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Hegemonic Masculinity

Feminist studies can be seen as a movement, especially until the 1970s, that struggles on behalf of women against single-sex discourses and practices, which were adopted by the patriarchal social formation. The patriarchal order, in which masculine power and supremacy are in question, is handled over the domination of women. The feminist movement has begun to take shape over the question and problem of how this domination works. As patriarchy is a phenomenon referring to the power of men, therefore it is insufficient to explain patriarchy through its relation to women. However, the widening of the scope of studies in this field has left significant effects on society and social sciences. Therefore, it can be said that the understanding of absolute social equality of this movement, whose influence has increased, envisages not only women but also any representative of all victims who are seen as the other by the system. Understanding how women experience their exploitation is equally important to understand how men maintain their masculine power positions and construct domination. This article aims to discuss the importance of masculinity studies in the literature and the reproduction and power of hegemonic masculinity.

In women’s studies, masculinity as the subject of gender-based power relations and the analysis of masculinity were not considered until the early 1980s. Feminist studies and movements mostly focused on the concept of patriarchy and discussed this concept as the cause of discrimination and exclusion and as the integrity of masculine power reflecting systematic masculine domination. In this sense, the concept of patriarchy has begun to be seen as a biologically reductionist and simplistic concept (Beechey, 1979). The necessity of analysis has been crucial to explain how the social relations and practices that enable the existence of systematic and continuous male domination can exist intertwined with patriarchal institutional structures (Pease, 2000). Working on this issue, Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell has succeeded in drawing attention to the depth of the subject with the concept of hegemonic masculinity, which can be defined as the core problematic phenomenon of the patriarchal order. The hegemonic masculinity conceptualized by Connell was inspired by philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s hegemony theory. The concept of hegemonic masculinity is not accurate to examine gender relations and roles within the mere framework of femininity and masculinity; it reveals the fact that there are more detailed and complex relationships.

Figure1: A man who imagines himself with various types of masculinity.

There are certain roles and responsibilities imposed on each individual from their own childhood in society. These roles and responsibilities constitute gender. The acceptance of masculinity as a phenomenon shaped in the social context has been realized thanks to the perspective brought by feminist theories to the field of social sciences. It has been accepted that masculinity, like femininity, is shaped and reproduced within gender relations (Kimmel & Messner, 2009). Early feminist thinkers accepted that women had common oppression without much consideration of different relations such as race and class (Connell, 1987). Based on this acceptance, the understanding of the different contexts of oppression created by different experiences of femininity in feminist studies and the attention given to the concept of difference led to the development of masculinity studies. As the claim that femininity is an area of common interest arising from the total oppression of women has become debatable, the assumption that there is an area of total common interest among men arising from the oppression of women has been questioned (Nagel, 1998; Levy, 2007). These discussions have allowed for the acceptance of different masculinities and their different masculine power positions. A single masculinity formation can not be mentioned sociologically. As Connell argues, as seen in different gender positions, masculinity should be thought of as a commodity that is created in the context of a power relationship and that is owned or lost by being articulated in different contexts.

Figure 2: Analogy on the effect of masculine power on men.

While the first studies tried to explain what was understood and what characteristics were envisaged by masculinity, they declared that there is no universal, single, and consistent definition of masculinity (Pleck & Sawyer 1974; Connell, 1985; Dowd, 2010). In general, masculinity can be defined as a gender form that represents the gender order socially established on the basis of power and the cultural, ideological, linguistic, and political continuity produced accordingly (Carrigan et al., 1985; Connell, 1987). This gender form is established into masculinity by taking on the roles assigned to it under the influence of the cultural climate in which people live today. Those who cannot be integrated into society are recognized with various sexual identities and marginalized and oppressed so as to be kept at the edge of society.

The effort to understand social power relations based on gender differences has developed not only with the concept of patriarchy, which leads to the oppression and marginalization of women by men but also, in relation to the analysis of reproduction that occurs when the concept of gender becomes a guide. The need to develop an explanation associating dominant masculinity styles with power relations and the desire to understand the relation of all men from their connections with these power patterns led to the development of the concept of hegemonic masculinity. Connell, in her work titled “Gender and Power” (1987), defined the universally existing gender system as a kind of power regime in which men control and benefit from power relations. This regime of power was functioning as a system of social and cultural practices that made it possible for men to learn the dominant masculinity values ​​by learning from the previous generation. A dominant masculinity model, which is potentially encrusted by institutionalized structures such as the market, family, army, state, and laws in this system, is the main dynamics operating the regime. According to Connell, this system makes masculine domination possible by causing men from different ethnic, social, and cultural groups to adopt dominant masculinity values ​. That is, hegemonic masculinity does not arise from self-sustaining masculinity behaviors that are embedded only in cultural practices and traditional habits.

Figure 3: A metaphorical work as shaving patriarchal problems

The concept of hegemonic masculinity tries to explain how minority men, who fully hold masculine power and suppress other masculinities, hold all power, capital, and power positions and allow reproduction by legitimizing the social relations that constitute their dominance. (Carrigan et al., 1985; Levy, 2007). Also, Connell uses this term to describe how some men are successful in making it seem normal, natural, and necessary that they dominate other men and many women; it tries to explain why some women and men contribute so willingly to their subordinate position and how resisting hegemonic masculinity will be beneficial in achieving gender justice (Levy, 2007). The male group holding the power does not make a significant difference in numbers, but this situation is a hegemonic formation fed by the approval and complicity of a large section of men because financial gains and privileges are offered to different masculinities in return for approving, participating in, or not speaking out for hegemonic masculinity practices. Masculine power does not create fully free subjects. The power wants to create an individual model that makes its subjective experience functional for itself. This is hegemonic masculinity. Even tlthough hegemonic masculinity belongs to a small class of men, a number of different (other) forms of masculinity are brought forward by hegemonic masculinity in certain ways, which is providing opportunities for the representation of these masculinities in society. In other words, hegemonic masculinity is built on an oppositional relationship with masculinities from other classes, races, and genders (Nagel, 2011), so such pawns and various institutions are needed for hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy to go together.

On the other hand, Connell stated that established dominance occurs in a balance of powers and is a competitive form of existence, and in this context, hegemonic masculinity is different from a general male gender role, and there is no personality trait or a real male character. In this sense, what’s being talked about here is an ideal form of masculinity. However, such an ideal of masculinity does not necessarily coincide tightly with the real identities of the vast majority of men (Connell, 1987). The important thing is to create the ideal through various institutions and of course to maintain this ideal through practice.

Figure 4: The cyclical pattern of how hegemonic masculinity is produced, reproduced, and perpetuated.

Although not all men fit this definition, what maintains the continuity of this hegemonic masculinity, or in Connell’s words, what is the reason for this complicity? Connell explains these as fantasy satisfaction, displaced aggression, and most importantly, the fact that most men benefit from women’s subordination (Connell, 1987). Here, too, the fact that masculinity is given, in other words, that it is social and historical, comes to the fore. The judgments about masculinity tend to be subject to generalizations, as in earlier discussions of patriarchy in early feminist studies. Classifications such as Latin masculinity, Muslim masculinity, and third-world masculinity are examples of stereotypes and offer non-intellectual perspectives against masculine domination critiques. For instance, when research on differences between masculinities gained importance in the 1980s, hegemonic masculinity typing was conducted on individuals with characteristics such as white, middle class, heterosexual, and business owner (Connell, 1987). Undoubtedly, the list can be expanded within the scope of different times and places and different features can be listed. However, it is also a fact that there is no stereotyped masculinity with the listed criteria or identities that can be attributed to all men. The small and minority class that really holds the hegemonic masculinity comes into play. Forasmuch as the actors that are effective in determining and reproducing the ideal criteria in question are the fields of institutionalized patriarchy. For example, media communication tools are the institutions that determine and present the ideal ones are the structures that have this power.

In conclusion, hegemonic masculinity has become a much more widely used concept with the development of masculinity studies. This concept describes a social order that most men benefit in some way, regardless of their social and cultural context. There is an order in which various masculinities (and femininities – however, the relationship between femininity and hegemonic masculinity will be discussed in future articles) are articulated into a power network centered on men. The argument that men will have a common interest in the subjugation of all marginalized identities, regardless of their lifestyles and preferences, is put forward through this concept (Connell, 1987). Hegemonic masculinity points out a global masculinity alliance order reproduced by institutional structures and practices that privilege and enable dominant masculinity values based on mutual consent on behalf of the interests of masculine power.

Bibliographical References

Beechey, V. (1979). On Patriarchy. Feminist Review, 3, 66–82. Carrigan, T., Connell, B., & Lee, J. (1985). Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity. Theory and Society, 14(5), 551–604. Retrieved from Connell, R.W. (1985). Theorising Gender. Sociology, 19(2), 260-272. Connell, R.W. (1987). Gender and Power: Society, the Person, and Sexual Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press. Retrieved from Dowd, N.E. (2010). Asking the Man Question: Masculinities Analysis and Feminist Theory. Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 33, 415-430. Retrieved from Kimmel, M.S. & Messner, M.A. (2009). Men’s Lives. Karen Hanson. Levy, D.P. (2007). Hegemonic Masculinity. In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, G. Ritzer (Ed.). Nagel, J. (1998) Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender and Sexuality in the Making of Nations. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 21(2), 242-269. Pease, B. (2000). Recreating Men: Postmodern Masculinity Politics. California: Sage Books. Pleck, J. & Sawyer, J. (1974). Men and Masculinity. New York: Prentice-Hall. Retrieved from

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