WSTA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 26: Hegemonic Masculinity, Masculinity, Cultural Capital

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CHAPTER 26: Gendered Strategies of the Self: Navigating Hierarchy and Contesting Masculinities
Literature Review
Boundary Work
Lamont argues that working-class men define their worth and dignity using a moral measuring stick, which they use to draw moral boundaries between themselves
and those to whom they feel superior
for example, she finds that among American working-class men a strong work ethic, a disciplined self, protection, and responsibility are venerated and used to
draw distinctions
Strategies of Self
building on Lamont's work, Rachel Sherman examines boundary work and the notion of a comparative self in an occupational context
she explores how interactive service workers in luxury hotels manage to maintain dignity and power while performing service work that positions them as
subordinate in relation to socially and materially privileged hotel guests
she finds that workers use comparisons and judgments of guests and co-workers to place themselves at the top of symbolic hierarchies of competence, authority,
status, need, morality, intelligence, and cultural capital
for example, workers evaluate guests on the basis of their intelligence, refraining guests' demands as indicates of incompetence and indicative of an inferior social
status
in drawing these symbolic boundaries workers are able to effectively portray themselves as superior to those to whom they provide services
finally, Sherman finds that the strategies workers use to construct superior selves are often fluid (that is, dependent on context), and contradictory (for example,
workers constituted guests as inferior through both critique and empathy)
Theorizing Masculinities
contemporary theoretical approaches to gender relations, and masculinity in particular, provide a number of pertinent insights
firstly, differences among men shape the ways they experience and enact gender
masculinity is profoundly influenced by social structures such as race, class, age, and sexuality, and these structures affect men in different ways
in addition, masculinity is historically and culturally contingent
so there is not one pattern of masculinity found everywhere, rather there are masculinities
in addition, some masculinities are deemed cultural superior to others; hegemonic masculinity is the most honoured or desired at a particular time and in a
particular setting
hegemonic masculinity cannot exist unless there are subordinated Others (that is, women and marginalized men) who are constructed as deficient in some way
as a result, hegemonic masculinity upholds power and status inequalities both between men and women, and among men
the main patterns of contemporary hegemonic masculinity in Western societies include the connection of masculinity with toughness and competitiveness, the
subordination of women and the marginalization of gay men
in addition, appropriately masculine men are supposed to (a) remain calm and reliable in a crisis, and hold their emotions in check, (b) be aggressive and take
risks, (c) repudiate anything even remotely related to femininity and (d) strive for power, success and wealth
while few men actually meet all these normative standards, hegemonic masculinity is the benchmark against which all men are measured
a further theoretical insight is that hegemonic masculinity cannot be reduced to a simple model of cultural control, as the notion of hegemony implies an active
struggle for dominance
therefore, while hegemonic masculinity is the standard against which all other masculinities are measured, the position at the top of the hierarchy is never secure
and is always contestable
further, masculinities are collective
as they are sustained and enacted by individuals, groups and institutions, these struggles occur at both individual and group levels
because masculinity is fragile and contested it must constantly be proved
Connell's concept of hegemonic masculinity has been widely applied in gender-related research; however, the concept has also been criticized on a number of
fronts
the first points to a tendency to essentialize differences between men and women
Connell and Messerschmidt note that the concept has often been misinterpreted and misused, and acknowledge that a great deal of essentializing has occurred in
the literature, despite the fact that the concept of hegemonic masculinity was formulated in an anti-essentialist way
secondly, the concept of hegemonic masculinity has received criticism for tending to dichotomize men's and women's experiences, making it seem as though
women are peripheral to hegemonic masculinity
the solution to this problem is to return to a focus on a relational approach to gender
because gender is accomplished in interactions with others, and often defined by what one is not, what is considered to be masculine is defined in oppositional
relations to understandings of what is feminine
finally, Wetherell and Edley assert that Connell's work on hegemonic masculinity has proved useful for understanding the broad social context of gender relations
but has not been developed in a way that accounts for the social psychological reproduction of masculine identity
therefore, more micro-level analyses required to understand men's strategies for negotiating identities in everyday practice
they conclude that masculinity is a way that men position themselves through psycho-discursive practices – that is, men come to identify and create masculine
identity through talk
The Media as Reputational Entrepreneurs: Firefighters and Heroic Masculinity
- the goal of the news media is to create and retain reader interest
- one way to accomplish this is through human interest stories, which are designed to attract readers and retain their loyalty
- successful human interest stories create ‘collective attention’ and encourage ‘shared identification’ among audience members
- both during the fire and in the weeks that follows, the print media covered numerous human interest stories about firefighters
- both of the local newspapers drew on dominant cultural discourses and symbols of heroism in these stories
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