Masculinism and hegemonic masculinity are the names of a movement and at the same time terms of gender studies. They refer to the relations between men and women, but also to those between men themselves. Primarily, it is about a demanded „supremacy“ (BI 2020) of the man, a related acceptance of the subordinate and how this is justified in each case (cf. Meuser; Scholz, 24).
The term masculinism (also masculism) describes international men’s rights movements that genuinely advocate for the rights of their gender. In response to the second women’s rights movement, several of these movements were founded in the 1970s in the United States and later in Northern Europe, but they are very heterogeneous. While profeminist men stand for equal rights for all genders, the dismantling of gender-specific discrimination and the equalization of gender relations, masculinist movements thus advocate the rights of men without exception (cf. Masculinism). It is important here to be aware of different manifestations. The exact orientations should be differentiated between anti-feminism, explicit misogyny or the protection and expansion of men’s rights.
Origin of the term
The term masculinism was used as early as 1911 in the scholarly journal The Freewoman (OUP 2020). It was not until the 1980s that further research in sociology occurred, in part because the classical image of men was considered „unquestioned matter of course“ (Baur; Luedtke 2008, 8). Thus, women, discrimination against them, and feminism were always in the foreground of research (Cf. Baur; Luedtke 2008, 7).After a change towards a post-industrial society, men seemed to get a new and previously unknown profile (Cf. Baur; Luedtke 2008, 8). Especially Robert Connell coined hegemonic masculinity, so that this term became the decisive one in researches about masculinity (Cf. Meuser; Scholz 2012, 24). The term thus originates from scientific research, but is increasingly used by men’s movements as a self-designation (Cf. Baur; Luedtke 2008, 8).
Orientation to stereotypical gender roles
The classic or rather historical role models, according to which the man functions as the dominant head and breadwinner of the family and the woman is supposed to take care of the house and children, have largely loosened in our society, or are by far no longer as pronounced as they were a few decades ago (cf. Claus 2014, p.14 f.). Nevertheless, certain ideal concepts still exist for the sexes to live up to. Associated with this, for example, are the characteristics of men to be strong, which, in addition to physical strength, also implies that it is unmanly to show feelings or emotional vulnerability. The masculinists are concerned with a discourse regarding the existing ideas of masculinity (cf. Claus 2014, p.49). However, it must be stated at this point that there is no consensus within the movement about what the ’new masculinity‘ should look like (cf. Claus 2014, p.13). Especially in the anti-feminist or misogynist oriented currents, it rather appears as if the old role schemata want to be reconquered.
Meanings in the context of men’s rights movements
Groups such as the Men’s Rights Movement, the Promise Keepers, or even so-called mytho-poetic men’s movements (cf. Martschukat 2008, 48-49) criticize that feminist efforts for equality discriminate against and oppress men, creating a ‚crisis of masculinity‘ (cf. Feldmann 2013, 478). For example, discrimination against women is denied because men are equally disadvantaged in other areas. Here, shorter life expectancy, compulsory warfare, and discrimination in custody are often cited. Others argue for a natural or religiously based right to male supremacy (cf. Vahsen 2002, 249) or want to return to a natural and strong masculinity (cf. Martschukat 2008, 47-48). These different camps overlap in their naturalistic and essentialist understanding of gender differences (cf. Connell 2015, 95), whereby even the more ‚moderate‘ currents mostly reproduce a problematic gender relation.
In many cases, the phenomenon of masculinism is described as „misogynistic and homophobic“ because it serves „to maintain and stabilize male-occupied power structures“ (Vahsen 2002, 253). Accordingly, masculinist tendencies advocate the consolidation and legitimization of patriarchal dominance relations and thus hegemonic masculinity.
The concept of hegemonic masculinity goes back to the Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell (b. 1944) and, despite various criticisms (cf. Meuser 2016, 221), represents a central concept in sociological masculinity or gender research. In contrast to the previously dominant gender role theory, Connell’s approach offers the merit of being able to examine the relationship between masculinity and power (cf. Connell 2015, 72).
Central to Connell’s approach is the assumption that there is a multiplicity of masculinities (as well as femininities, cf. May 2010, 131) that are subject to social change and simultaneously coexist in a society (cf. Vahsen 2002, 253). In her relevant book The Made Man, Connell refers to a masculinity as hegemonic that is the dominant and predominant one in each culture and era.
„‚Masculinity‘ is a position in gender relations; the practices through which men and women occupy these positions, and the effects of these practices on bodily experience, personality, and culture“ (Connell 2015, 124).
Taking this further, „[h]egemonic masculinity […] could be defined as that configuration of gendered practice which […] ensures (or is intended to ensure) the dominance of men as well as the subordination of women“ (Connell 2015, 130).
Here, Connell’s notion of hegemonic masculinity is modeled on Antonio Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony. According to his „class- and state-theoretical concept of hegemony“ (May 2010, 141), „domination […] consequently functions through a commitment to shared values and common patterns of interpretation“ (Meuser 2015, 10). In contrast to imperial structures, in which power exists through coercion, the hallmark of hegemonic relations of domination is the „[implicit] consent of the subordinates“ (Meuser 2016, 220).
However, hegemonic masculinity is not to be understood as a bundle of characteristics that all men have in majority, but rather it functions as an ordering system or pattern (cf. May 2010, 129). It is seen as an ideal of masculinity that is established by a minority of elites and structures social relations (cf. Meuser 2016, 221). This is because hegemonic masculinity demarcates itself in two ways: from femininity but also from other forms of masculinity (cf. Vahsen 2002, 248). Agreeing with this double dominance relation of masculinity (cf. Meuser 2016, 221), Bourdieu writes that masculinity is an „eminently relational concept, constructed before and for other men and against femininity, out of a kind of fear of the feminine“ (Bourdieu 2005, 96). Connell refers to the currently dominant conception of masculinity as transnational business masculinity (see Meuser 2015, 12).
‚Masculinities‘ – classification according to Raewyn Connell.
Hegemonic masculinity is in a relationship of dominance and tension with three other superordinate categories of masculinities, which Connell distinguishes as follows:
However, all these concepts of masculinity (as well as femininity) are also mutable and influence each other (cf. Ibid., 130-132). Connell’s concept is reminiscent of Bourdieu’s theory of male domination or hegemony in certain respects, which is why the concept of hegemonic masculinity can also be understood as a habitus-theoretical concept of masculinity (cf. Meuser 2016, 222), according to which hegemonic masculinity is to be understood as a „generative principle of the construction of masculinity“ (Meuser 2016, 221).
Gender pay gap problem from a masculinist perspective (exemplary).
The fact that there is no equality between the sexes can be seen in different points or circumstances in our modern society: „Despite politically enthusiastic decades of women and despite (admittedly moderate remaining) gender-political interventions of the social and legal state, the masculine hegemony in politics and economy has been able to sustainably assert itself (Kreisky 2001, p. 153).“
In the economy, for example, almost all important leadership positions are held by men (cf. Kreisky 2001, p. 154f.), so that in this context one can speak of a „self-understanding of male supremacy“ (Franziska Schutzbach 2018, p. 305) or hegemonic masculinity. Similarly, this disproportionality is expressed in the remuneration of the sexes. This discrepancy is referred to as the gender pay gap, according to which men are paid significantly more than women for the same job and qualifications (cf. Robert Claus 2014, p.39). In the course of this development, voices have been raised, especially from women’s rights circles, calling for an equalization of salaries. However, masculinists feel disadvantaged by measures introduced in this regard, such as the women’s quota, because in their view attention is only paid to the concerns of women. Moreover, masculinists problematize the advancement of women as „directly hindering the life paths of boys and men, as they [would] be pushed into passivity and low-paying professions“ (Claus 2014, p. 39).
Baur, Nina; Luedtke, Jens (Eds.) (2008): The social construction of masculinity. Hegemonic and marginalized masculinities in Germany. Opladen: Budrich.
Bibliographisches Institut GmbH (2020): Hegemony, the, [online] https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Hegemonie [19.09.2020].
Bourdieu, Pierre: Male domination. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 2005.
Claus, Robert (2014). Masculism – Antifeminism between supposed salability and blatant misogyny. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (ed.); Forum Politik und Gesellschaft.
Connell, Raewyn: The Made Man. The Construction and Crisis of Masculinities. 4th revised and expanded ed. Wiesbaden: Springer 2015 (= Gender and Society 8).
Fegter, Susann (2012): The crisis of boys in education and upbringing. Discursive construction of gender and masculinity. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Feldmann, Doris u. Sabine Schülting: Männlichkeit. In: Metzler Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie. Approaches – Persons – Basic Terms. Ed. by Ansgar Nünning. 5th updated & expanded ed. Stuttgart: Metzler 2013. pp. 478-479.
Kreisky, E. (2001). World economy as a field of struggle: aspects of the interplay between globalism and masculinism. Austrian Journal of Political Science, 30(2), 137-159. https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168- ssoar-59682.
Martschukat, Jürgen u. Olaf Stieglitz: History of masculinities. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus Verlag 2008 (= Historical Introductions 5).
Masculinism. https://www.lexico.com/definition/masculinism (5.10.2020).
May, Michael: Hegemonic Masculinity. In: Women’s Politics in Family Hands? New relations in competition, autonomy or cooperation. Ed. by Karin Böllert u. N. Oelkers. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2010. pp. 129-156.
Meuser, Michael: Sociology. In: Masculinity. An interdisciplinary handbook. Ed. by Stefan Horlacher, B. Jansen u. W. Schwanebeck. Stuttgart: Metzler 2016. pp. 218-236.
Meuser, Michael; Scholz, Sylka. In: Baader, Meike Sophia; Bilstein, Johannes; Tholen, Toni (Eds.) (2012): Upbringing, education, and gender. Masculinities in the focus of gender studies. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Meuser, Michael: Masculinities in society. By way of introduction. Introduction in: The made man. Construction and Crisis of Masculinities. 4th revised and expanded ed. Wiesbaden: Springer 2015 (= Gender and Society 8). S. 9-20.
Oxford University Press (2000): masculinism, n., [online] https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/114564?redirectedFrom=masculinism#eid [19.09.2020].
Schutzbach, Franziska (2018): Dominant masculinity and neoreactionary worldviews in the pick-up artist scene. Published in Feminist Studies Volume 36 Issue 2, Edited by: Sabine Hark et. al, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/fs-2018-0034; Publisher: De Gruyter; Published online: 02.11.2018.
Vahsen, Mechthilde: Männlich/Masculinity/Masculinity Studies. In: Metzler Lexikon Gender Studies, Geschlechterforschung. Approaches – persons – basic terms. Ed. by Renate Koll. Stuttgart: Metzler 2002. pp. 252-253.
Vahsen, Mechthilde: Männerforschung (Men’s Studies/New Men’s Studies/Men’s Movement). In: Metzler Lexikon Gender Studies, Geschlechterforschung. Approaches – Persons – Basic Terms. Ed. by Renate Koll. Stuttgart: Metzler 2002. pp. 248-249.