Gender & Society in the Classroom: Masculinities

Organized by:  Jennifer Dawn Carlson, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California at Berkeley

Updated by: Lacey Story, Oakland University

“Gender in the Classroom: Masculinities” provides a resource for teachers to integrate cutting-edge research on masculinities from Gender & Society into their classroom. The guide is organized around a number of thematic topics, and it includes a short, teaching-oriented description of each article as well as a list of suggested courses as appropriate. 

A few words for teachers who may be new to masculinities scholarship: this guide opens with a piece by Connell and Messerschmidt (2005), a classic text that would be a worthwhile addition for virtually any course on masculinities or, for that matter, sex and gender. This piece is central to the articles that appear in this guide for two reasons. First, the concept of “hegemonic masculinity” has proven to be an extremely fruitful, if (productively) problematic, term that has inspired a broad swath of subsequent research. Second, in addition to appearing regularly in research on masculinities, the term itself is indicative of broader shifts in how scholars of masculinities understand gender. Specifically, masculinity is now recognized as a defiantly multidimensional construct: instead of unitary “masculinity,” scholars look at “masculinities” that emerge along intersections with race, class, age and other lines of difference. No longer treated as a collection of traits or a role that sex-differentiated individuals must assume, masculinities emerge relationally and at multiple levels of social life, implicating political power structures, cultural norms, embodiment, the ways in which work, family and home are organized and the demarcation of certain social spaces, leisure activities, and practices along gendered lines. 

As such, the scholarship on masculinities is not only a vibrant area of research – it is also an excellent resource for sparking the critical imaginations of students in the classroom. In addition to being methodologically and analytically innovative, the articles in this guide should interest students because they are provocative, relatable and accessible. Enjoy!

Gerber, Lynn. 2015. Grit, Guts, and Vanilla Beans. Vol. 29, 1: pp. 26-50

Ex-gay ministries, like many evangelical groups, advocate traditional gender ideologies. But their discourses and practices generate masculine ideals that are quite distinct from hegemonic ones. I argue that rather than simply reproducing hegemonic masculinity, ex-gay ministries attempt to realize godly masculinity, an ideal that differs significantly from hegemonic masculinity and is explicitly critical of it. I discuss three aspects of the godly masculine ideal—de-emphasizing heterosexual conquest, inclusive masculinity, and homo-intimacy—that work to subvert hegemonic masculinity and allow ministry members to critique it while still advocating for innate gender distinction and hierarchy. I conclude by arguing that gender theorists need to be more precise in distinguishing conservative religious masculinities from hegemonic ones. 

Allen Kim and Karen Pyke.  2015 Taming Tiger Dads Hegemonic American Masculinity and South Korea’s Father School , vol. 29, 4: pp. 509-533.

How do non-Western men interact with and understand the form of Western masculinity associated with global dominance? Is their experience of Western hegemonic masculinity’s denigration of their national/ethnic masculinity similar to what occurs among subordinated nonwhite and lower-class men in Western countries? We take up this subject in our study of the South Korean Father School movement, which trains Korean men to become more involved and loving family men. Our analysis of the discursive practices of Father School organizational leadership and participants discovers the relational construction of a problematic “Korean” masculinity and a remedial “New Man” masculinity associated with white American men. We draw on Chen (1999) to suggest the Father School men’s movement is an attempt to elevate Korean masculinity on the world stage by “bargaining” with Western hegemonic masculinity. 

Gerstel, Naomi and Sally K. Gallagher. 2001. Men’s Caregiving: Gender and the Contigent Character of Care. Gender & Society. Vol. 15, No. 2: 197 – 217. 

This article shows that when it comes to men’s caregiving of kin, women matter. Drawing on 188 interviews with husbands and wives, Gerstel and Gallagher find that men’s caregiving is dependent on the presence of daughters and wives who care for kin as well as on the availability of sisters, the latter of whom substitute for men as caregivers. The findings emphasize that family structure, rather than employment or gender ideology, matter the most in determining men’s caregiving. This accessible article should provoke engaged discussion about how caregiving emerges as a relational phenomenon. 

Connell, R.W. and James W. Messerschmidt. 2005. Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society. Vol. 19, No. 6: 829-859. 

This theoretical article is an extended engagement with the concept of hegemonic masculinity, which was developed by Connell to refer to the dominant form of masculinity within a particular social context. After outlining the origins of the concept and the main critiques against it, Connell and Messerschmidt emphasize the utility of conceptualizing masculinities in plural terms that emerge in hierarchical ways that are maintained through cultural domination. They note that attempts to unify masculine domination into a single framework, on the one hand, or (inadvertently) reduce masculinity to a set of traits, on the other, are both excessively simplified approaches to gender. A must-have item on any masculinities syllabus. 

Gupta, Sanjiv. 2006. The Consequences of Maternal Employment During Men’s Childhood for their Adult Housework Performance. Gender & Society. Vol. 20, No. 1: 60 – 86. 

Why do some men participate in housework more than others? Bringing together a socialization approach with an interactionist perspective, Gupta argues that men’s participation in housework is affected by both their childhood experiences and by their adult situations. Men who grew up with a present father and working mother and who currently live with women were more likely to engage in housework. This article, which draws on two waves of the National Survey of Families and Households, is an accessible illustration of how quantitative approaches can be brought to bear on complex theoretical debates within the sociology of gender. 

Kane, Emily W. 2006. ‘No Way My Boys Are Going to Be Like That!’: Parents’ Responses to Children’s Gender Nonconformity. Gender & Society. Vol. 20, No. 2: 149 – 176. 

This article is a fascinating look at how parents police the gendered behavior of their children; Kane finds that while parents are generally open to gender nonconformity among their daughters, parents consciously negotiated gender (non)conformity with their sons.  Unpacking the different stakes that fathers and mothers, as well as heterosexual and homosexual, parents have in how their children “do” gender, the article presents a nuanced look at gender as an interactional accomplishment. 

Wingfield, Adia Harvey. 2009. Racializing the Glass Escalator: Reconsidering Men’s Experiences with Women’s Work. Gender & Society. Vol. 23, No. 1: 5 – 26. 

This article looks at the racial dynamics behind the “glass elevator”, which refers to men who experience greater upward mobility in stereotypically feminine occupations as compared to women. Cautioning against universalizing men’s experiences vis-à-vis women, Wingfield uses data from interviews with Black male nurses to argue that the glass elevator is racialized. As none of the men in her sample experienced the glass elevator, she concludes that this concept largely describes the experiences of white men. 

Cha, Youngjoo and Sarah Thébaud. 2009. Labor Markets, Breadwinning, and Beliefs: How Economic Context Shapes Men’s Gender Ideology. Gender & Society. Vol. 23, No. 2: 215 – 243. 

Men’s economic status is thought to influence their beliefs about gender, but how does this vary across different types of economic markets? Comparing rigid and flexible labor markets, Cha and Thebaud find that economic dependency on one’s partner is not enough: only in flexible markets, where men generally experience changes in their employment situations, does economic dependency on one’s partner lead to more egalitarian gender beliefs among men. This article should provoke discussions about how and under what contexts gender beliefs become more or less egalitarian. 

Springer, Kristen W. 2010. Economic Dependence in Marriage and Husbands’ Midlife Health: Testing Three Possible Mechanisms. Gender & Society. Vol. 24, No. 3: 378 – 401. 

Can gender norms be dangerous to your health? This article takes a quantitative approach to evaluate why husbands who earn less than their wives tend to have worse health than other husbands. Springer finds that the effect of male breadwinning stereotypes negatively impacts men’s health, particularly for groups of men who have historically been held accountable to these stereotypes – namely, high-income men. This accessible article is a fantastic piece for demonstrating the negative, tangible effects of gender norms, even for gender-privileged groups like high-income men. 

Padavic, Irene and Jonniann Butterfield. 2011. Mothers, Fathers, and “Mathers”: Negotiating a Lesbian Co-parental Identity. Gender & Society. Vol. 25, No. 2: 176 – 196. 

Throwing into question the assumption that women parents naturally desire to mother, this paper looks at how lesbian parents navigate their identities as mothers, fathers and – a hybrid of the two – mathers. Using in-depth interview data, this article not only explores the relationship between gender and parenting but also provides traction for imagining parental identities beyond the mother/father binary. As such, this article should be particularly generative for discussions that interrogate the intersections among family, identity, gender, parenting and sexuality. 

Chesley, Noelle. 2011. Stay-at-Home Fathers and Breadwinning Mothers: Gender, Couple Dynamics, and Social Change. Gender & Society. Vol. 25, No. 5: 642 – 664.   

This article is ideal for teaching about (1) the micro-level dynamics of gender norms and gender inequality; and (2) the significant ways in which gender is negotiated – whether confirmed, undermined or transformed – in the home. In this interview-based study, Chesley interrogates the normative consequences of stay-at-home dads: does a reversal in domestic gender roles promote or discourage gender equality in the home? Unpacking the broad ways in which her interviewees “do gender”, Chesley highlights the tensions that emerge when women assume the (masculine) breadwinning role. Driven by an intuitively appealing, and sociologically sophisticated, question and supported by rich, clearly presented data, this article would be ideal for courses on introductory sociology, sex and gender and gender and work.