It is not because he is lazy—in fact, he is perfectly willing to spend all day helping someone else with their labor.
He is just incapable of doing anything to help his own household.