Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

The cultural belief of hegemonic masculinity

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1660 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Hegemonic masculinity is a belief in existence of culturally normative ideal of male behavior that is characterized by tendency for male dominance. Proponents of hegemonic masculinity theory argue that hegemonic masculinity is not necessarily the most dominant form of expression in male although it is the most socially endorsed; always contributing to subordinate position of women. Connell (2005) notes that hegemonic masculinity is characterized by ambition, strength, drive and self reliance and argues that such characteristics are encouraged in males but not in females. In his opinion, Donaldson (1993) argues that hegemonic masculinity concerns the dread of and the flight from women; and views it as a culturally idealized form, a personal or collective project and a strategic strategy for men to subordinate women. It is violent, exclusive, anxiety provoking, internally and hierarchically differentiated. However, Donaldson (1993) highlights that not all men practice it, although many benefit from it. Furthermore, it constructs the most dangerous things that humanity must content with; it is resilient and incorporates its own critique, although unraveling. This essay discusses the concept of hegemonic masculinity in relation to gender and social change.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Hegemonic Masculinity: Gender and Social Change

The concept of hegemonic masculinity is criticized for being framed within hetero-normative conception of gender that essentializes male-female difference and ignores difference and exclusion within the gender categories (Trigiani 1999). The concept largely rests logically on dichotomization of sex, which is biological versus gender, which is cultural, thus marginalizing the body (Trigiani 1999). According to Cornnell (2005) hegemonic masculinity is constructed in relation to subordinated masculinities; especially women thus there is no feminist that is hegemonic in the sense that the dominant form of masculinity is hegemonic among men.

Iacuone (2005) views hegemonic masculinity as the most common blueprint for gender in Western culture as it dictates how “real” men should behave and the goals they should aspire to attain through the masculinity practice. It is an imagined construct rather than a practical one, with only few people possessing all its traits, although majority hold the principle with highest esteem (Iacuone 2005). In line with hegemonic masculinity traits, the identity of heterosexual man depends on his dislike of subordinated gender constructs; hence Iacuone (2005) admits that hegemonic masculinity views women as objects, depicts them as servile and most appropriate for domestic duties; only being value to men in a sexual capacity. The dominant masculine culture influences attitudes of construction workers, whereby hegemonic masculinity prescribes that men should be tough, be courageous enough to face danger and to dominate over others. Such men only view social environment as a conducive place for risk taking, with most of them viewing women as sex objects who should be there to entertain them and even embrace sexual assault to women as acceptable (Iacuone 2005). However, a small portion of men try to resist the influences of hegemonic masculine culture in gender, especially in settings where men challenge traditional patriarchal relations with an aim of improving women’s welfare (Iacuone 2005).

Kimmel & Amy (2008) view hegemonic masculinity as a social ideal of a real man, described by society as young, married, white, and protestant, urban, heterosexual, white of college education, good complexion, height, and weight and employed. They argue that any male who does not have any of the described character traits should consider himself as inferior or unworthy. Gender is an ever present force that defines daily behavior of human beings. Spade & Valentine (2010) bring out the masculinity contrast between men and women as viewed by society. They argue that as women graduate from girlhood to womanhood and join mixed gender groups at work, in colleges or play, their voices are often ignored and subordinated; they have to monitor what they say, how they say it and how often they talk to ensure that they do not dominate because their gender limits their participation (Spade & Valentine 2010).

Gendered patterns of belief and behavior influence people’s way of life in daily intimate relationships, with family and friends. According to Spade & Valentine (2010), studies shave revealed that girls who transgress into boys’ zone end up being eventually respected by their male playmates if they are good in conventionally male activities, while on the other hand, boys are harassed and teased when they try to participate in girl’s related activities thus dominance of hegemonic masculinity is maintained by denying boys access to girls’ activities. Furthermore, the dominance of masculinity is reinforced when boys are ridiculed because they do not comply with society expectations of hegemonic masculinity; hence they fail to be sufficiently dominant. In order to cope with pressure from the society, Spade & Valentine (2010) note that most men have learned how to do the behaviors that maintain hegemonic masculinity, while at the same time suppressing feelings and behaviours that might make them look feminine. This shows the extent of slavery, frustrations and fear experienced by men in order to maintain their hegemonic masculinity status in the society. Despite these frustrations, hegemonic masculinity comes with its benefits as it is maintained in a hierarchy that is realized by only few men, with every other person subordinated to them; including women, poor white men, men of colour, gay men and men from devalued ethnic and religious groups. This dominance may be institutionalized in the structure of the situation.

Hegemonic masculinity is supported by sex role theory, which advocates for people to learn from society’s institutions to behave in ways that are appropriate to their sex. According to Trigiani (1998), the sex role theory views men as aggressive, rational, dominant and objective while women are passive, intuitive, submissive and subjective. The theory further assumes that culture values characteristics of each sex equally and that these values complement each other in to bring out balance in the society; whereby women are just as esteemed for their passivity as men are for their aggressiveness (Trigiani 1998). However, Haenfler (2006) views hegemonic masculinity as a configuration of gender practice that only embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of legitimacy of patriarchy, taken to guarantee the dominant position of men and the subordinate position of women. Haenfler (2006) laments that since late 19th century, the social basis of masculinity has been undermined and men hardly understand what it means to be a man. Furthermore, modernization, rapid industrialization, urbanization and the rise of bureaucracy has separated boys from fathers and destabilized the male breadwinner role. In addition, feminists have challenged dominant notions of gender, making it a challenge for a young man to figure out how to be a man in modern days (Haenfler 2006).

Haenfler (2006) observes that the young men’s current fears and continued erosion of male breadwinner role might provide a historic opportunity for men, both collectively and individually to reject the destructive and narrow limiting definitions of masculinity and prefer to create more peaceful and egalitarian definitions of manhood. In a culture that glorifies masculine displays of confidence, sexual prowess, strength and power, men increasingly feel unsure, impotent, weak and powerless hence they have often responded to their confusion and feelings of inadequacy through self control, reactive exclusion and escape from reality (Haenfler 2006). Haenfler (2006) observes that men who feel like they are losing control over their work and relationships often exercise extreme control over their personal lives, fitness, alcohol consumption and sexual appetites; hence becoming objects of self control. They react to crisis of hegemonic masculinity by attempting to shut women out of positions of power and influence and escape women’s influence by retreating to “male only” social behavior (Haenfler 2006).

Haenfler (2006) laments that while hegemonic masculinity may have its benefits to men in terms of public status and masculine privileges, it comes with a price as men often pay with poor health, shorter live and emotionally swallow their relationships and suffer from mental distress.

Other critics of hegemonic masculinity argue that hegemonic masculinities do not correspond to actual lives of men, thus the theory provides a vague and imprecise account of social psychological reproduction of male identities.


In conclusion, hegemonic masculinity embodies men as superior human beings and views women as inferior and submissive creatures, who should live at mercy of their male counterparts. It teaches men to undermine and mistreat women and fellow men who are perceived as inferior. It values competition of hierarchy, sexual prowess and physical toughness at the expense of human dignity, self respect and peace of mind. Hegemonic masculinities often suppress their true feelings to avoid looking feminine as they internally suffer from mental and emotional distress to please the society and live as expected. However, with increasing modernity and industrialization, hegemonic masculinity is slowly losing its meaning; with many women assuming the role of breadwinners and rising to leadership positions as many young men become more and more afraid of society defined masculine responsibilities associated with hegemonic masculinities.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: