I was intrigued by this post since I myself am a regular reader of The Art of Manliness (which, interesting to note, is a collaboration between Brett and his wife Kate McCay).
The original post asked,
"In a society where the more gender-fluid, modern, “metro-sexual” male seems to be the fashionable norm, and where gender stereotypes are thought of as out-dated and destructive, the popularity of this blog, and the articles, books, and merchandise associated with it, raise the question: how much have American attitudes towards masculinity really changed in the last 80 years?"
I would begin by suggesting that American attitudes towards masculinity have been a topic of interest for American literary figured for much longer than 80 years. Furthermore, questions about the meaning, shape, and form which manliness takes have a long precedent in world literature. Yet I agree that it seems to be a topic which is of special interest for American authors. The enduring popularity of early American author James Fenimore Cooper (and his well-beloved Natty Bumpo) and the continued study of Washington Irving's short story Rip Van Winkle are just two examples which we have discussed in my current English course.
But to return to the original question, we hear a great deal in the media about gender stereotypes being "out-dated and destructive," yet I agree with the original poster that the existence of such a large online community suggests many people aren't convinced. I count myself among that number. At their worst, gender stereotypes involve pigeon-holing individuals and compelling them to act according to inflexible, rigid social patterns; at their best they reflect the lived reality of many men and women that there do seem to be differences between the sexes. Are they true 100% of the time? No. But to attempt to deny general differences seems to flout centuries of lived experience.
Helpful here may be a passage from the introduction to the blog authors Brett and Kate McCay's book Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues:
"Both genders are capable of and should strive for virtuous, human excellence. When a woman lives the virtues, that is womanliness; when a man lives the virtues, that is manliness.
"Women and men strive for the same virtues, but often attain them and express them in different ways. The virtues will be lived and manifested differently in the lives of sisters, mothers, and wives than in brothers, husbands, and fathers. Two different musical instruments, playing the exact same notes, will produce two different sounds. The difference in the sounds is one of those ineffable things that is hard to describe with words, but easy to discern. Neither instrument is better than the other; in the hands of the diligent and dedicated, each instrument plays music that fills the spirit and adds beauty to the world."
I think the musical analogy is an eloquent one for discussing things like masculinity and femininity. In our contemporary culture the discussion of masculinity often raises eyebrows and can raise alarms as an assault on femininity or women's rights. I don't think the two are at odds; they are, as the analogy suggests, complementary.