If you've been around enough people, at some point you will most likely hear someone use "gay" as the equivalent of "bad". I worked as a music teacher for a year at a school, and nearly every piece of music I played was either "gay", "so gay", "so (expletive) gay", or "not bad". Not that I'm complaining about the next generation's lack of appreciation for good taste in music (they'll love the blues someday...maybe), but rather the terms used to define bad.
The American culture has certainly undergone leaps in the right direction as it accepts more lifestyles outside the man/woman dichotomy, but the danger is not recognizing the more subversive elements of intolerance. I accept that I am not part of the traditional stereotype known as "the guy". But wait, you'd say, this isn't the 1950's anymore; there isn't some Marlboro man riding off into the sunset who can save the townsfolk by smoking, watching sports, flexing muscles, and making demands that no one can ignore. I totally agree, but as a casual observer of culture, I look to the big media for example of what is commonly defining "maleness".
If these stereotypes are part of the social compact that we all live by, then someone is in charge of defining what makes maleness and its corresponding stereotypes. Our post-modern culture is created and sustained through language and images, meaning that we define our national character of gender through what we see and read. What do we see, anyway? What do men do for a living on TV, for example? The examples I can easily think of are: doctor, lawyer, policeman, hero, game show host, sports icon, and politician; positions defined, in large part, through power, influence, strength, and money. If you traveled back in time to 1950, what jobs do you think a young boy would want to have? We talk the talk of change and how far we have come since those dark and sexist days, but have men really made any substantial transition? Are men able to exist in non-traditional roles?
Go to PsychINFO if you have access and search for men in non-traditional roles. I read one paper on men who work as elementary school teachers. They were often accused of being pedophiles or unable to connect emotionally with their students. Many assumptions like this still exist. I also think back to the big "metrosexual" craze of a few years ago when it was culturally acceptable to care a little more about one's appearance (a masculine taboo). Metrosexuals were quickly replaced by what was termed "retrosexuals". A system in power will always exert influence to return to a status of power, and our culture made that obvious shift when it went "retro". Looking at magazines for men gives the same impression. Men like red meat, sex, sports, boobs, gadgets, cars, being muscly, fast cars, boobs, and boobs. I'm not saying that is the situation for all men, but rather the impression being doled out through the channels that have the largest audience. What if you're a man and you don't like sports? I know I am. Almost all my friends know that about me as well, and I make no bones about how boring I think sports are in general. What bothers me is that my gender, and thus a large part of my identity, is put into question when I make the choice to go against the norm.
Like I stated before, norms are created in a social compact, and the norm for masculinity still linked to the same qualities. What happens when a man takes on "queer" attributes, like enjoying clothes or musical theatre? If I went to the sports bar down the street and started singing the greatest hits of Sondheim, I'd probably leave with (best case) lots of name calling or (worst case) little to no teeth. Masculinity is linked to power, and because masculinity is linked to gender attributes, then denying those attributes is akin to denying one's status. My denial of status throws the whole power structure into question and makes other men feel uncomfortable, because why should I actively lower my status?