Hegemonic Masculinity: A Perspective Missed by Sociologists
Hegemonic masculinity is a sociological theory missing an important part. Assuming men only want to be dominant and carry all the responsibility.
Hegemonic masculinity is a sociological theory revolving around how men take a prominent and supreme position in society. It is a theory based on explaining how women in society take a backseat to the dominance men hold through a perceived superiority over women. A major concept related to such prominent political movers such as Karl Marx, it is a term used to explain the suppression of gender positions in society.
Here is the problem with such a concept. The assumption states men want the position they have in society. It assumes men want to take the brunt of the responsibility for breadwinning, hunting and gathering, and protection, but the biggest misnomer is that men’s place in society is an advantage over women. Personally, I know many men who have a hard time taking the dominant role and would be perfectly happy taking a backseat.
The problem with any stereotype is the people within it have no opinion or choice whether they want to be seen in the stereotypical light or not. Ascribing abuse or manipulation to an entire gender, who may not want to be thrust into the position they find themselves in, is not fair. Nor is it healthy for either sexes.
Is the stereotype a detriment?
As a woman, I am okay with taking the backseat. Let me preface that with, I am an intelligent, educated woman who has been given all the opportunities, educational advantages, and I have never been discriminated against. At least that I know of.
What I have seen, having two young boys, is that whether they want to hold a dominant place in society or not is not an issue. Many see the dominant stereotype as being a detriment to females. As the mother of two boys, sometimes I think it is a disadvantage to them.
When I hear men keep women down, I instantly think about all the pressure society puts on men that they may, or may not, want. As much as women don’t want to be kept down, it is not societally acceptable for a man not to live up to what he should. As a woman, I am happy no one expects me to:
#1 Always be stronger, emotionally and physically. Men are always supposed to be the protector. Being there to pick up the pieces, they have to be the disciplinarian, the bad guy, and someone who strips all emotions from any situation. We all have an impression men were born without emotions, they weren’t. They have just been taught to keep them to themselves. [Read: Sensitive sides: Should men embrace male femininity?]
#2 Be prepared to fight when the occasion calls for it. A guy always has to be ready to defend those that he loves. Whether he weighs 200 pounds or 150, he has to be the one ready to fight, defend, and put himself, and his own safety, on the line whenever it is called for.
#3 Put money issues above the ties they feel to my family. Guys are supposed to be the breadwinners, and most financial obligations fall on them. We wrongly assume they would rather be stuck behind a desk than helping out with little league. But for many men that isn’t the case. Even if they want to be with their family and enjoying time together, they are expected to sacrifice everything to make sure that there is food on the table.
#4 Be responsible for protection. I can’t imagine being responsible for the physical safety of my wife, children, and overall household. It is a heavy responsible to know everyone depends on you to keep them safe and sound every day of their lives.
#5 Go to work when my children are suffering, money is my job! It makes no difference if a man is concerned about a sick child or not. When he has to go to work, he has to leave his worry behind and focus on his job. The finances in the house don’t stop just because someone is sick. Whether it is one-day illness, or something very serious, men can’t worry about spending time and helping, there is money to be made. [Read: Emotional maturity: 13 clues to know if someone has it]
#6 Be emotionless. Guys are not supposed to lose their tempers, show anger, or react with anything but “yes, dear.” No matter how much stress is on them, when they walk through the door at the end of the day, they are met with children who are excited daddy is home, a wife who has had enough of the kids and needs a break, and everyone’s problems. Being emotionless is just an expected consequence of hegemonic masculinity.
#7 Work their ass off, but sacrifice their needs. Men are expected to work day in and day out, but to put their needs last. When in a family or relationship, they are looked upon as selfish if they do things for themselves, or buy themselves things. Being the head of the household means you often get to make decisions, but they are rarely fun or self-serving ones.
#8 Listen but never step in. Think about what happens when a man listens to a woman and tries to give advice… big misstep. Men are supposed to listen but not give any advice or opinion. They are supposed to be a sounding board, but an opinion-less one. All hell could let loose if they say something their spouse doesn’t want to hear.
#9 Be responsible for household finances. When there isn’t enough money for the extras, who’s fault is it? If a man is the head of the household, he is responsible to find money when it just isn’t there. Sometimes that means taking on more work, working overtime, or selling things. Wholly responsible, men do what they have to do to hold their place in hegemonic masculinity.
#10 Always be in control. Men are never supposed to lose control. Women yell, rant, rave, and let the crazy eyes out, men are supposed just to deal with it quietly and calmly. Intimidating. When a man loses his temper, it is totally inappropriate and typically comes with severe consequences of one sort or another. [Read: Here’s how you can be masculine without being a jerk]
#11 Want to get ahead at any cost. Men are expected to be highly competitive. That means getting ahead at any costs if need be. For the man who has a lot of integrity, that is a hard thing to do. Often asked to go against what they believe, they do so because they have someone relying on them.
#12 Have your life choices constantly guided by financial obligations. Even if a man wants to go out and get the car of his dreams, he rarely follows his dreams. They are guided by the financial obligations he has to other people in his life. Imagine if everything you made went to other people. It would make you feel out of control, wouldn’t it?
#13 Expect to deal with the woman’s emotions in my life but never react. A man is expected to let a woman go nuts on him and not react. The golden rule of never hitting a girl means she pretty much does whatever she wants, and he is supposed to take it. Being in a dominant position also means that he can’t ever react.
#14 Investigate when things go bump in the night. A man is supposed to be fearless especially when something goes bump in the night. He is expected to be the one to put himself on the line to defend those in the house. Always trying to be invincible, they aren’t ever supposed to let anyone see them sweat. Constantly throwing himself on the gun, he is expected to take one for the team.
#15 Defend your woman’s honor *even when it was her fault, and the other guy is bigger*. A man may be in a dominant position, but that means his job is to defend not only the physical well-being of his family, but their reputation. Even if he doesn’t have a problem with someone, he sticks up and defends his woman’s honor, even if that means throwing himself in harm’s way.
#16 Never cry. I can’t imagine never being able to cry. Crying is one of the most cathartic ways human beings deal with loss and sadness. Having to keep it all in is not healthy, but it is expected of the men in our society.
#17 Do all those jobs around the house that no one wants to. Men are expected to do things no one else wants, like lift heavy things, kill bugs, and clean up the really gross stuff. Why? Because they are so lucky to be the dominant figure of the household and world. [Read: How to stop selfish people from hurting you]
#18 Sacrifice for the needs of your dependents. Men are supposed to put everyone’s needs before their own, both physical and emotional. When you have kids, that means any time that you want to spend away, any money you want to spend, or any ideas you have, are likely a source of debate and one you will lose for the greater good.
#19 Make your soul purpose your family’s well-being. Being the head of the household or holding the hegemonic masculinity position means your sole purpose in life is to hold your prominent place by keeping everything in order and making sure everyone is well-adjusted, taken care of, and things are always running smoothly. [Read: 13 rules of etiquette for the modern gentleman]
#20 Supposed to feel guilty about being in the position they are in. The biggest conundrum is we want guys to be all these things, but we want them to feel guilty for having so much “privilege.” Even if they don’t want it, they have it. So, they have to feel bad about it. What a complicated series of emotions that must come with.
What feminists miss is that just as much as they never asked to be in an inferior position societal wise, perhaps being in the dominant role, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.