Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

A Social Network Analysis of Hegemonic and Other Masculinities

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

A Social Network Analysis of Hegemonic and Other Masculinities

Article excerpt

In this companion article to a theoretical exposition of Connell's (1995) social theory of gender (Lusher & Robins, 2009), we present an empirical quantitative assessment of the theory. The innovativeness of Connell's theory is its focus on gender as a relational construct rather than as a categorical conceptualization. This relational focus asserts gender as a system of hierarchical relations, directly addressing issues of power absent from much theorization of gender but nonetheless deemed important. Connell's relational assertion is that the hierarchical relation between genders is reinforced by hierarchies within genders. The overall dominance of masculinity over femininity is reinforced by the dominance of some masculinities over other forms most resembling femininity which are shunned and pushed to the bottom of a hierarchy of masculinities.

Connell's term hegemonic masculinity has become a widely used descriptor for a dominant form (or configuration) of masculinity, which is seen to help perpetuate the domination of masculinity over femininity. The terms complicit, subordinate and marginalized masculinities describe other configurations of masculinity, which sit in relation to hegemonic masculinity in a hierarchy of masculinities. Complicit masculinities refer to those configurations which support the dominance of the hegemonic masculinity configuration, thus referring to the majority of men. Subordinate masculinities represent those that undermine the goals of a dominative hegemonic masculinity, with gay and academically inclined men presented as examples due to their association with femininity. Finally, marginalized masculinities represent complex configurations and interactions that occur when masculinity and other factors such as socio-economic status and ethno-cultural background intersect with gender. The use of the mechanisms of an "ideology of supremacy" (Connell, 1995, p. 83) and violence support the domination of masculinity over femininity, as well as the hierarchy of masculinities (for more detailed reviews of Connell's theory, see Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005; Demetriou, 2001).

While there is much support for Connell's theory, it is not without its issues. It has been criticised for being structurally deterministic and disavowing of agency (White-head, 2002), as detached from people's everyday lives (Jefferson, 2002; Speer, 2001 ; Wetherell & Edley, 1999), and has undergone clarification and rethinking (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). Lusher and Robins (2009) suggest that the considerable confusion surrounding the theory, particularly as it relates to what individuals do in their everyday lives, centres on two primary issues. First, there is a lack of detail of the interdependency between individual, structural and cultural factors with regards masculinities. Second, the specific local contexts in which masculinities are enacted need elicitation. Regarding the first issue, defining gender simply as relational ignores the theoretical necessity to include particular beliefs about gender held by individuals, beliefs that underpin the relational aspects of gender as hierarchical and thereby dominative. In essence, "structural relations of power must be accompanied by a belief system that sees one group as superior to another" (Lusber & Robins, p. 397). One group will only try to hold power over the other if it feels justified to do so. As a result, if Connell's theory holds those who most strongly endorse a belief in the dominance of masculinity over femininity are more likely to sit atop a social hierarchy of individuals, one that reflects the hierarchy of masculinities; and those who least endorse a belief in male dominance are most likely to sit at the bottom of that social hierarchy. This argument reflects interdependence between an individual factor (belief) and a structural form (hierarchy). It leads to the first of a number of general propositions with regard to Connell's theory (1):

[1] In a system of hegemonic masculinity, male dominance beliefs tend to be more strongly endorsed by those occupying more powerful positions in the social hierarchy. …

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