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What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?
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Donaldson, M, What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?, Theory and Society, Special Issue: Masculinities, October 1993, 22(5), 643-657. Copyright 1993 Springer. The original publication is available here at www.springerlink.com.
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Theory and Society, Vol.22, No.5,
Special Issue: Masculinities, Oct., 1993, pp.643-657.
What Is Hegemonic Masculinity?
Sociology, University of Wollongong, Australia
Structures of oppression, forces for change
A developing debate within the growing theoretical literature on men and masculinity concerns the relationship of gender systems to the social formation. Crucially at issue is the question of the autonomy of the gender order. Some, in particular Waters, are of the opinion that change in masculine gender systems historically has been caused exogenously and that, without those external factors, the systems would stably reproduce.(1) For Hochschild, the "motor" of this social change is the economy, particularly and currently, the decline in the purchasing power of the male wage, the decline in the number and proportion of "male" skilled and unskilled jobs, and the rise in "female" jobs in the growing services sector.(2) I have argued that gender relations themselves are bisected by class relations and vice-versa, and that the salient moment for analysis is the relation between the two.(3)
On the other side of the argument, others have been trying to establish "the laws of motion" of gender systems. Connell, for instance, has insisted on the independence of their structures, patterns of movement. and determinations, most notably in his devastating critiques of sexrole theory. "Change is always something that happens to sex roles, that impinges on them. It comes from outside, as in discussions of how technological and economic changes demand a shift to a 'modern' male role for men. Or it comes from inside the person, from the 'real self' that protests against the artificial restrictions of constraining roles. Sex role theory has no way of grasping change as a dialectic arising within gender relations themselves." It has no way of grasping social dynamics that can only be seriously considered when the historicity of the structure of gender relations, the gender order of the society, is the point of departure.(4)
This concern with broad, historical movement is linked to the question of male sexual politics. Clearly, if men wish to challenge patriarchy and win, the central question must be, who and where are the "army of redressers?" (5) But "the political project of rooting out the sexism in masculinity has proved intensely difficult" because "the difficulty of constructing a movement of men to dismantle hegemonic masculinity is that its logic is not the articulation of collective interest but the attempt to dismantle that interest.(6) It is this concept of "hegemonic masculinity'' on which the argument for autonomy of the gender structures turns, for it is this that links their broader historical sweep to lived experience. Put simply, if the gender system has an independence of structure, movement, and determinations, then we should be able to identify counter-hegemonic forces within it; if these are not identifiable, then
we must question the autonomy of the gender system and the existence of hegemonic masculinity as central and specific to it.
On the other hand, if gender systems are not autonomous, then the question "why, in specific social formations, do certain ways of being male predominate, and particular sorts of men rule?" remains to be answered and the resistances to that order still...