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Lecture 3

SOC275H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Hegemonic Masculinity, Sex Organ, Role Theory

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Hae Yeon Choo

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SOC275H5 LECTURE 3: The social construction of gender relations sociological and feminist
Main Topics of the Day:
Review of the key concepts: hegemonic and subordinate masculinity and femininity.
A Social Constructionist Perspective – difference, power, and the social institutions.
“Doing Gender”: Group exercise 1
Varieties of feminisms
Hegemonic masculinity:
More of relational terms, instead of being fixed. These masculinities are plural, within
different types of masculinity IN RELATION TO ONE ANOTHER. One masculinity is
hierarchy of another.
Masculinity is not fixed, but instead created by society based on standards.
A particular form of masculinity that is the most honored and highly recognized in
society and one that becomes the gold standard for other types of masculinities and
Tom Brady for example, not only embodies hegemonic masculinity because he is an
athlete, but also because he is married to a Victoria Secret Model, which portrays him
as ‘real man’. Her femininity boosts his masculinity (hence, hegemonic masculinity
needs emphasized femininity).
Emphasized femininity
An exaggerated form of femininity; women confronting to the needs and desires of men.
Ex. The movie Mean Girls. The two main girls, Regina and Cady fight over winning the
affection of a male named Aaron. Their roles in the movie are to play as the “sex
objects” in high school, the girls that every wants to be with and every girl wants to look
like. Cady is intelligent but throughout the movie feels the pressure to degrade her
intelligence in order for her to get attention from the desired male, Aaron.
This structure is made in the male dominant society. Emphasized feminity comes in to
Emphasized femininity in the Lord of the Rings: There are many characters (hobbits,
humans) portrayed as men. Some are more hegemonic than others. However, there is
only one type of feminity presented, which is the female character (the Elf). She

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becomes the partner of the male protagonist. We take for granted the fact that there is
only one character portraying emphasized femininity.
Ex. Drake video
The World of Suits:
Louis Litt is an example of subordinated masculinity, which supports the hegemonic
masculinity in the show (Harvey). He wants to be like him, and be recognized on the
same level. This reinforces Harvey’s character as being the ideal lawyer.
Ex. Emphasized feminity of Mike Ross’s secretary when speaking with Harvey, it
displays how Mike’s masculinity was boosted through the use of his secretary.
Sociology: Critique of Biological Determinism: “Biology is NOT destiny”:
We speak about gender not completely fixed by biology (male and female)
Biology tends to matter in difference scenarios.
Biology is NOT destiny: they give foundation to people to build upon it. Gender
difference is enforced based on socialization and behaviour: boys and girls are taught
different by the society: “Big strong boy”, “Little cute girl”
Ex. Lego marketing: 1981 vs. present: The advertisement has changed. Same toys are
marketed in different ways based on stereotypes.
Beyond Sex Role Theory and Gender Socialization:
Minimizing the importance of gender, especially the multiple levels of social structures
and institutions.
Provides singular (not multiple) definitions of masculinity and femininity. – Meanings of
masculinity and femininity vary across cultures, over historical time, among men within
any one culture, and over the life course.
“Role” is too fixed: ignored the relational & situational character of gender. Has an
immobile nature to it because it’s more complex. Role depends on institution and
atmosphere which determines the roles male and female play. People are socialized
into these roles, but it does not provide a good explanation of how these roles have

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The Sex Role Theory believes in two separate spheres, as a way of sorting sex
differentiation into two categories. Ex. Boys get placed into the masculine group, girls
into feminine. This suggests that the two groups are static and have nothing to do with
each other, leading to contradiction.
Gender socialization placed more emphasis on how parents socialized with boys and
girls differently. However, this did not focus on the institution level.
Sex theory ignores the fact that because gender is plural and relational, it is also
situational. What it means to be a man or woman varies in different contexts. Those
different institutional contexts product different forms of masculinity and femininity.
Gender is therefore not a property of individuals, but rather a set of specific behaviours
produced in specific social situations. Gender changes as the situation changes.
Most importantly, sex role theory makes gender a set of individual qualities and not an
aspect of social structure. This way, the notion of “role” focuses attention more on
individuals than on social structure. Ex. “The female role” and “the male role” are
separate or different, but equal..
Neglects the power relations with gender, making gender a set of individuals attributes
and not social structure.
Sex Role theory cannot explain the dynamics of change.
Social constructionists identify six related problems with sex role theory, which
minimizes the importance of gender; understands singular definitions of masculinity and
feminity; ignored the relational dimension of gender; rejects the situational quality of
gendered interactions; depoliticizes by making it an individual quality instead of societal;
cannot explain dynamics of change.
The importance of everyday interactions: Doing Gender:
Doing gender is looking beyond the Sex Role Theory. Doing gender means that gender
is not something we HAVE naturally, but something we DO in interaction with others in
everyday life. Gender is a routine accomplishment embedded everyday interaction.
Ex. Front stage, back stage roles:
When we do gender, we are seen and judged by others. In other words, we are
accountable for our gender performance.
Ex. Applebee commercial: Group of guys sitting among each other. They are all ordering
500 calories meal. But when one individual orders a less than 500 calories meal, his
friend questions him.
Gender therefore seems stable, not easily changeable. We feel that it is engraved into
Nonparticipation in usual ways of masculinity and feminity – doing gender differently –
has social costs (People tend to judge others). Ex. Bronies & “It Gets Better” Project:
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