Gender & Society in the Classroom: Masculinities
Organized by: Jennifer Dawn Carlson, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California at Berkeley
Updated by: Seth A. Behrends, University of Illinois – Chicago
“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!
Bryan, Amée, Stacey Pope, and Alexandra J. Rankin-Wright. 2021. “On the Periphery: Examining Women’s Exclusion From Core Leadership Roles in the ‘Extremely Gendered’ Organization of Men’s Club Football in England.” Gender & Society 35 (6): 940–970.
In this article, we frame men’s club football as an “extremely gendered” organization to explain the underrepresentation of women leaders within the industry. By analyzing women’s leadership work over a 30-year period, we find that women’s inclusion has been confined to a limited number of occupational areas. These areas are removed, in terms of influence and proximity, from the male players and the playing of football. These findings reveal a gendered substructure within club football that maintains masculine dominance in core football leadership roles and relegates women to a position of peripheral inclusion in leadership roles. Through a discourse analysis of gender pay gap reports, we show that men’s football clubs legitimize women’s peripheral inclusion by naturalizing male dominance at the organizational core. These findings are significant because they demonstrate that men’s football clubs, as masculinity-conferring organizations, have excluded women from core roles to maintain their masculine character while superficially accepting women into roles that do not challenge the association of football with hegemonic masculinity. Therefore, organizational change may be possible only if women are granted greater access to core organizational roles. Here, we offer a new theoretical framework for “extremely gendered” organizations that can be applied to other sporting and male-dominated contexts to analyze women’s access to core leadership roles.
Burke, Kelsy, and Trenton M. Haltom. 2020. “Created by God and Wired to Porn: Redemptive Masculinity and Gender Beliefs in Narratives of Religious Men’s Pornography Addiction Recovery.” Gender & Society 34 (2): 233-258.
The literature on hybrid masculinity suggests that some men manage subordinate or contradictory forms of masculinity while still maintaining and benefiting from gender inequality. Drawing from 35 in-depth qualitative interviews with religious participants in pornography addiction recovery programs, we expand this literature by illustrating how hybrid masculinity operates through shared cultural knowledge about sex, gender, and sexuality. We find that participants use distinct cultural schemas related to religion and science to explain how men are created by God to be biologically “hard-wired” for pornography addiction. We use the phrase redemptive masculinity to describe a type of hybrid masculinity that upholds the cultural association between hegemonic masculinity and pornography consumption, but allows religious men to describe their avoidance of pornography as a masculine feat. Redemptive masculinity depends upon particular beliefs about gender that give advantage to the religious men who work to overcome pornography addiction. We show how their stories reinforce essentialist differences between male and female bodies that protect the interests and sexual expressions of religious men. In turn, we show how hybrid masculinities may involve gender-flexible practices for men but also how these may ultimately reinforce strict and inflexible beliefs about so-called “opposite” sexes.
Dalessandro, Cristen, Laurie James-Hawkins, and Christie Sennott. 2019. “Strategic Silence: College Men and Hegemonic Masculinity in Contraceptive Decision Making.” Gender & Society 33 (5): 772-794.
Condom use among college men in the United States is notoriously erratic, yet we know little about these men’s approaches to other contraceptives. In this paper, accounts from 44 men attending a university in the western United States reveal men’s reliance on culturally situated ideas about gender, social class, race, and age in assessing the risk of pregnancy and STI acquisition in sexual encounters with women. Men reason that race- and class-privileged college women are STI-free, responsible for contraception, and will pursue abortion services if necessary. Since men expect women will take responsibility, they often stay silent about condoms and other contraceptives in sexual encounters—a process we term “strategic silence.” Men’s strategic silence helps uphold local constructions of hegemonic masculinity that prioritize men’s sexual desires and protects these constructions by subtly shifting contraceptive and sexual health responsibility onto women. Our analysis demonstrates the importance of men’s expectations of women for upholding constructions of hegemonic masculinity, which legitimate gender inequality in intimacy and are related to men’s underestimation of the risks associated with condom-free sex.
Duckworth, Kiera D., and Mary Neil Trautner. 2019. “Gender Goals: Defining Masculinity and Navigating Peer Pressure to Engage in Sexual Activity.” Gender & Society 33 (5): 795-817.
A significant part of hegemonic masculinity is proving one’s heterosexuality though sexual experiences. Peer pressure to conform is particularly acute for adolescent boys and young men. We analyze interviews with 87 boys in middle school, high school, and college about how their masculinity goals and subsequent achievement of those goals influence their navigation of pressure to engage in sexual relations with girls and women to “prove” themselves. Our findings show that, while boys and young men recognize dominant notions of hegemonic masculinity, most do not subscribe to those uncritically. Rather, they struggle to balance personal ideas about masculinity with consistent pressure from others to demonstrate their heterosexuality. As a result, they employ various strategies to negotiate such pressures, including avoidance, acceptance, and outright rejection of this particular expectation. These strategies, however, ultimately contribute to a broader gender culture among adolescents in which expectations and privileges associated with hegemonic masculinity that dominate U.S. culture remain largely unchallenged.
Oselin, Sharon S., and Kristen Barber. 2019. “Borrowing Privilege: Status Maneuvering among Marginalized Men.” Gender & Society 33 (2): 201-223.
Research shows people confront social marginalization through work, yet this scholarship largely ignores people working in illicit markets. We address this gap by investigating how and to what end men in street prostitution “borrow” privilege from their more structurally advantaged clients. Drawing from interviews with men of color in street sex work, we show how they “status maneuver” to offset stigmatized identities tied to prostitution and to construct a masculinity that offers a greater sense of social worth within constrained circumstances. These men ironically rely on status differences between themselves and their white, wealthy men clients to undermine their own oppression and to create possibilities for momentary associations with hegemonic masculine privilege. This research shows how barriers between the powerful and powerless are permeable, and how social hierarchies serve as resources to cope with the inequitable conditions and stigma under which some people live and work.
Balasubramanian, Savina. 2018. “Motivating Men: Social Science and the Regulation of Men’s Reproduction in Postwar India.” Gender & Society 32 (1): 34-58.
This article analyzes efforts to govern men’s reproduction in postwar India’s population control program from 1960 to 1977. It argues that the Indian state’s unconventional emphasis on men was linked to a gendered strand of social scientific research known as family planning communications and its investments in reframing reproductive control in behavioral terms. Communication scientists’ goal to understand the role of mass communications in shaping “reproductive decision-making” dovetailed with prevailing cultural ideologies of masculinity that readily associated men with economic rationality and calculative reasoning. Consequently, scientists cast Indian men as indispensable targets of behavioral interventions into reproduction due to their ostensible status as familial and social “decision-makers.” This reframing prompted Indian family planning officials to create novel interventions into men’s reproductive bodies and beliefs, exhorting them to use contraception and desire fewer children. The study thus offers new approaches for theorizing how men become framed as legitimate subjects of reproductive control.
Barry, Ben. 2018. “(Re)Fashioning Masculinity: Social Identity and Context in Men’s Hybrid Masculinities through Dress.” Gender & Society 32 (5): 638-662.
Modern Western society has framed fashion in opposition to hegemonic masculinity. However, fashion functions as a principal means by which men’s visible gender identities are established as not only different from women but also from other men. This article draws on the concept of hybrid masculinities and on wardrobe interviews with Canadian men across social identities to explore how men enact masculinities through dress. I illustrate three ways men do hybrid masculinities by selecting, styling, and wearing clothing in their everyday lives. The differences between these three hybrid masculine configurations of practice are based on the extent to which men’s personal and professional social identities were associated with hegemonic masculine ideals as well as the extent to which those ideals shaped the settings in which they were situated. Although participants had different constellations of gender privilege, they all used dress to reinforce hegemonic masculinity, gain social advantages, and subsequently preserve the gender order. Failing to do so could put them personally and professionally at risk. My research nuances the hybrid masculinities framework by demonstrating how its enactment is shaped by the intersection between men’s social identities and social contexts.
Fefferman, Ann M., and Ushma D. Upadhyay. 2018. “Hybrid Masculinity and Young Men’s Circumscribed Engagement in Contraceptive Management.” Gender & Society 32 (3): 371-394.
This research explores how gender shapes contraceptive management through in-depth interviews with 40 men and women of color ages 15 to 24, a life stage when the risk of unintended pregnancy is high in the United States. Although past research focuses on men’s contraception-avoidant behaviors, little sociological work has explored ways men engage in contraception outside of condoms, such as contraceptive pills. Research often highlights how women manage these methods alone. Our research identifies how young men of color do help manage these methods through their engagement in contraceptive decision making and use. Men accomplish this without limiting their partners’ ability to prevent pregnancy. This is despite structural barriers such as poverty and gang-related violence that disproportionately affect low-income young men of color and often shape their reproductive goals. However, men’s engagement is still circumscribed so that women take on a disproportionate burden of pregnancy prevention, reifying gender boundaries. We identify this as a form of hybrid masculinity, because men’s behaviors are seemingly egalitarian but also sustain women’s individualized risk of unintended pregnancy. This research points to the complexity of how race, class, and gender intersect to create an engaged but limited place for men in contraceptive management among marginalized youth.
Ide, Michael Enku, Blair Harrington, Yolanda Wiggins, Tanya Rouleau Whitworth, and Maomi Gerstel. 2018. “Emerging Adult Sons and Their Fathers: Race and the Construction of Masculinity.” Gender & Society 32 (1): 5-33.
Challenging the public dichotomy characterizing fathers as “involved” or “absentee,” we investigate racial variation in college men’s perceptions of their paternal relationships and the gendered constructions these promote. The analysis draws on intensive interviews (n = 76) with Asian American, Black, and white sons from one university and survey data (n = 1,576) from 24 institutions. In both data sets, Asian Americans and Blacks describe greater paternal distance than do whites. This conceals variations in sons’ understanding of fathers. Asian Americans often criticize their fathers’ distance, disidentifying with the near-exclusive focus on breadwinning they describe among fathers. In contrast, Blacks and whites normalize and identify with their dads. Blacks emphasize the “laid-back,” “cool” masculinity their dads impart, while whites often emphasize the independent masculinity based on mentorship and friendship their dads offer. Recasting sociological theories, we argue these differences emanate from divergent structural contexts, but more importantly, cultural conceptions of fatherhood, race, and gender as well as public discussions that valorize white models of fatherhood.
Messerschmidt, James W., and Achim Rohde. 2018. “Osama Bin Laden and His Jihadist Global Hegemonic Masculinity.” Gender & Society 32 (5): 663-685.
This article examines for the first time the jihadist global hegemonic masculinity of Osama bin Laden. Based on Bin Laden’s public statements translated into English, the authors examine how in the process of constructing a rationale for violent attacks primarily against the United States, he simultaneously and discursively formulates a jihadist global hegemonic masculinity. The research adds to the growing interest in discursive global hegemonic masculinities, as well as jihadist masculinities in the Middle East, by scrutinizing how Bin Laden’s jihadist global hegemonic masculinity is produced in and through his public statements. The authors close their discussion by demonstrating how Bin Laden’s discursive practices are embedded in a clash of competing global hegemonic masculinities on the world stage.
Pierotti, Rachael S., Milli Lake, and Chloe Lewis. 2018. “Equality on His Terms: Doing and Undoing Gender through Men’s Discussion Groups.” Gender & Society 32 (4): 540-562.
Efforts to promote gender equality often encourage changes to interpersonal interactions as a way of undermining gender hierarchy. Such programs are premised on the idea that the gender system can be “undone” when individuals behave in ways that challenge prevailing gender norms. However, scholars know little about whether and under what conditions real changes to the gender system can result from changed behaviors. We use the context of a gender sensitization program in the Democratic Republic of Congo to examine prospects for transformative change at the interactional level of the gender system. Over nine months, we observed significant changes in men’s quotidian practices. Further, we identified a new commitment among many men to a more equal division of household labor. However, participants consistently undermined the transformative potential of these behavioral changes through their dedication to maintaining control over the objective, process, and meaning of change, resisting conceptions of equality that challenged the gender system. Because quotidian changes left gender hierarchy intact, they appear unlikely to destabilize the logics that legitimate women’s subordination.
Randels, Jennifer. 2018. “’Manning Up’ to be a Good Father: Hybrid Fatherhood, Masculinity, and U.S. Responsible Fatherhood Policy.” Gender & Society 32 (4): 516-539.
Drawing on theories of masculinities, I analyze how a U.S. government funded “responsible fatherhood” program utilized a political discourse of hybrid masculinity to shape disadvantaged men’s ideas of successful fathering. Using data from three sources that uniquely traces how this discourse traveled from policy to program implementation—including analysis of the curriculum, in-depth interviews with 10 staff, and in-depth interviews and focus groups with 64 participating fathers—I theorize hybrid fatherhood. As a discourse of paternal involvement that incorporates stereotypically feminine styles such as emotional expressiveness, hybrid fatherhood discursively reconfigures patriarchy by drawing distinctions between mothering and fathering and dominant and subordinate forms of masculinity as they relate to men’s parenting. I analyze how the promotion of hybrid fatherhood for poor men of color legitimates and sustains gender, race, and class inequalities through U.S. welfare policy.
Wasserman, Varda, Ilan Dayan, and Eyal Ben-Ari. 2018. “Upgraded Masculinity: A Gendered Analysis of the Debriefing in the Israeli Air Force.” Gender & Society 32 (2): 228–251.
This article examines the importation of new gender ideals into a highly masculine organization through top-down and bottom-up processes. We analyze how a dominant group of men undo and redo gender to reproduce their supremacy and create a new, “improved” form of masculinity. Based on qualitative research on the practice of debriefing in the Israel Air Force, we explore how new practices of masculinity are incorporated into a hegemonic masculinity by introducing so-called “soft” organizational practices and thus constructing a new form of “upgraded” masculinity. We show that pilots are involved in two continual and dialectical processes of performing masculinity. The first includes top-down practices neutralizing opportunities to execute exaggerated masculine performances, including new technologies allowing recording and documenting of all flights, a safety discourse emphasizing the protection of human life, and organizational learning based on self- and group critiques aimed at improved performance. The second, a bottom-up process enacted by pilots, is aimed at restoring and mobilizing masculinity and includes rationalized professionalism, competitiveness, and patronizing. Taken together, these constitute a hybrid, “upgraded” masculinity where “soft” characteristics are appropriated by men to reinforce a privileged status and reproduce their dominance within and outside the military. Our case study focuses on the debriefing, a process in which air teams formally reflect on their performance after a particular task/event to improve it.
Anderson, Ndina L. 2017. “To Provide and Protect: Gendering Money in Ukrainian Households.” Gender & Society 31 (3): 359-382.
In this article, I advance a theory of gendered money and demonstrate how couples give special symbolic meaning to men’s money in domestic exchanges. Unlike previous perspectives on gender and money such as resource theories and gender performance, this framework acknowledges money as a prop and tool that couples use to construct gender boundaries and signal normalcy in the marital relationship. Integrating concepts from economic sociology with Hochschild’s insights on the symbolism of domestic labor, I find that Ukrainians use money as a token and symbol of value, not as a commodity with which to obtain desired outcomes. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 56 married and cohabiting individuals, I discover that couples subvert market meanings of money to enact a Soviet-style gender ideology. By spending men’s money on “necessary” items and avoiding accessing women’s money in the household, couples construct men’s money as both visible and valuable while rendering women’s money non-fungible. These practices highlight the primacy of culture and ideology over relative income, and can help explain the reproduction of male privilege in the household, despite gains in women’s employment and earnings.
McDowell, Amy D. 2017. “Aggressive And Loving Men: Gender Hegemony in Christian Hardcore Punk.” Gender & Society 31 (2): 223-244.
This research uses Christian Hardcore punk to show how evangelical Christian men respond to changes in gender relations that threaten hegemonic masculinity through a music subculture. Drawing on interviews and participant observations of live music shows, I find that Christian Hardcore ministry involves a hybrid mix of aggressive and loving performances of manhood. Christian Hardcore punk men fortify the idea that men and women are essentially opposites through discourse and the segregation of music spaces, even as they deviate from dominant ideas of what makes a man in their strategy of openly expressing the “loving” of secular men. The mechanism for this is the interactions in concert spaces. These findings offer a conceptual move away from studying “godly” masculinity as intrinsically distinct from secular masculinity and illustrate how religious masculinities can be both hegemonic and “soft.”
Pande, Amrita. 2017. “Mobile Masculinities: Migrant Bangladeshi Men in South Africa.” Gender & Society 31 (3): 383-406.
In this ethnography of Bangladeshi men living and working in South Africa, I draw on the intersection of three sets of literatures—masculinities studies, mobility studies, and the emerging body of work on migrant masculinities— to argue that migrant mobility shapes and is shaped by relational performances of racialized masculinities. I analyze three particular moments of such “mobile masculinities.” The first is in the home country wherein migration is seen as a mandatory rite of passage into manhood. The second moment is in transit, where the relational masculinity of migrant men and “traffickers” (men who smuggle migrants across borders) is performed and (re)made. The final moment is in South Africa, wherein we observe two contrasting forms of masculinities: hyper masculinity (the idealization of violence and misogyny) and Ummah masculinity (the immersion in God and Islamic Ummah). Both kinds of masculinity in the final moment are attempts by the migrants to recuperate masculinity within a situation of extreme powerlessness. This article invokes the need for mobility research within gender studies, and an attention to a complex, processual construction of identities wherein gender, race, and other differences define the identities of migrants but also the discourses and narratives of masculinities.
Peretz, Tal. 2017. “Engaging Diverse Men: An Intersectional Analysis of Men’s Pathways to Antiviolence Activism.” Gender & Society 31 (4): 526-548.
Despite the demonstrated utility of intersectionality, research on men allied with women’s rights movements has largely focused on white, heterosexual, middle-class, young men. This study illustrates the importance of attending to men’s intersecting identities by evaluating the applicability of existing knowledge about men’s engagement pathways to the predominantly African American members of a Muslim men’s anti–domestic violence group and a gay/queer men’s gender justice group. Findings from a year-long qualitative study highlight how these men’s experiences differ from those in the literature. While the Muslim men’s experiences add dimension to the existing knowledge—especially regarding age and parenthood, online interactions, and formal learning opportunities—the gay/queer men’s experiences are not accurately represented within it. Their pathways begin earlier, do not rely on women’s input, do not create a shift in gendered worldview, and lack a pathway narrative because they connect to gender justice through their own intersecting identities and experiences. This suggests that a marginalized identity is not in itself sufficient to alter engagement pathways; the particular type of marginalization matters.
Pfaffendorf, Jessica. 2017. “Sensitive Cowboys: Privileged Young Men and the Mobilization of Hybrid Masculinities in a Therapeutic Boarding School.” Gender & Society 31 (2): 197-222.
In the past few decades, a multi-billion-dollar “therapeutic boarding school” industry has emerged for America’s troubled upper-class youth. This article examines the therapeutic models prominent in these programs and the ways they conflict with dominant notions of masculinity. Using in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork inside a Western therapeutic boarding school, I show how privileged young men navigate this masculinity dilemma by constructing hybrid masculinities that incorporate qualities associated with femininities and subordinate masculinities. However, these qualities are incorporated strategically and in ways that reproduce and obscure privileges associated with students’ positions as young, upper-class, white men. Using hybrid masculine styles that include humility, commitment to service, and open emotional expression, students re-assert dominant positions as leaders and as “better” men in contrast to various others.
Silva, Tony. 2017. “Bud-Sex: Constructing Normative Masculinity among Rural Straight Men That Have Sex With Men.” Gender & Society 31 (1): 51-73.
This study draws on semistructured interviews with 19 white, rural, straight-identified men who have sex with men to understand how they perceive their gender and sexuality. It is among the first to use straight men’s own narratives, and helps address the underrepresentation of rural masculinities research. Through complex interpretive processes, participants reworked non-normative sexual practices—those usually antithetical to rural masculinities—to construct normative masculinity. Most chose other masculine, white, and straight or secretly bisexual men as partners for secretive sex without romantic involvement. By choosing these partners and having this type of sex, the participants normalized and authenticated their sexual encounters as straight and normatively masculine. The participants engaged in bud-sex, a specific type of male–male sex that reinforced their rural masculinity and heterosexuality. The married men framed sex with men as less threatening to marriage than extramarital sex with women, helping to preserve a part of their lives that they described as central to their straightness. The results highlight the flexibility of heterosexuality; the centrality of heterosexuality to normative rural masculinity; how similar sexual practices carry different meanings across contexts and populations; and the social construction of masculinities and sexualities by age, race, gender, time period, and place.
Barber, Kristen. 2016. “’Men Wanted’: Heterosexual Aesthetic Labor in the Masculinization of the Hair Salon.” Gender & Society 30 (4): 618–642.
This article builds heterosexuality into the concept of aesthetic labor to better understand corporate efforts to construct gendered brands and consumer identities. By theorizing heterosexual aesthetic labor, I show how two men’s salons, Adonis and The Executive, hire for, develop, and mobilize the sexual identities and gender habitus of straight and conventionally feminine women to masculinize the hair salon. Drawing from ethnographic observations of and interviews with employees and clients at these men’s salons, I move the discussion of aesthetic labor beyond recruitment to show how service workers become interactional resources for customers’ projections of privileged identities. Emphasizing workers’ agency, I show how the women deploy professionalizing rhetoric and protocols and essentializing frameworks to manage the dilemmas of heterosexual aesthetic labor. These management strategies allow women a sense of legitimacy and at the same time keep gender and sexual hierarchies intact and naturalize men’s entitlement to women’s bodies.
Dill, Janette S., Kim Price-Glynn, and Carter Rakovski. 2016. “Does the ‘Glass Escalator’ Compensate for the Devaluation of Care Work Occupations?: The Careers of Men in Low- and Middle-Skill Health Care Jobs.” Gender & Society 30 (2): 334-360.
Feminized care work occupations have traditionally paid lower wages compared to non–care work occupations when controlling for human capital. However, when men enter feminized occupations, they often experience a “glass escalator,” leading to higher wages and career mobility as compared to their female counterparts. In this study, we examine whether men experience a “wage penalty” for performing care work in today’s economy, or whether the glass escalator helps to mitigate the devaluation of care work occupations. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation for the years 1996-2011, we examine the career patterns of low- and middle-skill men in health care occupations. We found that men in occupations that provide the most hands-on direct care did experience lower earnings compared to men in other occupations after controlling for demographic characteristics. However, men in more technical allied health occupations did not have significantly lower earnings, suggesting that these occupations may be part of the glass escalator for men in the health care sector. Minority men were significantly more likely than white men to be in direct care occupations, but not in frontline allied health occupations. Male direct care workers were less likely to transition to unemployment compared to men in other occupations.
Dow, Dawn Marie. 2016. “The Deadly Challenges of Raising African American Boys: Navigating the Controlling Image of the ‘Thug’.” Gender & Society 30 (2): 161-188.
Through 60 in-depth interviews with African American middle- and upper-middle-class mothers, this article examines how the controlling image of the “thug” influences the concerns these mothers have for their sons and how they parent their sons in light of those concerns. Participants were principally concerned with preventing their sons from being perceived as criminals, protecting their sons’ physical safety, and ensuring they did not enact the “thug,” a form of subordinate masculinity. Although this image is associated with strength and toughness, participants believed it made their sons vulnerable in various social contexts. They used four strategies to navigate the challenges they and their sons confronted related to the thug image. Two of these strategies—experience and environment management—were directed at managing characteristics of their sons’ regular social interactions—and two—image and emotion management—were directed at managing their sons’ appearance. By examining parenting practices, this research illuminates the strategies mothers use to prepare their sons to address gendered racism through managing the expression of their masculinity, racial identity, and class status.
Matthews, Christopher R. 2016. “The Tyranny of the Male Preserve.” Gender & Society 30 (2): 312-333.
Within this paper I draw on short vignettes and quotes taken from a two-year ethnographic study of boxing to think through the continuing academic merit of the notion of the male preserve. This is an important task due to evidence of shifts in social patterns of gender that have developed since the idea was first proposed in the 1970s. In aligning theoretical contributions from Lefebvre and Butler to discussions of the male preserve, we are able to add nuance to our understanding of how such social spaces are engrained with and produced by the lingering grasp of patriarchal narratives. In particular, by situating the male preserve within shifting social processes, whereby certain men’s power is increasingly undermined, I highlight the production of space within which narratives connecting men to violence, aggression, and physical power can be consumed, performed, and reified in a relatively unrestricted form. This specific case study contributes to gender theory as an illustration of a way in which we might explore and understand social enclaves where certain people are able to lay claim to space and power. As such, I argue that the notion of the male preserve is still a useful conceptual, theoretical, and political device, especially when considered as produced by the tyranny of gender power through the dramatic representation and reification of behaviors symbolically linked to patriarchal narrations of manhood.
Messner, Michael A. 2016. “Bad Men, Good Men, Bystanders: Who Is the Rapist?” Gender & Society 30 (1): 57-66.
Messner outlines a shifting genealogy of perspectives on rape and antirape activism, with a focus on how these shifts both constrained and enabled men’s participation in antirape work. He suggests that a pre-feminist view of rape as deviant acts committed by a few bad men was radically upended by a 1960s and 1970s feminist paradigmatic shift that viewed rape not as deviance but as a normal manifestation of patriarchal masculinity. The successful 1980s and 1990s institutionalization and professionalization of antirape work in state- and foundation funded nonprofits and campus offices was accompanied by two profound shifts: the medicalization of the definitions of sexual assault and the marketization of anti–sexual violence efforts. These developments, Messner argues, had powerful implications for how the rapist was defined and how prevention work with boys and men was shaped.
Pascoe, C.J., and Jocelyn A. Hollander. 2016. “Good Guys Don’t Rape: Gender, Domination, and Mobilizing Rape.” Gender & Society 30 (1): 67-79.
Men and masculinity have long been central to feminist theorizing about gender and sexual violence. Pascoe and Hollander suggest, however, that the ways scholarship and activism have tended to address men—as those who perpetrate sexual violence against women and as those who must be taught to not rape—may elide some of the complicated ways in which sexual violence and masculinity are intertwined. What is needed, and what the authors begin in this article, is a further interrogation into the changing relationship between masculinity and sexual violence in an era in which men both engage in and speak out against sexual violence.
Schwab, Joseph R., Michael E. Addis, Christopher S. Beigeluth, and Joshua L. Berger. 2016. “Silence and (In)visibility in Men’s Accounts of Coping with Stressful Life Events.” Gender & Society 30 (2): 289-311.
The present study investigates the importance of emotional disclosure and vulnerability in the production of hegemonic masculinities. Of particular interest is the role that silence and invisibility play in how men talk about recent stressful life events. One-on-one interviews with men who experienced a stressful life event in the past year illustrate how men often talk about these events in simultaneously visible and invisible ways. We use the term “cloudy visibility” to describe this engagement, identified both in terms of what men articulate in relation to their past stressful experiences and how they articulate these experiences within the present moment of the interview. The conversational consequences of these linguistic devices are analyzed to illustrate how men obscure their inner emotional lives, thus reproducing hegemonic masculine ideals of staying strong and stoic in the face of adversity, while they also seek to make aspects of their inner lives seen and heard to an interviewer.
Thebaud, Sarah, and David S. Pedulla. 2016. “Masculinity and the Stalled Revolution: How Gender Ideologies and Norms Shape Young Men’s Responses to Work–Family Policies.” Gender & Society 30 (4): 590-617.
Extant research suggests that supportive work–family policies promote gender equality in the workplace and in the household. Yet, evidence indicates that these policies generally have stronger effects on women’s preferences and behaviors than men’s. In this article, we draw on survey-experimental data to examine how young, unmarried men’s gender ideologies and perceptions of normative masculinity may moderate the effect of supportive work–family policy interventions on their preferences for structuring their future work and family life. Specifically, we examine whether men’s prescriptive beliefs about what work–family arrangements most people ought to prefer and whether men’s descriptive beliefs about what work–family arrangements most of their male peers actually do prefer influence their responses to supportive policies. Our analysis shows that men’s responses to supportive work–family policy interventions are highly dependent upon their beliefs about what their male peers actually want, rather than on their beliefs about what others should want. Specifically, men who believe that their male peers ideally want gender-egalitarian or counternormative relationships are themselves more likely to prefer a progressive relationship structure when supportive work–family policies are in place. These findings provide novel support for sociological theories of masculinity and hold important implications for designing policies that promote gender equality in the workplace and at home.
Carlson, Jennifer. 2015. “Mourning Mayberry: Guns, Masculinity, and Socioeconomic Decline.” Gender & Society 29 (3): 386-409.
This study uses in-depth interviews and participant observation with gun carriers in Michigan to examine how socioeconomic decline shapes the appropriation of guns by men of diverse class and race backgrounds. Gun carriers nostalgically referenced the decline of Mayberry America—a version of America characterized by the stable employment of male breadwinners and low crime rates. While men of color and poor and working-class men bear the material brunt of these transformations, this narrative of decline impacts how both privileged and marginalized men think of themselves as men because of the ideological centrality of breadwinning to American masculinity. Using Young’s (2003) “masculine protectionism” framework, I argue that against this backdrop of decline, men use guns not simply to instrumentally address the threat of crime but also to negotiate their own position within a context of socioeconomic decline by emphasizing their role as protector.
Diefendorf, Sarah. 2015. “After the Wedding Night: Sexual Abstinence and Masculinities over the Life Course.” Gender & Society 29 (5): 647-669.
This study seeks to understand the ways in which men who pledge sexual abstinence until marriage negotiate and assert masculine identities before and after marriage. Using longitudinal qualitative data, this work traces the ways in which men who pledge abstinence until marriage manage a tension between both “sacred” and “beastly” discourses surrounding sexuality. The situational and interactional gendered practices of these men highlight their attempts to resolve the incongruity between practices of sexual purity and hegemonic definitions of masculinity. I argue that a decision to pledge sexual abstinence until marriage is an example of hybrid masculinities (Bridges and Pascoe 2014) in that the postmarriage transition to a more hegemonically masculine status suggests that such practices are not challenging current gendered systems of power and inequality. These findings underscore the potential fallacy in using cross-sectional data to illustrate changes in gender relations, and demonstrate the importance of incorporating life course perspectives when theorizing masculinities.
Gerber, Lynne. 2015. “Grit, Guts, and Vanilla Beans: Godly Masculinity in the Ex-Gay Movement”. Gender & Society 29 (1): 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.
Kim, Allen, and Karen Pyke. 2015. “Taming Tiger Dads: Hegemonic American Masculinity and South Korea’s Father School.” Gender & Society 29 (4): 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.
Chesley, Noelle. 2011. “Stay-at-Home Fathers and Breadwinning Mothers: Gender, Couple Dynamics, and Social Change.” Gender & Society 25 (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.
Padavic, Irene, and Jonniann Butterfield. 2011. “Mothers, Fathers, and ‘Mathers’: Negotiating a Lesbian Co-parental Identity.” Gender & Society 25 (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.
Springer, Kristen W. 2010. “Economic Dependence in Marriage and Husbands’ Midlife Health: Testing Three Possible Mechanisms.” Gender & Society 24 (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.
Cha, Youngjoo, and Sarah Thébaud. 2009. “Labor Markets, Breadwinning, and Beliefs: How Economic Context Shapes Men’s Gender Ideology.” Gender & Society 23 (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.
Wingfield, Adia Harvey. 2009. “Racializing the Glass Escalator: Reconsidering Men’s Experiences with Women’s Work.” Gender & Society 23 (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.
Gupta, Sanjiv. 2006. “The Consequences of Maternal Employment During Men’s Childhood for their Adult Housework Performance.” Gender & Society 20 (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 20 (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.
Connell, R.W., and James W. Messerschmidt. 2005. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” Gender & Society 19 (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.
Gerstel, Naomi, and Sally K. Gallagher. 2001. “Men’s Caregiving: Gender and the Contingent Character of Care.” Gender & Society 15 (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.