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Sociology Masculinity
by
Michael Kimmel, Tristan Bridges

Introduction

Masculinities studies is a vibrant, interdisciplinary field of study broadly concerned with the social construction of what it means to “be a man.” Masculinities scholars study the social role and meanings of masculinities. A vast majority of scholarship dealing with gender inequality focuses on women and the ways that they are structurally and systematically subordinated to men and disadvantaged. Scholars of inequality note, however, that there are two sides to inequality: disadvantage and privilege. Masculinities scholars study the various ways that men are—as a group—privileged, as well as focusing on the costs of those privileges and the ways in which not all men are granted equal access to them. “Masculinity” refers to the behaviors, social roles, and relations of men within a given society as well as the meanings attributed to them. The term masculinity stresses gender, unlike male, which stresses biological sex. Thus studies of masculinities need not be confined to biological males. Masculinity studies is a feminist-inspired, interdisciplinary field that emerged in the last few decades of the 20th century as a topic of study. It deals with the diversity of identities, behaviors, and meanings that occupy the label masculine and does not assume that they are universal. Thus scholars of masculinity often refer to masculinities in the plural to highlight the diversity of meanings, roles, and behaviors consumed in the term. Despite the fact that gender is often experienced as intensely personal—an internal facet of our identity—masculinities are produced and reproduced through the course of our daily interactions as well as within the larger institutions of society. This bibliography provides resources and an introductory overview of historical studies of masculinity, theories of masculinity and gender inequality, the relationship between masculinity and sexuality, the literature dealing with diverse men’s movements, and a summary of findings within various social institutions (education, the family, the workplace, sport, and the media).

General Overview

Scholars of masculinity discuss men and masculinity as socially constructed. Rather than focusing on biological universals, social and behavioral scientists investigate the different meanings that masculinity and femininity have in different contexts. While biological “maleness” varies very little, the roles, behaviors, bodies, and identities that are thought of as “masculine” vary enormously. This variation allows scholars to argue that masculinity is socially constructed. Scholars of masculinity come from diverse disciplines, and these various backgrounds illustrate the multiple levels of variation in masculinity. First, masculinity varies historically—what is thought of as masculine changes over time. Second, masculinity varies cross-culturally—conceptualizations of masculinity are culturally specific. Third, masculinity varies intra-psychically—what it means to be a man changes over the course of one’s life. Finally, masculinity varies contextually—even within a given society and time period, masculinity can mean different things to different people. Simply put, not all American or Nigerian or Chinese or Australian men are the same. More specifically, “being a man” means something very different to a college-age, white, heterosexual boy living in Maine than it does to a middle-age, homosexual, Latino man living in San Francisco. Since masculinity varies so much, we cannot speak of “it” as though it were a timeless essence common among all men. Rather, we must speak of “masculinities” precisely because masculinity means different things to different people in different cultures and in different historical periods. Studies of men and masculinities takes its lead from feminist studies of women and gender and seeks to both identify the social construction of gender as well as illuminate the ways that men play a role in gender and sexual inequality. Thus studies of masculinity seek to highlight both the collective privileges from which men as a group benefit as well as the disadvantages that certain groups of men face. Whitehead 2002 and Edwards 2006 are excellent overviews of the field of study. Both are interdisciplinary and clearly address the origins and trajectory of the field. Kimmel and Messner 2010 is suitable for classroom adoption with chapters summarizing important research in the field. Kimmel, et al. 2005 (cited under The Family) contains original material by experts in the field in various areas of research (family, education, theory, etc.). This would be an ideal place to begin research on a topic or broadly introduce a specific topic to a course.

  • Edwards, Tim. 2006. Cultures of masculinity. London: Routledge.

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    This compact book is interdisciplinary in focus and is a survey of the main findings, dilemmas, and disagreements within studies of men and masculinities. Drawing on material from throughout the social and behavioral sciences as well as the humanities, the broad scope makes it an excellent tour of the field of study.

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  • Kimmel, Michael S., and Michael A. Messner, eds. 2010. Men’s lives, 8th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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    Currently in its eighth edition, this textbook provides a good starting point for studies of men and masculinities. It publishes work from leading scholars in the field, organized in such a way that it provides an overview of the important theoretical and empirical findings from noteworthy books and articles.

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  • Jeff Hearn, and R. W Connell, eds. 2005. Handbook of studies on men & masculinities. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This book is edited by leading scholars of men and masculinities on three continents. It is both interdisciplinary and international in focus, providing readers with summaries of scholarship on particular topics in the field (e.g., globalization, fatherhood, education, the workplace) as well as directions for future research. Each chapter is a summary of work on a particular topic, and the contributors are among the best scholars in the field.

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  • Whitehead, Stephen M. 2002. Men and masculinities: Key themes and new directions. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    This book is a good introduction to studies of men and masculinities, dealing with its central theories, controversies, and findings. It is highly readable and provides useful references on a host of topics for study.

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Historical Background

What has been considered “masculine” and “unmasculine” has varied enormously throughout history. This is an important piece of evidence that allows masculinities scholars to argue that masculinity is not some timeless essence, but is, in fact, part and parcel of the social gender relations of the time period. For instance, Kimmel 2006 argues that masculinity in American history has undergone three distinct phases. Kimmel illustrates the ways that the most recent definition of masculinity was forged by the market forces of an emerging capitalist economy which has helped shape the behavior, ideals, desires, and gender of men since its beginnings. As Connell 1995 states, “[M]asculinities come into existence at particular times and places, and are always subject to change” (p. 185). However, Segal 1990 is quick to note that this process of change is slow in her book, Slow Motion. Connell 1995 argues that historical shifts in masculinities can be understood as primarily the result of changes in the perceived legitimacy of men’s collective power and privilege (what Connell terms the “patriarchal dividend”). There is evidence for this claim as well. For example, as Kimmel has found, historical evidence illustrates that transformations of masculinity are historically reactive to transformations in femininity. That is, as women’s roles have changed throughout history, men have adapted—often in ways that maintain their privileges from previous periods in new ways. Similarly, Rotundo 1993 illustrates the ways that understandings of masculinity have varied as a result of broader cultural change. Somewhat differently, Ehrenreich 1983 illustrates that historical change in masculinities is not only the result of changes in the status of women or broad cultural transformations such as capitalism. Ehrenreich 1983 shows how masculinities that suited previous generations are also rebelled against by the very men that benefit from them. Current historical research has begun to excavate different conceptions of masculinities among different groups of men in different places and time periods, demonstrating how masculinities emerge in specific historical moments, how they interact with each other, and how dominant conceptions emerge through social contestation.

  • Connell, R. W. 1995. The history of masculinity. In Masculinities. By R. W. Connell, 185–203. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Connell argues throughout this book that any theory of masculinity must be able to account for change, and in this chapter she stresses the fact that masculinities emerge in particular times and places and are always subject to change. This short chapter provides a summary of some of the most significant world historical transformations in the conceptualization of masculinity, their origins and consequences.

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  • Ehrenreich, Barbara. 1983. The hearts of men: American dreams and the flight from commitment. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

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    Ehrenreich’s insightful book discusses a particularly powerful ideology of masculinity that reigned during the 1950s in the United States: the responsible, bread-winning, protective, and committed husband. She shows how men benefitted from this ideology but also how they rebelled, ultimately undermining the “breadwinner ethic” and transforming men’s relationship to women in contemporary American society.

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  • Kimmel, Michael S. 2006. Manhood in America: A cultural history. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This text is one of the most comprehensive historical texts dealing with masculinity. It documents the variations in masculinity throughout American history, citing reasons for the changes as well as competing definitions of manhood within specific periods. Building on Rotundo 1993 classic text, this text provides a larger argument and marshals an incredible amount of evidence for each claim, drawing on film, theatre, literature, advertising, demographic transformations, and more.

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  • Rotundo, E. Anthony. 1993. American manhood: Transformations in masculinity from the revolution to the modern era. New York: Basic Books.

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    This is the classic text dealing with transformations in American definitions of masculinity. Rotundo’s book is an excellent illustration of the transformation in both the meanings of masculinity over time as well as the different ways in which these meanings were generated and put to use.

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  • Segal, Lynne. 1990. Slow motion: Changing masculinities, changing men. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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    Segal’s historical look at masculinity is more international in scope and illustrates not only the ways in which masculinities change over time but that there are also multiple models competing at any one point in history.

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Journals

There are a variety of journals in the field that deal with various features of masculinity (fatherhood, boyhood, etc.), but the two generalist journals are Men & Masculinities (a Sage publication) and The Journal of Men’s Studies. Both publish research from fields throughout the humanities, social sciences, and behavioral sciences. Scholars publish in each from around the world, though Men and Masculinities features more articles with global appeal.

Bibliographies and Data Sources

XY Online is an online source with a variety of materials dealing with men and masculinity from around the world. The site contains original pieces as well as a bibliographic collection of scholarship from around the world dealing with issues of masculinity. The bibliography is even topically categorized (e.g., fathering, health, pornography, sport), which aids new scholars and makes an initial search of the literature a bit easier. Janssen’s 2008 bibliography is also a good place to begin research.

  • Janssen, Diederik F. 2008. International guide to literature on masculinity: A bibliography. Harriman, TN: Men’s Studies Press.

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    This bibliography is international in scope, listing citations by world region and nation, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The materials cover articles, books, chapters, dissertations, conference papers, and previously published bibliographies of the field. This is a useful source of materials but does not share much about the field.

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  • XY Online.

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    This site contains original articles and discussions of emerging ideas in the field, in addition to a bibliography of work in the field that can be searched in a variety of ways. The sources are set up to be looked at topically, alphabetically, or as individual sources by a given author. This is a good place to begin research or for more established scholars in the field to make their work more accessible.

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    Biological Versus Social Construction

    Sigmund Freud famously stated, “Anatomy is destiny.” Though it is not clear that he intended this to be taken literally, many have taken it as a testament to the biological basis of gender differences. Biological theories of gender hold that the sources of masculinity are hidden within our bodies and our minds (when we say “biological” theories of gender difference here, we are referring to sociobiological theories, evolutionary psychology, and other evolutionary accounts of gender). Biological theories of gender difference are important to address because the argument is in agreement with many of our own observations. Men and women appear to be so different that it seems a small leap to believe in some intrinsic quality that produces these differences. The problems with biological theories are twofold: (a) the theory does not accord with the facts and (b) biological theories of gender difference provide a powerful justification for gender inequality. Kimmel 2011 provides an overview of the problems with biological theories of gender difference. If inequality is based on difference and difference is understood as inevitable, then inequality is unavoidable. McCaughey 2008 illustrates this in her analysis of biological theories of men’s sexual behavior (and Buss 1995 provides a very clear example of some of the research that masculinities scholars criticize). What biological theories fail to account for is variation. Biological theories of masculinity—and of femininity and gender relations—are based on a false understanding of masculinity as invariable. Theories of an evolutionary basis for all gender differences fail to account for (among other things) historical and cross-cultural variation. Simply put, biological theories of masculinity are unable to account for the vast amount of variation in men’s behavior, roles, identities, and more. Masculinity is not a biological property—it is social. This is why scholars of masculinity discuss gender and not sex (a distinction drawn by feminist scholars). Fausto-Sterling 1992 provides an excellent overview of the problems with biological theories of gender difference, and Lorber 1993 explains our continued belief in biological theories despite the fact that they have been empirically disproven.

    • Buss, David M. 1995. Psychological sex differences: Origins through sexual selection. American Psychologist 50.3: 164–168.

      DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.50.3.164Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This article by David Buss is an easily accessible explanation of the evolutionary psychological perspective with respect to gender differences—and masculinity. It is a perspective that is highly criticized among scholars of masculinity, but this piece provides a quick introduction to the uninitiated reader. Available online for purchase.

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    • Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 1992. Myths of gender: Biological theories about women and men. New York: Basic Books.

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      Anne Fausto-Sterling is a professor of biology and gender studies. Her writing has achieved international attention for artfully demonstrating the ways in which sexism and heterosexism are written into the ways that the biological sciences understand gender in ways that are scientifically unwarranted.

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    • Kimmel, Michael S. 2011. Ordained by nature: Biology constructs of the sexes. In The gendered society. 4th ed. By Michael S. Kimmel, 21–57. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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      This chapter from one of the most popular textbooks in the sociology of gender deals explicitly with the ways in which the biological sciences make claims surrounding gender. Kimmel clearly articulates the claims, providing both the reasons that they are incorrect as well as evidence to support his conclusions.

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    • Lorber, Judith. 1993. Believing is seeing: Biology as ideology. Gender & Society 7.4: 568–581.

      DOI: 10.1177/089124393007004006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This short and accessible article provides a good example of how the biological fallacy in thinking about gender pervades a variety of social institutions. Dealing with two issues that attract a great deal of controversy concerning gender differences (technology and sports), Lorber illustrates the compelling appeal of simplistic biological explanations while providing the evidence to discredit them. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • McCaughey, Martha. 2008. The caveman mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the debates over sex, violence, and science. New York: Routledge.

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      This small book uses the understandings of masculinity developed within the social and behavioral sciences to criticize the ways in which other sciences have attempted to define masculinity as innate, universal, and ahistorical. This text deals explicitly with biological arguments concerning men’s sexual behavior.

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    Female Masculinities

    While the majority of the scholarship in masculinities studies focuses primarily on men and boys, scholars also recognize that masculinity—as a social construction—is also a performance available to girls and women. In that vein, there is a body of research that considers the implications of masculinities performed by biological females. This is theoretically significant as it highlights the social nature of masculinities—though associated with biological males, masculinities do not require genital or chromosomal configurations. They are social performances. Studies of female masculinities are diverse, considering everything from tomboys to drag kings to transsexuals. In fact, it was a study of a transsexual woman, Agnes, by sociologist Harold Garfinkel (Garfinkel 1967) that yielded some of the pioneering insights that led to the distinction between sex and gender as we now think of it. Rather than considering Agnes as a social deviant, Garfinkel considered the ways that she had to learn femininity much more deliberately than the majority of women as a result of not having been raised as a girl. As a consequence of this, Garfinkel found that Agnes was better able to discuss all of the various behaviors, roles, and expectations of her as a woman. Ever since, we have considered gender something that one “does” rather than something one “is.” Transsexual men also provide evidence for this understanding of gender, and the Rubin 2003 study of transsexual men is an excellent case here. Masculinities, however, are also performed by women in less all-encompassing ways. For instance, performances of drag are undertaken by some women. Halberstam 1998 is a wonderful history of the various ways women have undertaken masculine roles throughout history. Similarly, some girls identify as tomboys, preferring the culture of boyhood to girlhood. The chapter in Pascoe 2007 is a great illustration of the power dynamics at play in a high school where two separate groups of young women enact performances of masculinities with very different results. Studies of female masculinities are incredibly important as they help illustrate the fact that the relationship between masculinity and men is social as well.

    • Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Passing and the managed achievement of sex status in an intersexed person. In Studies in Ethnomethodology. By Harold Garfinkel, 116–185. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

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      Garfinkel’s study of Agnes is foundational for sociological studies of gender. This study does not deal with masculinity per se but is one of the first published social constructivist studies of gender. It is a long, but accessible piece, upon which a great deal of scholarship relies.

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    • Halberstam, Judith. 1998. Female masculinity. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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      This book provides an incredible history of female masculinity, going back more than two hundred years. Halberstam provides a catalog of presentations of masculinity by women over the ages.

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    • Pascoe, C. J. 2007. Look at my masculinity! Girls who act like boys. In Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. By C. J Pascoe, 115–155. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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      As part of a larger ethnographic project dealing with masculinity and sexuality in high school, this chapter looks at groups of girls who perform masculinities at school. Interestingly, Pascoe finds that some girls’ performances of masculinity are more socially authorized than others.

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    • Rubin, Henry. 2003. Self-made men: Identity and embodiment among transsexual men. Nashville: Vanderbilt Univ. Press.

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      Rubin’s book is a theoretically sophisticated text that discusses the social construction of gender using a group of transsexual men as his sample. This book is historical, empirical, and theoretical. It is a great resource for scholars of transsexuality but also has many important resources for scholars of gender and masculinity more generally.

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    Theoretical Background and Overviews

    Theories of masculinity tell us less about what to think of masculinity than they do about how to think about it. Masculinities studies began with a curious paradox. Feminist studies of women found that women were not in power and did not feel powerful. As a simple symmetry, it was assumed that because men were in power, they ought to feel powerful. However, as research on men and masculinities began, one of the first findings was that this assumption was incorrect. While it was (and remains) objectively true that men are in power, this objective state does not translate into the experience of feeling powerful at an individual level. Placing these individual experiences within social and historical contexts allows theorists of men and masculinities to identify the various ways that gender, power, and inequality are intertwined. These scholars understand the relationship between gender and inequality as socially constructed. Carrigan, et al. 1985 was the first attempt to collect all of the research related to the topic and discuss what had been done. Subsequently, Connell 1995 attempts to delineate the boundaries of the emerging subfield of study as well as outlining her theory of gender relations. Similarly, Brod and Kaufman 1994 provides a number of chapters by scholars who help to frame masculinities scholarship theoretically. Petersen 2003 is a great summary of the theoretical debates in the field as well as future theoretical trajectories. As a subfield of gender studies, theories of masculinities are based largely on the application of other theories to men’s lives and experiences. Specifically, masculinity scholars use (a) feminist theory, to explicate the ways in which masculinities are constructed in a field of gender inequality and power of men over women (see Brittan 1989 as an example here); (b) queer theory, to explicate the ways in which heteronormativity also constructs hierarchies among men based on gender conformity through performance; and (c) critical race theory, to explicate the dynamics other than biological sex or sexuality that operate to create and sustain hierarchies among differently positioned groups of men.

    • Brittan, Arthur. 1989. Masculinity and power. New York: Blackwell.

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      This book deals with the importance of studying masculinity as a part of systems of inequality and privilege. In it, Brittan distinguishes between what he refers to as masculinity (gender performances) and masculinism (the ideology that justifies male domination). He subjects both to theoretical critique and analysis in this classic text.

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    • Brod, Harry, and Michael Kaufman, eds. 1994. Theorizing masculinities. London: SAGE.

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      This edited volume features a number of the founding scholars of the field, and each chapter is incredibly clear and concise. It is also the place that Michael Kimmel’s essay “Masculinity as Homophobia” first appears, which has proven to be a very popular piece.

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    • Carrigan, Timothy, Bob Connell, and John Lee. 1985. Toward a new sociology of masculinity. Theory and Society 14.5: 551–604.

      DOI: 10.1007/BF00160017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This paper is often cited as the beginnings of the subfield of masculinities studies. It documents the history of studies of masculinity and makes a case for a new field of study.

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    • Connell, R. W. 1995. Masculinities. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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      This book is perhaps the most extensive theoretical history of the topic ever written. It is one of the most cited books in the field by one of the founding scholars. In this book, Connell first articulates the importance of referring to “masculinities” (plural) as well as offering a thorough history of the concept. It is also one of the defining theories of the field.

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    • Petersen, Alan. 2003. Research on men and masculinities: Some implications of recent theory for future work. Men and Masculinities 6.1: 54–69.

      DOI: 10.1177/1097184X02250843Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This article is a short, clear explanation of theoretical history and trajectory of the field. Petersen summarizes a vast amount of scholarship in addition to offering profitable routes for future research and scholarship. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    Hegemonic Masculinity

    Hegemonic masculinity is perhaps the most used (and misused) term in studies of men and masculinities. The term was first coined by Carrigan, et al. (1985) (cited under Theoretical Background and Overviews), but was thereafter incorporated into Connell’s 1987 theory of gender relations. By pluralizing the term masculinity, Connell argues that while men—as a group—all benefit from gender inequality, different men benefit in different ways and at different times. Simply put, all masculinities are not created equal. To illustrate this point, Connell coined several terms to address broad patterns or configurations of gender practice (hegemonic masculinities, subordinated masculinities, marginalized masculinities, and complicit masculinities). Hegemonic masculinity is the name that Connell 1987 gives to the (currently) most culturally ascendant form of masculinity, subordinating not only femininity but other masculinities as well. As Connell 1995 (cited under Theoretical Background and Overviews) states, “‘Hegemonic masculinity’ is not a fixed character type, always and everywhere the same. It is, rather, a masculinity that occupies the hegemonic position in a given pattern of gender relations, a position always contestable” (p. 76). While the content and context of hegemonic masculinity is not stable, Connell argues that its position of cultural dominance is stable. Thus rather than seeing some features of masculinity as inevitably more culturally dominant than others, it is important to recognize, “We do not exalt hegemonic masculinities because they are hegemonic; they are hegemonic because we exalt them” (Bridges 2009, p. 91). Hegemonic masculinity is an important term because it allows us to highlight variation among masculinities and transformations in gender relations as well as power and inequality. This was Connell’s 1987 original intention; however, the term has been used more broadly, and Connell 2002 disagrees with some of the ways in which the term has been employed. The term is often misused to refer to a specific arrangement of characteristics as universally hegemonic rather than to the position that hegemonic masculinity occupies within a given set of gender relations. Any theory of gender differences and inequality must be able to account for change, and this term—when used correctly—is a good illustration of the transformation of gender relations as well as the persistence of inequality. Despite this, it has also been subject to theoretical critique (see Donaldson 1993 and Demetrakis 2001 for examples of critique) and has since been reexamined and theorized (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005).

    • Bridges, Tristan S. 2009. Gender capital and male bodybuilders. Body & Society 15.1: 83–107.

      DOI: 10.1177/1357034X08100148Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This ethnography of male bodybuilders in the United States provides a clear understanding of hegemonic masculinity. Illustrating both Connell’s intentions behind the creation of the term as well as its subsequent misuse, this article provides a useful definition and illustration of the term within a particular context. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Carrigan, Timothy, Bob Connell, and John Lee. 1985. Toward a new sociology of masculinity. Theory and Society 14.5: 551–604.

      DOI: 10.1007/BF00160017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This is the first essay in which the term “hegemonic masculinity” appears. It is addressed briefly and given more thorough consider in Connell’s 1987 subsequent theory of gender relations, Gender and Power.

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    • Connell, R. W. 1987. Hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity. In Gender and power: Society, the person, and sexual politics. By R. W. Connell, 183–188. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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      These six pages are among the first times that Connell articulates the concept and very clearly provide definitions and explanations.

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    • Connell, R. W. 2002. On hegemonic masculinity and violence: Response to Jefferson and Hall. Theoretical Criminology 6.1: 89–99.

      DOI: 10.1177/136248060200600104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This short piece is a response that Connell wrote to two criminology scholars who she argues misuse the concept. It is among the clearest pieces of the conceptualization of hegemonic masculinity and is very accessible. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Connell, R. W, and James Messerschmidt. 2005. Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society 19.6: 829–859.

      DOI: 10.1177/0891243205278639Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Because “hegemonic masculinity” is among the most popular concepts in masculinities studies, it is also used in a variety of ways. This article was an attempt to consider the critiques as well as the popular usage of the concept in an attempt to see what was worth preserving and offering directions for future research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Demetrakis, Demetriou Z. 2001. Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity: A critique. Theory and Society 30.3:337–361.

      DOI: 10.1023/A:1017596718715Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      There have been a number of critiques and explanations of the concept by scholars other than R. W. Connell, but this article and Donaldson 1993 are two of the most widely cited and acknowledged in the field. Provides a good summary of the concept and discuss some of its weaknesses as well.

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    • Donaldson, Mike. 1993. What is hegemonic masculinity? Theory and Society 22.5: 643–657.

      DOI: 10.1007/BF00993540Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Donanldson 1993 is a great read and helps to clearly identify some of the contradictions inherent in Connell’s conceptualization of hegemonic masculinity. This piece in particular asks whether the term is actually useful as it is difficult to imagine a man that lived up to it.

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    Sexuality

    Gender and sexuality are intimately interconnected. In fact, it is difficult to even conceive of sexuality without gender. Nardi 2000 is a wonderful illustration of the diversity of research within this area of study. For instance, it is often taken for granted that masculinity and homophobia are contemporarily considered culturally antithetical. Contemporary masculinity is culturally constructed as heterosexual. Scholars of masculinity argue that homophobia is part of the very fabric of contemporary masculine identity and practice. As Kimmel 1994 states, “Homophobia is a central organizing principle of our cultural definition of manhood” (p. 131). Herek 1986 and Lehne 1976 offer a similar argument—a line of argument that has become a central topic of research in the field. The relationship between masculinity and homophobia has not, however, always been the case. The gender of our sexual partners today (particularly in Western cultures) is considered much more consequential than in previous time periods as well as within different cultures. As Connell 1992 argues, “Gayness is now so reified that it is easy for men to experience the process of adopting this social definition as discovering a truth about themselves” (pp. 743–744). The relationship between masculinity and homophobia or male homosexuality and effeminacy is cultural: It has a history, has not existed forever, and does not exist in every society in the world. Despite this, it is a relationship that has dramatic consequences. Connell 1992, Levine 1998, and Hennen 2008 all illustrate the ways in which groups of gay men must navigate the association of homosexual among men with effeminacy. Ward 2008 study of online advertisements for same-sex intimacy illustrates a curious way by which some men navigate this tension: engaging in homosexual behavior but classifying it as heterosexual (and thus not subject to stigma). Although the gender of our sexual partners is crucial to our understanding of gender and sexual identity, far more central is our own gender identity. Masculinity is also one of the organizing principles of sexual behavior for men of all different sexualities. Current masculinity scholars suggest that homosexual and heterosexual men have far more in common in the meanings they attach to sexual activity than they have differences—that is, that the gender of the actor is more important than the gender of his partner.

    • Connell, R. W. 1992. A very straight gay: Masculinity, homosexual experience, and the dynamics of gender. American Sociological Review 57.6: 735–751.

      DOI: 10.2307/2096120Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This classic study of gay men in Australia is a good illustration of the intricate ways in which masculinity and heterosexuality are intertwined. The article comes from the larger study (Connell 1995 cited under Theoretical Background and Overviews) of four groups of men in Australia.

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    • Hennen, Peter. 2008. Faeries, bears, and leathermen: Men in community queering the masculine. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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      Hennen’s book is a great illustration of both diversity within gay men’s communities as well as common struggles. This case study of three separate groups of gay men shows how all three struggle with cultural constructions of masculinity seemingly at odds with their sexuality.

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    • Herek, Gregory. 1986. On heterosexual masculinity: Some psychical consequences of the social construction of gender and sexuality. American Behavioral Scientist 29.5: 563–577.

      DOI: 10.1177/000276486029005005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This article was one of the first to argue that contemporary masculinity is homophobic. Herek builds on research finding that men are more homophobic than women, specifically in their emotional reactions to homosexuality. Using survey and interview data, Herek argues that masculine identity is reaffirmed through homophobia. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Kimmel, Michael S. 1994. Masculinity as homophobia: Fear, shame, and silence in the construction of gender identity. In Theorizing masculinities. Edited by Harry Brod and Michael Kaufman, 119–141. London: SAGE.

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      In this essay, Kimmel discusses the ways in which masculinity is simultaneously about gender and sexuality. Dealing primarily with the construction of masculinity in the United States, Kimmel argues that homophobia is an integral piece of masculine identities and performances.

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    • Lehne, Gregory. 1976. Homophobia among men. In The forty-nine percent majority: The male sex role. Edited by Deborah Sarah David and Robert Brannon, 66–88. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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      This piece is part of a book that is among the founding texts of studies of masculinities, dealing with gender, power, and inequality. Lehne links men’s “anti-feminine” gender role requirements to fears of being accused of not being manly. He argues that this fear is a guiding force in maintaining both masculinity and inequality.

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    • Levine, Martin. 1998. Gay macho: The life and death of the homosexual clone. New York: New York University Press.

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      This classic ethnography deals with an important population of gay men (clones) during a historically devastating period of time when populations of gay men were ravaged by AIDS. In this ethnography, Levine deftly illustrates the interconnections between masculinity, sexuality, risk, and disease.

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    • Nardi, Peter, ed. 2000. Gay masculinities. London: SAGE.

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      This edited volume is part of a larger series on masculinities published by SAGE. The original scholarship deals specifically with the masculinity and sexuality and is a great introduction to a number of issues within this field of study.

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    • Ward, Jane. 2008. Dude-sex: White masculinities and “authentic” heterosexuality among dudes who have sex with dudes. Sexualities 11:414–434.

      DOI: 10.1177/1363460708091742Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This study deals with an interesting issue for scholars of masculinity and sexuality: men who have sex with men but identify as heterosexual (identified as “men who have sex with men” or MSMs in the literature). Using personal ads as data, she analyzes the ways in which a group of men constructs heterosexual (and masculine) identities while engaging in homosexual behavior. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    Race

    Much of the research dealing with questions of race and masculinity has focused primarily on black masculinities and their relations with white masculinity. This piece of literature is broadly known as the “emasculation thesis,” likely beginning with Franz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove, 1977). This thesis is the central topic of Staples 1982 on black masculinity. The emasculation thesis broadly argues that black men have been emasculated as a result of racism and colonialism and that this has both external (structural) and internal (psychological) consequences. Segal 1990 on black masculinity historically documents the emasculation thesis on a more global scale. Stecopoulos and Uebel 1997 also deals primarily with this issue, investigating a variety of cultural texts from literary sources, to movies, to advertisements. Gutmann 2006 is distinct here in that he does not focus on black and white masculinities when discussing race but rather a specifically “raced” category of masculine identity: “machismo.” Other work that focuses on race and masculinity has done so from an ethnographic perspective. MacLeod’s 2009 ethnography of two groups of working-class boys in the same housing projects in the United States is a great example. He compares a group of lower-class white boys with few aspirations with a group of black boys dedicated to achieving a better life to illustrate the damaging effects of race. Anderson 1999 on inner-city culture and race deals with the topic of masculinity less explicitly, but it has become an important book for scholars of race and masculinity. He finds that the ability to command “respect” (clearly related to the emasculation thesis) is such an element of lower-class black masculinity that it governs the way men navigate public space. While the ability to navigate poverty-stricken streets in an urban environment is important for safety, it also has the effect of further entrenching individuals in lower-class lives. Similarly, Duneier 1992 classic ethnography of a group of black men who hang out at a cafeteria in South Chicago is a significant contribution to this literature as well. Studies of race and masculinity have predominantly dealt with black masculinities, though a burgeoning literature on whiteness exists as well. Despite this, research in this vein will increasingly have to turn to other racial and ethnic groups to broaden our understandings of the connections between race and masculinity further.

    • Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the street: Decency, violence, and the moral life of the inner city. New York: Norton.

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      Anderson is specifically concerned with issues of violence and respect in this work and discusses the various ways that men navigate a treacherous terrain when avoiding violence but attempting to maintain respect. Anderson documents the unwritten rules (codes) that govern their public behavior as well as the consequences of this system of interaction.

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    • Duneier, Mitchell. 1992. Slim’s table: Race, respectability, and masculinity. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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      Duneier’s ethnography of a group of black men that frequent a café in Chicago is famous for its discussion of the lives of men injured by a changing economy while coping with the persistent features of racism that thwart some of their efforts to adapt. Community is a central source of identity, status, and support through these difficulties that come to define some black men’s lives in American society.

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    • Gutmann, Matthew. 2006. The meanings of macho: Being a man in Mexico City. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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      In this book, Gutmann illustrates the varied meanings of “machismo” (masculinity) in Mexican culture. He finds understandings of machismo as varied as conceptualizations of masculinity worldwide.

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    • MacLeod, Jay. 2009. Ain’t no makin’ it: Aspirations and attainment in a low-income neighborhood. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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      MacLeod compares the ways in which lower-class white and black boys from the same community struggle with race and class inequality. Comparing a group of white boys with low aspirations with a motivated group of black boys with high aspirations, MacLeod illustrates the damaging effects of racism on America’s poor.

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    • Segal, Lynne. 1990. Competing masculinities: Black masculinity and the white man’s black man. In Slow motion: Changing masculinities, changing men. By Lynne Segal, 168–204. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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      This chapter argues that black men have been the object of white men. Beginning with the start of the slave trade, she documents a global history of the emasculation of black men around the world and the consequences that this history has for contemporary black masculinities.

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    • Staples, Robert. 1982. Black masculinity: The black male’s role in American society. San Francisco: Black Scholar Press.

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      Building on Fanon’s classic text (Black Skin, White Masks; New York: Grove, 1977), Staples has become a significant figure in studies of race and masculinity. Staples argues that the legacy of slavery has broad economic, psychological, and behavioral consequences that have come to define black masculinity in America.

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    • Stecopoulos, Harry, and Michael Uebel, eds. 1997. Race and the subject of masculinities. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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      This edited volume is a collection of works by scholars of literature and cultural studies. Looking at a broad range of topics, they take a constructivist approach to racialized notions of masculinity, illustrating their origins and effects, as well as drawing connections to power and inequality.

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    Politics

    A great deal of research has concentrated on the diversity of groups organized under the umbrella term of the “men’s movement.” This topic of scholarship addresses the ways that various groups of men from anti- to pro-feminist (and everything in between) organize around their own understandings of men’s collective benefits (compared to women’s) and the various consequences of masculinity. With varying perspectives on the consequences of masculinity, groups advocate solutions following from their perspectives. The “men’s movement is composed of a variety of groups, from the anti-feminist men’s rights movement, to pro-feminist groups of men, to mythopoetic men’s groups. Scholars investigating men’s gender politics have sought to catalog the variety of movements, describe their various claims and perspectives, as well as attempt to comment on why so many groups formed in such a short amount of time. Clatterbaugh 1990 was the first to catalogue the various groups and their claims about gender and inequality. Messner 1997 compares the ways that the various groups conceive of masculinity and inequality, providing a method for situating them relative to one another. Digby 1998 illustrates the various ways in which men have attempted to ally with the feminist movement and acknowledge the varying ways in which gender inequality persists. With competing and contradictory messages, it is probably unfair to group all of these groups together as “the men’s movement.” It is even difficult to classify single groups or activities. For instance, Bridges 2010 provides an interesting example of how it is difficult to argue that men’s gender politics are either completely pro- or anti-feminist, using “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” marches in the United States as an example. Rather, men’s engagements with gender inequality are often much more complicated that political rhetoric alone. Studies continue to discuss the ways that groups of men reproduce and resist gender inequality.

    • Bridges, Tristan S. 2010. Men just weren’t made to do this: Performance of drag at “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” marches. Gender & Society 24.1: 5–30.

      DOI: 10.1177/0891243209356924Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This case study of “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” marches—an event in which men walk one mile wearing high heels to raise awareness of violence against women—shows how inequality is often subtly perpetuated in ways that often go unnoticed by naturalizing the differences between men and women.

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    • Clatterbaugh, Kenneth. 1990. Contemporary perspectives on masculinity: Men, women, and politics in modern society. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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      A classic, this book is the first of its kind in the field. It is a catalog of the various components of the men’s movement. In separate chapters, Clatterbaugh explains the rhetoric and ideologies of the men’s rights movement, fathers’ rights, pro-feminist men, the mythopoetic men’s movement, identity-based movements, and more.

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    • Digby, Tom, ed. 1998. Men doing feminism. New York: Routledge.

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      This collection of work from leading scholars of masculinity, gender, and inequality discusses the prospect of men participating in feminist practice. It is very readable and has scholars of a variety of genders and from a variety fields of study addressing the same topic.

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    • Messner, Michael. 1997. Politics of masculinities: Men in movements. New York: AltaMira.

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      Messner’s book is similar to Clatterbaugh 1990. However, rather than only catalog the various groups that occupy the men’s movement, he also evaluates them relative to one another with respect to what they stress (the costs associated with masculinity, men’s collective privileges, or differences among men) and their capacity to contribute to gender equality.

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    Health

    While masculinities studies is a field that has a lineage in feminist scholarship and theory, discussions of masculinity are not only pro-feminist (to which the previous section, Politics attests). Health is a primary issue of anti-feminist rhetoric because of the various health-related issues on which men suffer much more than women (suicide, earlier deaths, higher incidence of accident, more likely to encounter violence, etc.). See Sabo 2001 for a list of health-related issues relevant for masculinities scholars as well as explanations for what they have to do with masculinity. While conservative scholars use health as an issue to argue that it is men—not women—who are suffering from gender inequality, scholars of masculinities generally argue that ideologies of masculinity are responsible for men’s health, rather than feminism or women. Simply put, the embodiment of masculinity has physical and psychological consequences having diverse effects on men’s bodies and minds. However, masculinity is important not only for issues of health in terms of men’s likelihood of contracting certain diseases, dying younger, or participating in behavior with severe health risks. Men also experience illness as a gendered issue. For example, Casper and Moore 2009 on Lance Armstrong, testicular cancer, and masculinity documents a large body of research on men’s experiences of illness. Despite the fact that testicular cancer has a very high recovery rate, many survivors experience it as a blow to their masculinity. Illness has a historical relationship with masculinity as well. For instance, George Mosse 2000 argues that men’s early experiences with posttraumatic stress disorder after returning from World War I were framed as issues of masculinity. Rather than thought of as mentally ill, they were socially cast as unmasculine and ridiculed, further illustrating the ways that masculinity is intricately intertwined with issues of health.

    • Casper, Monica, and Lisa Jean Moore. 2009. It takes balls: Lance Armstrong and the triumph of American masculinity. In Missing bodies: The politics of visibility. 157–176. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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      In this chapter, Casper and Moore use Lance Armstrong to discuss issues of health, illness, and masculinity. The size, function, and abilities of men’s penises are intimately connected with their gender identities. Here, Casper and Moore explore this issue by focusing specifically on Lance Armstrong.

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    • Mosse, George L. 2000. Shell shock as a social disease. Journal of Contemporary History 35.1: 101–108.

      DOI: 10.1177/002200940003500109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Mosse illustrates the ways in which men’s experiences of “shell shock” surrounding World War I were not viewed through a lens of health and illness but of bravery and cowardice. Mosse shows how returning soldiers struggling with shell shock were socially outcast as they struggled to retain masculine identities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Sabo, Don. 2001. Masculinities and men’s health: Moving Toward post-Superman era prevention. In Men’s lives, 5th ed. Edited by Michael S. Kimmel and Michael A. Messner, 285–298. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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      This short piece documents the variety of health-related consequences of masculinity. It proceeds from the assumption that aspects of traditional masculinity can be dangerous for men’s health. Sabo discusses mortality rates, suicide rates, AIDS, substance abuse, violence, and more. It is a very short comprehensive guide to issues of masculinity and health.

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    Institutions

    Social and behavioral scientists are at their best when they discuss social institutions in two ways at the same time: both as agents and as settings (see Connell 1996 for this conceptualization of institutions dealing with masculinity and education). As agents, social institutions play a primary role in structuring the behavior of the individuals that occupy them. Take sport as an example. Sport—as a social institution—requires individuals to take on specific roles and to perform those roles in specific ways. As settings, social institutions are simultaneously understood as the sites within which the drama of social life is played out. Thus, while a classroom might be first understood as an agent, requiring students to take on particular roles rather than others (listening, raising hands, taking notes, etc.), it can also be conceived of as a setting, within which a range of behaviors are made meaningful (acting out, cheating, etc.). This view acknowledges that social institutions are powerful forces that structure our lives and behavior but also recognizes that all of us also make decisions about how we enact (or whether or not we choose to take on) the roles prescribed. It is important to acknowledge both the structuring forces of social institutions and the agency of individuals within them when looking at various social institutions. Scholars of men and masculinities think of social institutions in both of these ways, and masculinity has been studied in just about any social institution imaginable. Following is a summary of research dealing with men and masculinities in some of the most commonly studied social institutions: the family, education, the workplace, sport, and the media.

    The Family

    The family is a central site of socialization; it is one of the primary social settings within which children learn what gender means in the societies in which they live. It is for this reason that Sarah Fenstermaker Berk 1985 famously referred to the family as a “gender factory.” We now understand masculinity and femininity as both products of the family as well as raw materials from which the family is constructed. It remains the case in most Western countries that most men marry and father children. Jessie Bernard argued that in marriage, men and women experience different expectations and responsibilities. She argues that every marriage is two marriages: “his” and “hers.” Since this finding, many studies have found that “his” marriage is profoundly better than “hers.” Married men do less housework than unmarried men; earn more income; live longer, healthier lives than their unmarried counterparts (both physically and psychologically); commit crimes less often; and are even happier than unmarried men. Being a father, while currently undergoing cultural transformation, is still very different from and less demanding than being a mother (see Marsiglio and Pleck 2005 for a summary of studies of fatherhood and Nock 1998 for an explanation of the various ways men benefit in marriages). Conversely, married women do more housework than unmarried women, report lower levels of happiness, and earn less income than their unmarried counterparts. Beyond this, fewer men try to get out of marriages than women. In the United States, approximately three-quarters of divorces are initiated by women. As all of this suggests, marriage benefits men. See Coltrane and Adams 2008 for an excellent overview of research on gender and the family. The roles that men play in relationships with women and the family are not inevitable. We know this because the roles vary enormously cross-culturally and even within a given culture. For instance, married white men in the United States do a small minority of the housework, while Hispanic men in the United States do almost equal amounts of housework and childcare as their wives. Risman 1998 also illustrates the ways that couples have begun to exist on more equitable terms, but this process is fraught with difficulties. Gerson 1993 documents the various ways in which men in the United States are coping with changes in the workforce that have dramatic consequences for their family obligations, relationships, and understandings of masculinity.

    • Berk, Sarah Fenstermaker. 1985. The gender factory: The apportionment of work in American households. New York: Plenum Press.

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      This book is a seminal study of gender and the family. In it, Berk illustrates how the ways in which gender is performed within the family (mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, etc.) is not inevitable or equitable. Rather, the family is a social institution that reproduces gender difference and inequality through the apportionment of work within the household.

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    • Coltrane, Scott, and Michele Adams. 2008. Gender and families. 2d ed. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

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      This book is a wealth of knowledge on gender and the family. Dealing with everything from demographic transformations in family forms to ethnographic research on gendered meanings within the family, Coltrane and Adams’ book is a useful resource for teaching or becoming familiar with the broad strokes of a specific topic within studies of gender and families.

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    • Gerson, Kathleen. 1993. No man’s land: Men’s changing commitments to family and work. New York: Basic Books.

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      Through in-depth interviews with men, Gerson discusses the various ways that men have responded to changes in the economy that have led to dramatically different workplace and family experiences for both men and women. This book is incredibly accessible and would be very provocative to discuss in classes.

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    • Marsiglio, William, and Joseph H. Pleck. 2005. Fatherhood and masculinities. In Handbook of studies on men & masculinities. Edited by Michael S. Kimmel, Jeff Hearn, and R. W. Connell, 249–269. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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      This chapter is a great outline of the research dealing with masculinity and fatherhood. It addresses some of the central debates in the literature as well as focusing on the different struggles that different groups of men face in dealing with fathering (fathers of different races, classes, ages, etc.).

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    • Nock, Steven L. 1998. Marriage in men’s lives. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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      Nock examines men’s experiences of marriage and the various benefits they procure as a result of the union (better health, great income, better political participation, higher social status, etc.). Using a variety of national datasets, Nock is able to broadly generalize about the meaning and importance of marriage in men’s lives.

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    • Risman, Barbara. 1998. Gender vertigo: American families in transition. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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      Barbara Risman’s book is a collection of her research dealing with the transformation of gender within the family. Studying single fathers, egalitarian couples, and their children, Risman discusses instances of gender transgressions within the family. While acknowledging the family as a thoroughly gendered institution, she also illustrates the ways in which families operate within this framework to craft new gender roles and expectations.

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    Education

    Since the start of the 21st century, masculinity has come to occupy increasing concern in education as the performances of boys in countries around the world (the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States, Japan, and more) are a controversial topic of concern. Research and media attention concerning this issue has internationally become known as the “What about the boys?” debate (see Martino and Meyenn 2001 discussing the various dimensions of this debate in addition to compiling scholarship from around the world). Connell 1996 is an excellent introduction to and critique of the scholarship that argues that boys are falling behind. A primary argument in this area of research is that, when it comes to education, girls and women appear to be “winning.” For example, in 1982, women surpassed men in entering higher education. This simple statement, however, obscures the fact that more people are going to college than ever before. For instance, in 1960, 38 percent of girls and 54 percent of boys went directly to college from high school in the United States today, the numbers are 70 percent of girls and 64 percent of boys. The media often paint a picture of boys suffering in schools, not receiving attention, and falling behind girls. In fact, studies have shown that boys are more likely to act out, flunk out, and drop out of school when compared with girls. While conservatives claim that this is evidence that boys are being shortchanged in schools as a result of feminist efforts to reform schools for girls—an argument epitomized by Christina Hoff Sommers 2000—most masculinities scholars disagree with this interpretation. Scholars of masculinity argue that, if boys are struggling, cultural ideologies of masculinity are to blame. Pascoe 2007 shows how high school boys police one another’s behavior through criticism and joking. Ferguson 2001 illustrates the ways in which the misbehavior of certain groups of boys (African American boys in particular) is naturalized in school settings. As these studies illustrate, schools are not only passively responding to the masculinities that walk through their doors; they are integral participants in the social construction of masculinity. By treating boys and men as a homogenous group, the “What about the boys?” debate often masks inequality within these groups. Scholarship continues to investigate the ways in which students, teachers, administrators, and the structure and content of education are all intimately involved in the construction of masculinities within school settings.

    • Connell, R. W. 1996. Teaching the boys: New research on masculinity, and gender strategies for schools. Teacher’s College Record 98.2: 207–235.

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      In this short article, Connell summarizes the research dealing with the ways in which masculinity is an issue in education (both as a product and a hurdle). Connell also argues that the findings from social scientific research are not adequately incorporated into classrooms and many policies are not helping boys. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Ferguson, Ann Arnet. 2001. Bad boys: Public schools in the making of black masculinity. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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      This ethnography of an inner-city school illustrates the problems that lower-class black boys in US schools face. Ferguson’s book is a great example of masculinities scholarship as well as an important contribution to research dealing with masculinities in education.

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    • Martino, Wayne, and Bob Meyenn, eds. 2001. What about the boys?: Issues of masculinity in schools. Philadelphia: Open Univ. Press.

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      This edited volume brings together scholars from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to address issues of masculinity in schools. It is an important book for both scholars and teachers, and each chapter offers empirical research on various issues in education (programs for boys, discipline and boys, sexuality, boys and reading, etc.).

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    • Pascoe, C. J. 2007. Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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      Pascoe’s book is an ethnographic project dealing with a California school, detailing the ways in which boys produce masculinities through their interactions with each other at school and the structures of the schools in which they learn. Pascoe’s book is a wonderful illustration considering both the ways in which schools are structured to reproduce certain kinds of masculinities as well as the ways in which boys participate in this process.

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    • Sommers, Christina Hoff. 2000. The war against the boys: How misguided feminism is harming our young men. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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      Sommers’ book is one of a series of scholarship arguing that feminist efforts at educational reform dedicated to ensuring better experiences in school for girls and young women have had adverse effects on the education of boys. Masculinities scholars generally disagree with this argument, and Sommers is the example most often cited.

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    The Workplace

    Despite the fact that the proportion of men and women in the workplace is approaching parity, the majority of men and women work in single-sex occupations. In fact, an entire 30 percent of women in the US workforce work in only 10 of the 503 listed occupations on the US Census. Sex segregation is one of the most tenacious features of the workplace. Women and men may be going off to work in the morning in equal numbers, but they are going to different places, provided different compensation for their time, performing different kinds of work, and occupying different positions. Sexual harassment remains a common feature of many workplace environments, though women are disadvantaged without this as well. Martin 2001 illustrates the various ways that masculinity in the workplace is an issue for women as well. Because women and men are thought of as different, with different abilities, “women’s” and “men’s” jobs are also often different. When scholars began investigating women in the workforce, they started by investigating women in workplaces composed primarily of men. Studies of women in the workplaces dominated by men initially argued that women’s lower status in the workplace could be partially accounted for by their status as minorities. In fact, one scholar even argued that when any group represented less than 15 percent of an organization, the members of that group would be subject to predictable forms of discrimination. This theory held when examining women in “men’s” occupations. Subsequent scholarship, however, has found that the same is not true when men are the minorities. Not only are men in “women’s” occupations not discriminated against in their occupations, they also experience structural advantages that help their careers rather than hindering them—what Williams 1995 refers to as the “glass escalator.” Subsequent research, however, has argued that men are not unilaterally benefited when in “women’s” professions. For instance, Wingfield 2009 finds that among male nurses, black men do not experience the glass escalator to which Williams refers, suggesting that issues of men’s privileges are made more complex when taking issues of racial inequality into account as well. Still, even in workplaces composed almost entirely of men, masculinity remains an important issue. The analysis by Messerschmidt 1995 of the workplace dynamics that led up to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion is an excellent illustration of this. Work, for many men (and for women as well), has identity-based consequences.

    • Martin, Patricia Yancey. 2001. “Mobilizing masculinities”: Women’s experiences of men at work. Organization 8.4: 587–618.

      DOI: 10.1177/135050840184003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Martin’s study is a wonderful illustration of the ways in which masculinity is an issue in the workplace even when men are not aware. This excellent study finds patterned barriers that women face as a result of men’s performances of masculinity in the workplace. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Messerschmidt, James. 1995. Managing to kill: Masculinities and the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Men and Masculinities 3.4: 1–22.

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      Using the events that led up to the space shuttle Challenger explosion from the minutes from the presidential commission that later investigated the incident, Messerschmidt deftly illustrates the ways in which a workplace drama concerning masculinity between engineers and managers led to this terrible accident. This study is a great example of the ways that masculinity is an issue even in workplaces composed almost entirely of men.

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    • Williams, Christine L. 1995. Still a man’s world: Men who do “women’s work.” Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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      Findings from studies of women in jobs occupied primarily by men have found women structurally disadvantaged (e.g., the glass ceiling). Williams looks at similar situations in which men work in jobs composed primarily of women. She finds that men in these positions are not disadvantaged but are actually given advantages—a phenomenon she refers to as the “glass escalator.”

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    • Wingfield, Adia Harvey. 2009. Racializing the glass escalator: Reconsidering men’s experiences with women’s work. Gender & Society 23.1: 5–26.

      DOI: 10.1177/0891243208323054Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Wingfield’s study of black male nurses sought to address the “glass escalator” hypothesis. She found, however, that black men in a culturally feminized profession (nursing) did not experience the same invisible privileges as their white counterparts. Thus she argues that the glass escalator is better understood as both gender and racial privilege. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    Sport

    Masculinity is a part of virtually every social institution. However, gender is more naturalized in sport than in perhaps any other social institution; as such, it plays an integral role in masculinities studies. For an overview of many of the central issues in this area of study, see Messner and Sabo 1990. Segregation in sports, as well as the gendering of different sports, contributes to sexism, homophobia, misogyny, and inequality in the rest of society while also taking its cue from the society in which it is celebrated. Anderson’s 2008 study of men’s team sports illustrates how this takes place. Despite this, segregation in sport remains persistent. Even when men and women play the same sports, they often play on different-sized fields, with different-sized balls, in different uniforms, and sometimes with subtly different rules. Sport is also an early site of gender socialization for a many boys throughout the world. The values, bodies, behaviors, and misbehaviors exalted in professional athletics have consequences far beyond the courts and fields on which they are displayed. They shape the dreams, desires, identities, and behavior of boys, girls, men, and women worldwide. Messner 1992 works with male athletes at a variety of levels of play (from high school through professional sports) finds that masculinity remains an integral feature of sport throughout men’s lives. But beyond the differences between sports for men and women, sports also play a large role in the lives of men and have a pervasive relationship with masculinity more generally. For instance, Douglas E. Foley’s ethnography of a high school in south Texas—Learning Capitalist Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990)found not only that football was a central status system but that the entire population of the school used football games as a celebration of the dominant gender ideals in school. The game directly valorizes a specific pattern of aggressive, dominating, violent masculinity and indirectly marginalizes other masculinities in addition to femininity more generally. At a larger level, sports are also culturally masculinized. While it is true that a great deal of ground has been gained by girls and women in athletics in a relatively short period of time, many things have been extraordinarily resistant to change. For example, almost four decades after the introduction of Title IX in the United States, the opportunities of boys and men in sports outnumber those of girls and women by wide margins. There are fewer professional female athletes, and those that are professional are paid only a small fraction of the salaries offered their male counterparts. The “center” of sports—defined by Michael Messner 2002 as the sports with “the most highly celebrated, rewarded, and institutionalized bodily practices that are defined largely by physical power, aggression, and violence”—remains a space constructed both by and for boys and men.

    • Anderson, Eric. 2008. “I used to think women were weak”: Orthodox masculinity, gender segregation, and sport. Sociological Forum 23.2: 257–280.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1573-7861.2008.00058.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Anderson argues that homosocial environments (like men’s team sports) that limit men’s contact with women foster masculinities that aid in the reproduction of gender inequality. He also finds that involving the same men in a gender-integrated sport help many men positively reformulate their attitudes toward women, making a case for gender integration in sports on a broad scale. Available online by subscription.

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    • Messner, Michael A. 1992. Power at play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Boston: Beacon.

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      This interview project of US athletes (from high school through professional sports) analyzes the complex, gendered relationships that boys and men come to have with sports. Messner discusses the various ways that sports have meaning far beyond the courts and fields on which they are played; they play an integral role in shaping what it means to “be a man.”

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    • Messner, Michael A. 2002. Taking the field: Women, men, and sports. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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      Messner’s research deals centrally with the question of masculinity and sports. This book is a wonderful example of the various ways that gender is both a raw material for and a product of sports. Messner analyzes athletics from a variety of levels (ethnographic to demographic) and illustrates the ways that boys and girls participate in producing gender in sports—which was also already there before they began playing.

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    • Messner, Michael A., and Donald F. Sabo, eds. 1990. Sport, men, and the gender order: Critical feminist perspectives. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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      This book of scholarship is one of the first collected volumes on the topic of masculinities within sports from a feminist perspective. The articles deal with theories of the connection between masculinity and athletics, the history of masculinities in athletics, as well as contemporary research dealing with men’s gendered relationship with athletics.

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    The Media

    Marx wrote, “[M]en make their own history, but they do not do so just as they please, but from materials directly encountered from the past.” Much of the research on the constructions of masculinities examines those “materials directly encountered from the past”—the incoherent, often contradictory, but nonetheless influential collections of images and representations in the media. Masculinities are “mediated” —that is, they are constructed through media images (see Hanke 1998 for a clear introduction to this area of study). One area of research reexamines canonical texts, excavating representations of masculinities displayed there. Literary scholars explore the ways that masculinity was portrayed and the processes by which representations of masculinities became normative. Scholars also analyze modern cultural forms—popular music, film, television, and advertisements. A key debate is whether the caricatured images of failed patriarchs as buffoon-like objects of scorn indicate a feminist “takeover” of the media and consequent institution of “misandry” in the media, or whether these clueless men—from Jackie Gleason to Homer Simpson—actually indicate the contestation over the new meanings of masculinity. Only the least sophisticated literalism would support the former position, but that has not prevented significant cultural critique. Scholarship also examines the consumption of pornography. Scholarly debate by empirical social scientists has been largely inconclusive, identifying some very modest negative effects that do not last especially long. Critics of pornography argue that it is a symptom of male domination and racialized hierarchies among men. However, a new generation of feminist-inspired scholars doubts that the meanings of pornographic representations inhere in the images themselves but rather in the ways that people, women and men, use those images or have those images used against them. This raises the question not only of the representation of masculinities in the media but also of men as consumers. See Messner and de Oca 2005 for an excellent example of this using beer and liquor advertisements. Some research has been concerned with the impact of advertising on men’s consumer behavior and also on how differently positioned men (by race, class, sexuality, etc.) respond to contemporary representations (see, e.g., Craig 1992). Finally, the impact of new social media, especially social networking, has yet to be adequately explored, but there is little doubt that the nature of friendships, relationships, and sexualities will be further “mediated” by these new media forms.

    • Craig, Steve, ed. 1992. Men, masculinity, and the media. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

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      This edited volume focuses on a broad range of topics investigating past research on men, masculinity, and the media. Contributors examine how the media constructs masculinities, variations in the depiction of men and their relationships, and how men have responded to dominant media images. This is a good place to begin when investigating this topic.

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    • Hanke, Robert. 1998. Theorizing masculinity with/in the media. Communication Theory 8.2: 183–203.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.1998.tb00217.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Hanke’s article is a wonderful introduction to studies of masculinity in the media. He discusses the origins of the field as well as commenting on research trajectories. This piece is very accessible and meant as an introduction for uninitiated readers.

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    • Messner, Michael A., and Jeffrey Montez de Oca. 2005. The male consumer as loser: Beer and liquor ads in mega sports media events.Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30.3: 1879–1909.

      DOI: 10.1086/427523Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This article is based on an examination of beer and liquor advertisements during two Super Bowls in the United States. Messner and Montez de Oca argue that advertisements help authorize consumption-based masculinities that perpetuate violence and inequality.

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    Worldwide

    As previously mentioned (see General Overview), masculinity varies, allowing scholars to argue that masculinity is socially constructed. Masculinities are produced by individuals within specific circumstances; but they are also products of those same circumstances. Cross-cultural variation is an important piece of this argument, and it has largely been anthropologists who have provided this evidence. For instance, Gilmore 1990 began writing Manhood in the Making in search of those elements of masculinities that did not vary around the world. While he knew that masculinity varied greatly around the world, Gilmore initially thought he would find certain elements that did not—some kind of “core” masculinity common to men worldwide. His findings, however, did not support his initial hypothesis. Masculinities varied so widely throughout the world that not only were different things classified as “masculine” in different cultures around the world, but some things were thought of as “feminine” in one culture and “masculine” in another. A good example of the utility of this work is anthropologist Matthew Gutmann’s research on masculinity in Mexico. In a recent project Gutmann 2007 looks at the ways in which the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is partially due to an inadequate understanding of masculinities in Mexican culture. Homosexual intercourse between men was thought to be one way that diseases like AIDS were traveling through the population. Population surveys, however, illustrated that the population of homosexual men in Mexico was very small. Gutmann illustrates the ideology (existing in other parts of the world as well) whereby not all men who have sex with men consider themselves homosexual. However, despite incredible variation in masculinities, gender is also being globalized. As Connell 1998 argues, to say that gender is being globalized is to say that a global process of homogenization is occurring whereby cultures are becoming more similar to one another. Research also suggests that there are social forces that are removing some of that variation. For instance, Barker 2005 compares poor men in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Nigeria, and Jamaica to illustrate the ways in which diverse groups of men are navigating similar issues and responding in similar ways. Masculinity is indeed being globalized. Globalization has dramatic impacts on masculinities worldwide, setting in motion gendered migrations of workers (both male and female), sometimes disrupting and sometimes reinforcing traditional gender relations at the local or national level. In addition, the institutions of globalization themselves are gendered, relying on gendered ideologies of free markets, economic rationality, and atomized notions of “freedom.”

    • Barker, Gary T. 2005. Dying to be men: Youth, masculinity and social exclusion. New York and London: Routledge.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203425664Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Barker does not ask why poor men all over the world are so violent, but rather why more of them are not. Focusing on Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Nigeria, and Jamaica, he uses interviews with men outside of the violence to discuss the resources for more peaceful masculinities around the globe.

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    • Connell, R. W. 1998. Masculinities and globalization. Men and Masculinities 1.1: 3–23.

      DOI: 10.1177/1097184X98001001001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      While Connell agrees that cultural conceptualizations of masculinity vary widely throughout the world, in this article she discusses the impact of globalization on the global diversity of masculinities. She argues that globalization is helping to produce a hegemonic masculinity common to the world gender order. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Gilmore, David D. 1990. Manhood in the making: Cultural concepts of masculinity. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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      In this classic text, Gilmore seeks first to search around the world for understandings of “masculinity” in an effort to distill the common, universal qualities. He finds, however, that there were no such universal qualities, and his text is an excellent illustration of the diversity of conceptualizations of masculinity around the world.

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    • Gutmann, Matthew. 2007. Fixing men: Sex, birth control, and AIDS in Mexico. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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      This book deals with the issue of masculinity in Mexico as it pertains to sex, birth control, and the transmission of AIDS. In this excellent ethnographic and historical account, Gutmann provides an up-close view of a cultural construction of masculinity as well as illustrating the ways in which policies related to safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases sometimes fail in Mexico because they were designed by people with a different understanding of masculinity than exists in Mexico.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0033

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