The Austrian Conference on Men 2011 deals with the diversity of masculinities. Different concepts of masculinity will be discussed in the light of relevant social discourse in the research fields dealing with men and gender.
Based on the concept of hegemonic masculinity by the Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell, the complex relationships between women and men as well as between different masculinities are elaborated.
Raewyn Connell will give the opening lecture, in which she will present the concept of hegemonic masculinities with respect to the latest research findings from her transnational studies. The first day will continue with workshops promoting a debate on the (previously presented) orientation patterns and relations between masculinities.
The second day of the conference will focus on internal relations within gender roles, dynamics, conflicting fields and potentials in bringing together the variuos attitudes on approaches to masculinity, proving that the diversity of male orientation patterns is achieved through relational and negotiation processes.
The Concept of Hegemonic Masculinity by R.W.Connell
R.W.Connell (2005) focuses on “the processes and relationships through which men and women conduct gendered lives” (71) and defines “masculinity” as “a place in gender relations, the practices through which men and women engage that place in gender” (71). There exists not only one, but multiple masculinities for men to relate to. Connell distinguishes the concepts of hegemony, subordination, complicity and marginalization.
Hegemonial masculinity is the dominant model of male pre-eminence which states at a given time the “ideal masculine standard” within a society or specific groups of society, according to age, migration background, social economic status etc. In contemporary Western societies this standard is represented by the white, heterosexual, married man in a leading position, sole breadwinner, negating his physical and controlling his emotional needs.
Hegemonial masculinity acts as a model in society which creates a normative standard met only by a very small number of men.
“Nevertheless, the majority of men benefit from the dominance of this masculinity, they draw the patriarchal dividend,…they gain an advantage from the subordination of women” (79)
Complicity is close to power and even closer to hegemony, and profits from the patriarchal dividend, without (having to undergo) the risks and tensions of power. Subordinated masculinities (mainly homosexual men, men working in typically female professions, men in female dominated areas of life) and marginalized masculinities (immigrants from non-EU countries, men at the bottom of the social ladder) are on the lowest level of the hierarchy represented by the conception of the male cultural ideal.
Hegemony: “The top levels of business, the military and government provide a fairly convincing corporate display of masculinity, still very little shaken by feminist women or dissenting men. It is the successful claim to authority, more than direct violence, that is the mark of hegemony” (77).
Complicity: “Masculinities constructed in ways that realise the patriarchal dividend, without the tensions or risks of being the frontline troops of patriarchy…A great many men who draw the patriarchal dividend also respect their wives and mothers, are never violent towards women, do their accustomed share of the housework, bring home the family wage, and can easily convince themselves that feminists must be bra-burning extremists” (79).
Subordination: “The most important case in contemporary European/American society is the dominance of heterosexual men…Oppression positions homosexual masculinities at the bottom of a gender hierarchy among men… Gayness is easily assimilated to femininity” (78). But also heterosexual boys and men “are expelled from the circle of legitimacy”(79), namely by acting in “feminine contexts” such as family leave, or working in typically female professions.
Marginalization: With this term Connell describes “the relations between the masculinities in dominant and subordinated classes or ethnic groups…In a white-supremacist context, black masculinities play symbolic roles for white gender construction (black sporting stars, black drug dealers etc.). …Hegemonic masculinity among whites sustains the institutional oppression and physical terror that have framed the making of masculinities in black communities”(80).
“I emphasize that terms such as ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and ’marginalized masculinities’ name not fixed character types but configurations of practice generated in particular situations in a changing structure of relationships”(81).
R. W. Connell (2005): Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005 ISBN 0-520-24698-5