Masculinity is defined as a set of qualities, attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men.
But an specific society, in a specific time, associates certain qualities, attributes, behaviors and roles with men, different than in other societies or times
Previously, We have been talking about the qualities, attributes, behaviors and roles associated with men in our days in our society.
So men that value, show, express and try to have all those qualities and attributes that we have seen before (when we were talking about stereotypes) or show those behaviors (we have seen when talking about roles) are the men that are at the top of the pyramid of masculinity (as our society understands).
This is the concept of Hegemonic Masculinity and we could say that, in our societies, men who conform to that have a position of leadership, they rule…
They have the power!
Activity 6 What would you say?
If you have to make a guess, to what would you say the Hegemonic Masculinity fights again?
To whom, would you say, the Hegemonic Masculinity exercise control over?
In our societies we see how the power, the goods, the privileges are reserved for a few, for those who demand and sustain that position of leadership. And that position can only survive if you oppress the ones who are below.
These ones are women (of course, the feminine) and the men who don’t fit in the shape of man they define and defend.
Activity 7 Hegemonic Masculinity
Taking into account the pyramid of Hegemonic Masculinity,
Name an example of a kind of man (a real one or an imagined example) who would belong at the top of the pyramid, in the hegemonic masculinity:
Now, name an example of a kind of man (real or an imagined example) who would belong at the bottom of the pyramid, in the subordinated masculinity:
And finally name an example of a kind of man (real or an imagined example) who would belong at the middle of the pyramid, who practice complicit masculinity:
How would you define men that practice complicit masculinity?
Why do you think men that practice complicit masculinity do that for?
According to the Australian social scientist RW Connell, Hegemonic masculinity is the type of gender practice that, in a given space and time, supports gender inequality. Complicit masculinity describes men who benefit from hegemonic masculinity but do not enact it. Subordinated masculinity describes men who are oppressed by definitions of hegemonic masculinity (primarily gay men) and marginalized masculinity describes men who may be positioned powerfully in terms of gender but not in terms of class or race.
But Who decides who is a “Real Man” in this pyramid and who is not ?
In order to find an answer, take watch the following advertisement:
Activity 8 Homosociality
What do you think this guys are afraid of?
1.They afraid of being homosexual
2.They are afraid of acting like a woman
3.They are afraid of not being men enough
4.They are afraid of what the other men think of them (correct)
So ok, it seems that most of the time BEING A MAN is being what the other men think it means to be a man. So the influence of men on other men is important.
When men gather, it is called homosociality (being social with people of the same sex).
When this social togetherness becomes a control of a stereotyped type of masculinity, you could call it toxic homosociality or gender policing; where the other men are the protectors of masculinity.
We can say that gender policing is a mechanism and social dynamic that explains the maintenance of hegemonic masculinity.
In order to do that, those in charge of maintaining it, decide who is and who is not a Real Man.
Remember, from Connell’s pyramid, that this hegemonic masculinity is set up in opposition to the feminine and oppressing it, so what would make a man being less of a man? What would make a man being out of The Man Team?
Exactly! Being closer to the feminine.
A man without the attributes that the society associates to Real Manhood, would not be at the top of the pyramid, and, of course, a man that have and/or openly shows attributes that this society associates to the feminine will suffer the same destiny: being oppressed.
So, homophobia (understood as a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian or gay) is also we find in those who protect the hegemonic masculinity.
Watch these two sequences from the movie Grease:
The reencounter of Danny and Sandy
What do you think Danny’s real feelings for Sandy are?
What feelings is Danny showing in front of his friends?
Why do you think Danny is doing that?
How do you think their friends would react if Danny showed his real feelings for Sandy?
Why do you think they would react like that?
Danny’s friends are the Manhood Warriors, so to speak, are fighting to preserve the hegemonic masculinity.
And you know what? the warriors don’t even need to be there to protect, to intimidate, to put pressure… boys and men take them into account without even realizing it when they behave the way they do…
because the warriors already live in them.
As the American feminist theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick sustains, homosocial relationships is a form of “male bonding”, which is characterized by homosocial desire and intimacy, as well as homosexual panic.
Homosocial desire refers to men turning their attention to other men, and homosexual panic refers to the fear of this attention gliding over into homosexual desire.
According to a research on coping mechanisms (how you deal with difficult situations), teen boys who feel insecure and who don’t know how to act in a balanced adult way, tend to quickly become violent and homophobic to “prove” they are strong and heterosexual.
In an attempt to emphasize heterosexuality, hatred of homosexuals and misogynist language and behaviors are developed.
If we want to balance this social inequality we have to disassemble the pyramid.
In societies that prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unjustly Feminism aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality.
And it besides working with women for their empowerment, engaging men is absolutely necessary to change things.
Lately, there have been increasing the number of national and international associations, foundations and different movements who works with men and boys to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.
One good example is the global movement White Ribbon (whiteribbon.ca). If you check their site you’ll see that “Through education, awareness-raising, outreach, technical assistance, capacity building, and partnerships, White Ribbon’s programming challenges negative, outdated concepts of manhood and inspires men to understand and embrace the incredible potential they have to be a part of positive change”.
What do you think you can do, in yours personal live, with your friends or family, at school… to disassemble the pyramid?
Think of small actions or a bigger project you involved to work on that.