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WS102 Lecture Notes - Heterosexuality, Hegemonic Masculinity, Mass Media

Women's Studies
Course Code
Tina Davidson

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Masculinity and femininity are dichotomous
Masculinity only exists because of femininity, need the opposite to understand. They are defined by each
other. Ex. Men are strong, women are weak
Masculinity are defined by what women are not, should not, and do not
Masculinity is constructed through a learning process like femininity
Just as heterosexuality is normal and unremarkable, therefore not studied, it is just like masculinity. Men
have dominated public realm, so their experiences are marked as the human experience. Studying
masculinity contributes towards gender studies.
The Biology of Masculinity
- Possessing a y chromosome, penis
- Relative body size [changes from ethnic groups]
- “Biology as gender”: biology dictates who you are, and how you fit in the world
So what is Masculinity?
- Like any other cultural construction, there is a context: means different things to different people
- Meaningless without femininity, contrasts
- Mass media plays important role in maintaining, studying, establishing popular ideals of masculinity
Men can support themselves financially, heterosexual, tall, strong, abs
Politicians, actors, athletes try to achieve the ideal
- Behavior/actions/characteristics are caused by masculinity
- “Essentialist definitions”: pick a particular aspect that defines masculinity. Focus on an essence.
Masculinity is aggressive
- “Positivist definitions”: contain a list. Don’t incorporate grey areas [if men are competitive, women by
definition not allowed to be competitive]
Men are career-oriented, aggressive, strong
- “Normative definition”: normative, but ideal approach [most men aren’t the ideal, just like women]
- Based on social power and how much power particular groups of men hold
What is Ideal Masculinity?
- Hegemonic, idealized masculinity
Holds the most power
- Associated with control [wife, workforce, finances], violence, aggression, breadwinner, educated, rational
The opposite are not ideal masculinity, not real men are weak, emotional, stay at home dad
[feminine (looked as despised, failures) traits]
- Boys learn to avoid behaviors that don’t constitute as a “real man
- Masculinity evolve just as culture does
GI Joe’s body and accessories changed over time
- Masculinities change because of a crisis [allow for positive change, change in women’s role and
femininity, failures in hegemonic masculinity, changings in meaning of class]
Historically men are typically advertised with cigarettes, today they are undesired in society
Alternate Masculinities (not hegemonic [central, ideal that we should aspire to] they are marginalized, but has
some power)
- Class alternate masculinities [middle, upper demonstrated by possession]
- Radicalized alternate masculinities [not being white you lose a step]
- Feminist alternate masculinities [men who are feminists. Men who are emotional.
- Gay alternate masculinities
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