Constructing Hegemonic Masculinity

[Cross Post:]

In my current reading for sociology of masculinity (tutorial) I have run across some interesting and some disturbing conceptions of what drives masculinity. In the article I was focusing on tonight the author (Sharon Bird) conceived of a masculinity formed by three basic principles:

  1. Emotional distance
  2. Competitiveness
  3. Sexual objectification of women

I find the concept somewhat disturbing, but I cannot deny it either. It seems as though the current baseline of hegemonic masculinity is still founded on those ideas. I have come to accept item 2 about masculinity, but I cannot believe that 1 and 3 still hold that firmly in practice for most men. The problem with hegemonic masculinity is in the separation of the gender role and the gender identity. In hegemonic masculinity the gender role is everything that is conceived of and accepted as “masculinity” in societal norms. Gender identity on the other hand is the components of masculinity that a male decides to use, and also some components that may not reside in the standards of masculinity. The identity often contains an acknowledgement of the role and what is required to maintain a masculine identity in public. Hegemonic masculinity in the gender role side is static and self-protecting (through fag discourse and other social sanctions). This limits the amount of influence that anyone can have on it. While gender identity is always evolving, gender role is what it always has been.

One of the key components of hegemonic masculinity is a clear separation of men and women. It is what allows men to define themselves. The emotional distance is designed to protect the male from appearing weak and also provides a certain amount of control in social situations. The competitiveness functions as a way of establishing a hierarchy of distinction between men. An individual male must define himself and defend his right to be a male by being “better” then someone else. This trait of distinction is always what leads to sexual objectification of women. Men prove their significance and power by proving that women are inferior. In sexually objectifying women this boundary is established.

If I were to approach the topic from a Freudian perspective I would say that men who subscribe to hegemonic roles have developed a system of ego defense and are dependent on their own status and distinctiveness in the world for emotional stability.  From a conflict (Marxist) perspective I would see it as the normal way of the world. The Marxist perspective is the most optimistic, since it provides the hope that the women and the subordinated men will create a unified social presence and overthrow the influence of the hegemonic standard.

[thought to be continued]