Our American society has hegemonic masculinity ideals because of the peer pressure to conform to prevailing expectations of gender. This hegemonic societal pressure applies to men and women. Policing normative gender behavior is common practice, along with punishing violators of the gender norms. Sexualized aggression for boys is ‘normal’, along with the sexual discrimination, harassment, and bullying, that maintains the social hierarchy. Our society reproduces this ideology because Failing to do them is failure to ‘Be a Man’ in our society. ‘Hegemonic’ is a specific meaning that has become the dominant, normative, standard way of defining a concept [or a group of people] in a way that disadvantages other people and segments society. It appears natural and ‘right’; the white heterosexual ideology, is: young, virile, educated, employed, active, family man. Hegemonic masculinity categorizes and limits the characteristics, roles, behaviors, and potential of all males into a rigid set of meaning that benefits specific dominant-power-interests. Power interests like: government, law, family, education, heterosexualism, and whiteness.
A few men benefit from this ideology, even though most men do not fully embody masculinity, they also don’t do anything to challenge patriarchy. So they are able to reap the benefits without enacting hegemonic masculinity. Heterosexual men have power in groups, but feel trapped/powerless as individuals. They grow tired of constantly having to prove their manhood, and they experience a level of anxiety. Most of people are weakened by hegemonic ideology, boys display deficits in: emotional intimacy, affection , companionship, disclosure, and empathy. Hegemonic Masculinity rejects anything feminine, and measures masculinity by: power, success, status. It encourages unemotional behavior, favoring calm, tough, reliable attitudes, but also: daring, aggressive, risk taker behavior. Masculinity is difficult to maintain because of how rigid these ideals are. Boys are socially forced to disassociate themselves from girls, because friendships with girls without intent of sexual conquest signifies failed masculine performance. Subordination, dominance, and sexual harassment of girls becomes integral for boys to express their heterosexual masculine hierarchies. Females suffer harassment daily, but its culturally perceived as a normal part of boy-girl interaction.
In today’s society, hegemonic femininity is the enormous pressure women feel to be perfect; attractive, fun, smart, academic, caring. The ideals force women to equate identity with image, so that their feminine performance becomes their whole life. The social peer pressure forces women to think that romance/marriage/family is more important than academic achievement. Marriages and families are socially celebrated, but not career achievements. Society’s standards are stricter for women than for men, and women aren’t given academic encouragement at any level. Women excel in school, but men still earn higher income and have better careers, because of the gender biases in hiring/ promotion. Hegemonic feminine is not as strong/hostile as the masculine ideals, but it still exists in society and impacts cultural ideologies.
Something interesting I considered this week, is that society refuses to acknowledge that the male-aggression is the cause of social violence. Current violence prevention methods like increased security, zero tolerance policies, and harsh penalties, are superficial solutions since violence is perpetuated by our cultural ideals of heterosexual masculinity. This realization has opened my eyes to some of the man-issues that I’ve previously considered a byproduct of their privilege. The reason violence against women isn’t viewed as irregular, is because the privileged men who commit these crimes feel justified in doing so, they believe it is the correct thing to do. In our cultural traditions, bullying and abuse is how they achieve manhood.
This generation has more freedom to explore alternative behavioral styles than previous generations. The modern media has introduced us to ‘alternative’ lifestyles little by little, through television and internet. Children’s TV programming in the 90s was really progressive in that way, with very diverse characters, always challenging gender norms. Hey Arnold, The Magic School Bus, Rocket Power, Recess, Power Rangers. Always had strong girls and sensible guy characters, always multi-racial friend groups from different social backgrounds.
I’ve read a lot this week about ‘the quest for hegemonic masculinity in young men’, but I also see a recent trend of creating media that demonstrates a more sensitive kind of male, so I know that trying to embody traditional male behavior is a phase that most 21st century menfolk will tire of and move on from.
In modern media, dominant alpha male characters are seen as being primitive, and are frequently used as comedic relief, or as villains. These days, main character males are always flawed, corky, emotional, relatable, but strong in their own special way. Shows set in the modern day, like: Big Bang Theory, Parks and Rec, New Girl, Psych, 30Rock, ect. do not support many ideas about hegemonic male practices. We can conclude that the reach of hegemonic gender identity constructions are ingrained in society because of our cultural history, to a point that no one has to coach young men to behave traditionally masculine (they do it on their own). Even though modern society tries to veer away from these ideals, they are ever-present.