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Hegemonic Masculinity Essay

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Updated: May 2nd, 2019


This essay attempts to critically and comprehensively review the concept of hegemonic masculinity. The hegemonic masculinity theory is particularly significant in understanding concepts such as the predisposition of men to violence, the evaluation of social network analysis in relation to hegemonic masculinity and the links between social identity and the occupation that someone belongs to.

The essay begins with an introduction and an analysis of the concept of hegemonic masculinity and proceeds to critically analyze articles that address the concept in relation to gender and social change.

Hegemonic Masculinity

Hegemonic masculinity, an influential theory in gender studies was first advanced by R.W Connell; the phrase is used to describe a social construct that is a benchmark for evaluation of all other forms of masculinity.

(Momsen, 2004 p.81-83) Hegemonic masculinity restricts and defines masculine behavior within a given social context and all other forms of masculinity are seen to be subordinate to it. In the society, hegemonic masculinity is not the prevailing form of masculinity; rather, it is a standard, endorsed by the society, against which, men are measured (Schipper, 2009 p.19-20).

Hegemonic masculinity is a theory that proposes that, there exists a normative standard for male behavior in society; men in the society are meant to attain these set standards of masculinity. The theory is characterized by the inclination of men to dominate other men and to subordinate women. Hegemonic masculinity is characterized by aggression, self reliance, and ambition, attitudes that are encouraged in men but are discouraged in women.

Several criticisms have been leveled against the Hegemonic masculinity theory. Connell, the original proponent of the theory cited his inspiration as being rooted in feminist theories that dealt with the concept of patriarchy and the associated issues about the role of men in altering the concept of patriarchy. Critics contend that the theory is responsible for fostering negative attitudes towards the concept of patriarchy (Howson, 2006 p.64).

It is claimed by critics of the theory that hegemonic masculinity is only a theoretical perspective and it cannot be translated in the real world situation. A critique advanced proposes that the theory can be conceived as a type of projection that deliberately victimizes women instead of men.

This victimization is done either collectively or limited to individuals. This is to say, the theory cannot be closely contrasted or applied in examining the lives of any real men. Furthermore, the critics of the Hegemonic masculinity theory propose that the theory fundamentally misconstrues the mental representation of male identity.

Critics also associate the theory with fostering attitudes of male superiority and negative machismo as manifested by excessive aggression and undue self reliance. (Ibid) The hegemonic theory has also been described as providing inexact, indistinct and inaccurate depiction of the concept of gender and masculinity because it does not take into account the unstable nature of all forms of masculinity (Howson, 2006 p.5-7).

In summation, despite the numerous criticisms that have been advanced against the theory, Hegemonic masculinity was and still is a significant theory that provides an in-depth analysis of the concept of masculinity (Speer, 2005 p.107-109).

To adequately discuss the theory of Hegemonic masculinity, it would be important to review a number of articles that address the concept and critically examining the related concepts of gender and social change.

Unlocking Men, Unmasking Masculinities: Doing Men’s work In Prison

The article attempts to establish a credible link between hegemonic masculinity and criminality. There has been prior research that has been done to explore this link; however, what makes this approach different is that it seeks to explore the correlation between correctional interventions and the destructive effects of hyper masculinity in prison.

Hyper masculinity refers to the over emphasis on conventional male behavior manifested by strength, virility and aggression. (Kimmel and Aronson, 2004 p.503-507)

The article examines two related programs initiated in men’s prisons in California and Massachusetts. The survey was carried by consultations and observation with volunteer. Essentially, the article illustrates how the program attempts to deconstruct hyper masculinity in correctional facilities and its effects in assisting inmates in redefining the concept in order to produce pro-social outcomes.

These programs applied are branches of the Mankind project, a large voluntary organization that is founded on the philosophy of the mythopoeticmen’s movement that emphasizes psychological self help, therapeutic techniques and personal growth.

Essentially, the aim of the program is to reorient the inmates’ perceptions of masculinity in a manner that will serve them better both in prison and in their lives after being reintegrated into society (Karp, 2010 p.63). The report highlights the relationship between violent crime and gender.

The figures in the article reveal that more men than women get arrested and convicted for violent crimes in contrast to more women than men who get arrested for non-violent crimes such as prostitution and running away from home However, the statistics also indicate that in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of females arrested and convicted for violent crimes.

Research reveals that, this increase that has been witnessed can be attributed to the net-widening of the criminal justice system and not necessarily as a result of an actual increase in the commission of violent crimes by females (Karp, 2010 p.63).

A number of theories have been advanced in an attempt to explain why more women than men commit crimes. The strain theory proposes that criminality is a function of greed and excessive societal emphasis on material possessions. However this theory does not explain why more men than women commit crime seeing as women are subjected to the same strain as men are.

Moreover, the labeling theory proposes that criminality is caused by shame, stigmatization and out casting especially of members of minority groups. However, this theory does not explain why women, who are subjected to the same conditions as men, are not as inclined to commit crimes (Karp, 2010 p.64-65).

The article proposes that the disparate rates of criminality between men and women can be explained by the hegemonic masculinity conceptualization.

This implies that the hegemonic nature of masculinity that emphasizes strength and aggression predisposes men to violence and consequently violent crime (Messerschmitt, 1993 p.27-30). Hegemonic masculinity is the exclusive premise of men and this may explain why more men than women commit violent crimes.

In my opinion, the theory of Hegemonic masculinity as the possible explanation of the disparate rates of violent crime commission by men and women is to a large extent accurate. This is because; all other theories of criminality adequately address the causes of the phenomena but do not consider why more men than women commit violent crimes. The Hegemonic masculinity theory adequately addresses this question.

In recognition of this fact, the article examines the interventions being initiated in the penal system, for instance the mankind project, the inside circle foundation and the Jericho circle project. These initiatives are meant to offer the inmates an opportunity to experience self discovery and personal growth in an attempt to counter the negative effects of hegemonic and hyper masculinity.

A Social Network Analysis

The article tries to involve important theory on social life brought forward by Connell’s in two schools. The social theory on gender was developed by Robert Connell to address the prevalent sexual, gender and power inequality between men and women. The theory examines the gender-based division of labor, power and the nature of carthexis (Connell, 1987 p.64-65).

The article uses arithmetical techniques to examine power affairs, violence and social connections in relation to the male supremacy beliefs of the students. In the secondary school in question; one demonstrated the validity of Connell’s theory in the fact that Hegemonic masculinity was placed on top of the hierarchy of other forms of masculinity.

The other secondary school has a different orientation that demonstrates the support for the other viewpoint that gender is relational and that the hypothesized effects are evident, even after considering and accounting for the rest of the explanatory factors. This illustrates the fact that there is considerable empirical evidence to support Connell’s theory (Usher and Robbins, 2010 p.23-25)

The study examines a ruling-class and a middle class school in Australia. The different hierarchical structures are explained by the fact that, the ruling class school fosters attitudes that are based on masculinity. The middle class school has a structural equation modeling (SEM) approach that considers the effects of male dominance, gay-male homophobia, anti-academic attitudes and attitudes of anti-feminism.

The article proposes to establish a relationship between gender and power inequality. The article is significant in that it is the first study undertaken using qualitative research methodology that takes into account the context of the local environment and cultural factors. The study does not work on the assumption that people act independently of the society in which they live.

Essentially, the theory attempts to explain the fundamental relationship between power and violence. This article proposes that, Hegemonic masculinity is an expression of power inequality between men and women. This implies that the power inequality contributes significantly to the commission of violence and the fostering of attitudes of subordination towards women (Usher and Robbins 2010 p.31-35).

Doing Hegemony: Military, Men, and Constructing a Hegemonic Masculinity

This article proposes that Hegemonic masculinity is at the pinnacle of the gender hierarchy. Furthermore, the article proposes that Hegemonic masculinity subordinates all other gender constructs. Conventionally, Hegemonic masculinity is focused on the tenets of self discipline, sadism, belligerence and many other signs of control.

The article is based on a study that involved interviewing 43 men emphasizing the process of establishing Hegemonic masculinity constructs. The interviewees included military officers from different specialties, different rank levels and different levels of ability.

Essentially, this implies that men construct hierarchies that subordinate other people. At the same time, these characteristics show the way men place themselves in supremacy symbolism (Hinojosa, 2010 p.180)

Furthermore, the article examines the ways in which men that are aiming to join military service position themselves on the top of the hegemonic construct of masculinity.

The men present themselves as better placed in terms of intelligence, strength, skills and ability as compared to ordinary civilians. In so doing, this person panning to join the military construct a masculinity that is symbolically dominant over other forms (Hinojosa, 2010 p.181-182)

A critical review of the article establishes a conclusive link between the concepts of social identity and perceptions of the self and their relationship with the institutions that they belong to, in this case, the military. This implies that people who have a career in the military tend to derive a large extent of their personal identity from the occupation that they belong to (Hinojosa, 2010 p.184)

In my opinion, the assertion that people derive a large part of their social identity from the occupation that they belong to is accurate. The article cites conclusive evidence that people planning to join the military have a heightened sense of Hegemonic masculinity. This notion of social change can be directly attributed to their occupation of choice

In conclusion, a critical examination of the three articles establishes a tenable link between hegemonic masculinity, gender and social change. These three concepts are inextricably linked in that the perception of gender is affected by the theory of hegemonic masculinity. On the other hand, both gender and hegemonic masculinity are determined by social change.


Connell, R. (1987) Gender and power: society, the person and sexual politics. California: Stanford University Press. p.64-65

Hinojosa, R. (2010) Doing Hegemony: Military, Men, and Constructing a Hegemonic Masculinity. P.180-185

Howson, R. (2006) Challenging hegemonic masculinity. NY: Routledge Publishing Inc. p.64

Karp, D. R. (2010) Unlocking Men, Unmasking Masculinities: Doing Men’s work In Prison. P.63-65

Kimmel, M. S. and Aronson, A. (2004) Men and masculinities: a social, cultural, and historical encyclopedia, Volume 1. CA: ABC-CLIO Inc. p.503-507

Messerschmitt, J.W.(1993) Masculinities and crime: Critique and reconceptualization Of theory. USA: Littlefield Inc. p.27-30

Momsen, J. (2004) Gender and Development. NY: Routledge Publishing Inc. p.81- 83

Schipper, W. C. (2009) Masculinity, spirituality, and sexuality; The interpreted, lived experience. MA: Proquest LLC. p.19-20

Speer, S. A. (2005) Gender talk; feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. NY: RoutledgePublishing Inc. p.107-112 p.107-109

Usher, D and Robbins, G. (2010) A Social Network Analysis. nd. P.23-35

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