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E 341 (23)

Masculinity, patriarchy, Bob Connell, hegemonic masculinity, queer theory

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Colorado State University
E 341
Aparna Gollapudi

30 October Masculinity and Patriarchy What is Patriarchy? From Greek: patria meaning father and arché meaning rule So, the most basic level of relevance is the family unit, which is the building block of social order. But also, the family is the realm where individuals might in today’s world feel the limitations of that definition. Patriarchy is opposite of Matriarchy A social system that privileges men over women – it can have different manifestations: on the individual level, collective or cultural level, legal and/or institutional level In a patriarchy, male members of a society tend to predominate in positions of power; with the more powerful the position, the more likely it is that a male will hold that position. Patriarchy need not be reduced to essentializations such as all men are exploitative or all women are victimized. It can, instead, be seen as a system in which most identities of power are coded ‘male’ – a dominant woman in a relationship ‘wears the pants’ for instance, or men who reject or fail to upload patriarchal power-structures would be reduced to identities coded ‘female’ such as a ‘sissy’ Patriarchy is not a stable, unchanging state – its lineaments are constantly shifting historically, geographically and in specific inter-personal interactions. But it persists more or less virulently in pockets of contemporary existence. Patriarchy does not primarily maintain itself by force but by the process of socialization. Often patriarchy functions on the premise of ‘natural’ gender roles in which men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. These ‘innate’ qualities such as the boldness of men or the nurturing ‘instinct’ of women reinforces the ‘naturalness’ of patriarchy – it is ‘obvious’ that men who are ‘bold’ will be better suited to authority. Men might be more inclined to preserve patriarchal institutions as it benefits them but very often women are the enforcers and perpetuators of patriarchal power. Patriarchy often rewards complicit women with power and approval, who in turn reinforce patriarchal structures in other women. But patriarchy is not only about Man – with the capital ‘M’ having more power or privileges than women – it is also about some men having power over other men through socially sanctioned institutions The conundrum of patriarchy for men often is that conceptual patriarchal power very often coexists with experiential disempowerment and helplessness. Some of the reasons for this Erosion of traditional bastions of male privilege Patriarchy is harsh on men who challenge or are unable to follow its notions of privileged masculine behavior Not all masculinities are equal. Economics, race, sexuality, geography – all factor into male access to patriarchal power Bob Connell: Hegemonic Masculinity Hegemony: Dominance of one group over another not merely by force but by tacit consent of those subordinated Hegemonic masculinity refers to the “cultural ideal (or ideals) of masculinity” which “need not correspond at all closely to the actual personalities of the majority of men.” “Hegemonic masculinity is very public.” In order to maintain dominance, there has to be an element of mass assent to those profiles of masculine behavior. “The public face of hegemonic masculinity is not necessarily what powerful men are, but what sustains their power and what large numbers of men are motivated to support.” Why do men admire and preserve the ascendance of masculinities (Rambo, Bogart, James Bond) that highlight their own distance from these models and often put men in risk of being punished for failing to live up to these hegemonic figures? Fantasy gratification, displaced aggression But main reason: hegemonic masculinity is the cultural expression of general male ascendancy over women and thus promisingly attractive to men. It “embodies a successful collective strategy in relation to women.” Men as well as women might like hegemonic gender patterns and find them comfortingly familiar. The “’fit’ between hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity” Connell talks about is at the core of some of the most successful romance narratives. But hegemonic masculinity is not only constructed vis-à-vis women but in relation to subordinated masculinities The most persistently subordinated masculinity is homosexuality which is mocked, degraded, marginalized But also, other factors – race, religion, physique, employment – create subordinate
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