Hegemonic masculinity

Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies, Year 2

Outline R.W Connell s term hegemonic masculinity and discuss its usefulness in relation to a contemporary men s magazine or magazines of your choice

The last decades have brought masculinity in the attention of cultural studies more than ever before. As pointed out by John Beynon, in the study of masculinity one thing has to be made crystal clear at the outset: masculinity is composed of many masculinities [...] while all men have the male body in common [...] there are numerous forms and expressions of gender, of being masculine and being feminine (Beynon: 2002, page 1). However, within this framework of understanding, R.W. Connell goes on to argue that at any given timeone form of masculinity is culturally dominant.In this essay we are going to look at Connell s articulation of the concept of hegemonic masculinity and discuss itsrelevance in relation to our contemporary society. In order to do so, we will test Connell s main arguments ontwo men s lifestyle magazines GQ

and Men s Health- and try to work out whether there is an identifiable hegemonic masculinity in these publications. This approach will enable us to


men are not born with masculinity as part of their genetic make-up. masculinity is cultural. while others aresubordinated.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. (Beynon: 2002. rather it is something into which they are acculturated and which is composed of social codes of behaviour which they learn to reproduce in culturally appropriate ways. as well as gain an understanding as to what this dominant identity might be and why it might be supported and encouraged by the media. ridiculed. According to MacInnes (cited in Beynon: 2002. in a society still 2 . Year 2 examine the usefulness of thisnotion in today s society. If th e sex is biological and therefore common to all men. Thus.page2). a social ascendancy achieved within a balance of forces ( Connell:1987) Connell s further argumentsis that hegemonic masculinity is constructed in relation to women and to subordinate masculinities. a construction meant to help people make sense of their lives. hegemonic masculinities are culturally d ominant forms of gendered being. page 2) for instance.Thus. some representations of masculinity win consent. Within this normal state of affairs. Thus. Connell s formulation of hegemonic masculinity draws from the idea that men globally have never shared the same notion of masculinity. absorbed or. in our present culture masculinity only exists as a fantasy about what men should be like.

to privacy. more precisely men s magazines.e. Drawing from the Marxist theory according to which the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling confining them to the 3 . although it may be associated with it. to unconsciousness (Connell:1987) Hence. This being a 2000 words essay. hegemony is not necessarily supported by violence. This is why the power elites. media emphasis. hetalks aboutthe way in which hegemony is achieved through soft power. Rather than that.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. ghettoes. page 23) According to Connell. Connell s theory reaches seve ral distinct levels of society in terms of what helps produce and reinforce hegemonic masculinity today. academia. i. etc. This soft power works on two levels:by advertising a certain type of masculinity and preventing alternatives from gaining cultural definition and recognition. Year 2 very much defined by patriarchy. (Connell: 2005. institutions and social practices (all ruled essentially by men) work together to uphold a certain stereotype of ideal masculinity: Men s interest in patriarchy is condensed in hegemonic masculinity and is defended by all the cultural machinery that exalts hegemonic masculinity. social practices. we will have to narrow our discussion to the field of the media. hegemonic masculinity needs to encapsulate those characteristics that would help male domination prevail.

[. Engels cited in Storey. Noam Chomsky explained the way in which the media operate in a capitalist society: The media will present things within a framework that serves the interests of the dominant institutions. it immediately points out a discrepancy with hisviewaccording to which the main purpose of hegemonic masculinity is tosafeguard patriarchy.. page 102) Hence. Marx and F. However. This view is also shared 4 . In an interview on his media theory.] There is a complex system of filters in the media and educational institutions which ends up ensuring that dissident perspectives are weeded out. page 191)and taking into account the economic structure of the media. (Chomsky: 2003. (Beynon: 2002. we can argue that this has more to do with economic aspects. Edwards believes that forms of meaning in men s magazines have very little to do with sexual politics and a lot more to do with markets for the constant reconstruction of masculinity through consumption. page 24) This view fits in well with Connell s arguments on the media reinforcement ofhegemonic masculinity. J: 1998. For instance. or marginalized in one way or another. Year 2 ideas (K. For..Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. we can see how elite ideologies might be smuggled into the texts of contemporary magazines. especially in the case of the media. capitalism places men in a network of social relations that encourages sets of behaviour recognised as masculine.

more profitable for the consumer culture of the 20 th century: In order to sell products. the product is audiences and the market is advertisers.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. To begin with. to capture them between the covers of designer magazines. In order to find out more about the characteristics of this ideal new man in today s society. Year 2 by Rowena Chapman. I have carried out a content analysis on two men s lifestyle magazines. magazines have a product to sell and a market they want to sell it to. as Connell would argue.page 229) Like all media. the idealman in a magazine is not necessarily the average men in the street or. As such. advertising had to sell men. the first section of the content analysis deals with representations of race in the two magazines. both magazines featuring 5 . GQ and Men s Health. the patriarchal ideal of a powerful figure. (Champman: 1988. The coding sheets (see Appendix) speak for themselves. The findings (see Appendix) of my content analysis will enable us to apply Connell s theory and try to indentify a hegemonic pattern of gendered identity. who talks about the way in which the media have created a new man . but that of the most profitable male stereotype for the industry. What was considered here is the number of images (photos) of men representing different races.

2 of Asian and 4 other (Indians and Ara bs ) Of course. There are 175 photos of white men. Year 2 overwhelmingly representations of white men.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. though. black masculinities play symbolic roles for white gender construction. As Connell argues in his book entitled Masculinities. remains highly underrepresented. with 318 images of white men as opposed to only 33 of black men and no representation at all of Asian or other ethnicities. in advertisements as well as articles and news. Nevertheless. This suggests that the white male ideal is still very much sustained by the two magazines. page 67)Particular black athletes may be examples for hegemonic masculinity. In a white-supremacist context. people who have already been accepted as role models by society. as was the case in GQ with the images of 6 . (Connell:2005. it may be relevant to add that most of the black men featured in the magazine are successful personalities such as Barack Obama and Stevie Wonder. being a magazine based mostly on sport. The difference in figures is more striking in GQ . the representations of race in Men s Health acquire a distinct symbolism. The e veryday black person. it could be argued that. Moreover. compared to 9 images of black men. In Men s Health the representation of race is slightly more varied. but still far from being an actual sample of the population in this country.

As Connell explains in Hegemonic Masculinity. In GQ as well as Men s Health. 7 . this is a necessary condition for the perpetuation of white male dominance. most of whom would never go shopping for clothes or use beauty products. which comes as a challenge for the traditional male ideal that we ve inherited from our fathers. excluded. both in representation and in the realm of the social. page 67) The underrepresentation of other races in the two magazines points towards a white-skin ideal. Year 2 Obama and Stevie Wonder. (Connell: 2005. they are rendered invisible.] Invisibility is both cause and effect of political and social exclusion.. the fame and wealth of individual stars has no trickle-down effect and it does not yield social authority to black men generally. the most frequent ads were for clothing (51). but rather.[. booze and gadgets came out last in the chart in terms of frequency. whereas traditional manly products such as cars. accessories (52) and cosmetics (25). (Connell:1987) The second section of the content analysis deal s with the nature of the advertisements in the two publications. There are no negative repres entations of black men and others. This points to a feminisation of consumption within the male environment..Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies.

Interestingly. Year 2 One interpretation for this could be that masculinity and femininity nowadays have become more fluid and they increasingly occupy a middle space. The fact that both magazines feature the exact same 3 ads for American Express illustrates the strong emphasis on wealth that is woven intocontemporary hegemonic masculinity. There are visibly more pictures of women in GQ than Men s Health. I found this relevant in terms of it being a d irect indicator of wealth. The last section of the coding sheets deals with the representation of women. Another important aspect is that 23 exact same advertisements are featured in both magazines.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. this section came up with a finding that could not fit any of the pre-set categories in the coding sheet: both magazines featured 3 ads for American Express. 8 . as well as the only banking product associated with social status. Another explanation could well be that advertisers place emphasis on fashion and beauty products because men are still sceptical regarding the purchase of this kind of products and therefore they need further persuasion. This suggests that there are certain products that come to be associated with masculinity and the whole idea of affluence. as long as they buy the right products. putting forward the message that anyone can be like the people in the magazines.

More importantly. health. Media Awareness Network [Online]). Moreover. cited in How the media define masculinity. The images are sexualized and in most of the cases they are featured in ads. sports.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies.In his analysis of gender in advertising. the hegemonic masculinity we are dealing with is essentially heterosexual. author and University of North Texas professor Steve Craig argues that women tend to be presented as "rewards" for men who choose the right product. the magazines globally focus on matters such as fashion. relationships. and very few photos could be regarded as illustrations of couples. He describes such commercials as "narratives of playful escapades away from home and family. All things considered. white. both from the representations of women and those ofmen. what comes through is the ideal of the bachelor. well-built and well dressed man. There are no representations of men and women as a family. The male ideal that can be extracted from the two publications is a handsome. and lifestyle. Thus. (Steve Craig. Year 2 but the numbers are not high in either of the two. Also. therefore accompanying products. the sexualised representation of women in the magazines is an indicator of heterosexuality. they tend to target the young and affluent city man which 9 .

besides the existence of a hegemonic masculinity. as well as the portrayals of men and women all work together to produce a representation of a certain type of lifestyle. 2006) 10 . Moreover.a man highly concerned with fashion and defined almost entirely by his wallet. a collector of fantasies about the male sold to him by the media. as portrayed in the two magazines we have looked at. or.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. as Chaudhry described him. based largely on wealth and consumerism and the hedonist pursuits of a bachelor life. 2006) In an article on masculinity. (Chaudhry. (Chaudhry. seems to be the metrosexual . (Chaudhry:2006) The ideal new man. another thing that came out striking from the analysis of the two magazines.of excluding many older.intended or not. rurally located or poorer men. is the fact that the ads and articles.Commercials offer an infantilized version of masculinity that reflects a corporate executive s dream customer: a man-boy who is more likely to remain faithful to their product than to his wife or girlfriend. these men s magazines also promote a hegemonic lifestyle. It could be argued that. Chaudhry described this phenomenon as a marketdriven consumerist culture that feeds and sustains a Peter Pan version of masculinity. Year 2 has the effect.

Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. For it would appear that we live in a time when hegemonic masculinity has less to do with sexual politics and more to do with economics. From the number of forms that masculinity takes in the street today. we can conclude by saying that Connell s notion of hegemonic masculinity is still relevant for our contemporary society. The magazines we have looked at preach a life of pleasurable consumption and advertise a man who spends. Year 2 Thus. we have indeed been able to find one model that holds cultural hegemony in the media. as well as the observation of different theories on masculinity. therefore he is. 11 . according to the findings of the content analysis carried out on two magazines. This brings into light a limitation on Connell s argument claiming that hegemonic masculinity is a mere expression of patriarchal pre-eminence.

and Schoeffel. R. R. J. Champman. Chaudhry. Cambridge: Polity Press 5.inthesetimes. W (2005).uk/webapps/portal/frameset. N (2003) Understanding power. Available at: https://blackboard. Beynon.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. P. R. Buckingham: Open University Press 2.Blackboard [Online].uk/webapps/portal/frameset. R. (1988) The Great Pretender .com/article/2526/ (Accessed: 29 October 2009) 1. In These Times. Edited by Mitchell. J. [Online] Available at : https://blackboard. Connell. Chomsky.ac.ac. (2002) Masculinities and Culture. Masculinities. London: Vintage Books 4.jsp?tab_i d=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launchr%3Ftype%3DCourse %26id%3D_141_1%26url%3D (Accessed: 30 October 2009) 3. Connell.canterbury. (2006) Men growing up to be boys . L.jsp?tab_i 12 .W (1987) Hegemonic masculinity.canterbury. Available at: http://www. Year 2 Bibliography 1. March [Online].

Essex: Pearson 9.mediaawareness. Media Awareness Network [Online]. 1998 Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader Harlow. J. changing men . Storey.jsp?tab_i d=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher%3Ftype%3DCours e%26id%3D_141_1%26url%3D (Accessed: 30 October 2009) 7. Hearn. In J.. Blackboard [Online] Available at: https://blackboard. Available at: http://www.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/men_and_masculinity/mascul inity_defining. Engels. How the media define masculinity. Segal. K. (ed.).Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies.canterbury. (1990). S.uk/webapps/portal/frameset. Slow motion: changing masculinities. Year 2 d=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher%3Ftype%3DCours e%26id%3D_141_1%26url%3D (Accessed: 24 October 2009) 6.jsp?tab_i d=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher%3Ftype%3DCours e%26id%3D_141_1%26url%3D (Accessed: 7 November 2009) 10.cfm (Accessed: 3 October 2009) 8. Marked men: white masculinity in crisis.canterbury.ac. (1996) Is masculinity dead? [Online] Available at: https://blackboard.ac. Marx and F. Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas . Robinson.uk/webapps/portal/frameset. L. London: Virago 13 .

Year 2 Appendix 14 .Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies.

3 Cosmetics (perfume.themes Fashion Health& care Sports Lifestyle Politics Leisure& Travel Relationships Success/ Personalities 14 11 5 11 10 10 7 15 4) Representation of women in the newspaper 15 .Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. jewellery. skincare) Clothing Shoes Accessories (watches.0 American Express. Year 2 Appendix 1 MAGAZINE: GQ DATE: November 2009 1) Representations of race 318 33 0 0 White men Black men Asian men Other 2) Advertisements 25 51 18 52 11 9 16 Guns. sunglasses) Gadgets Cars Booze   3) Articles.

sunglasses) Gadgets Cars Booze   3) Articles.Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies. jewellery.themes Fashion Health& care Sports Lifestyle Politics Leisure& Travel Relationships Success/ Personalities 13 36 37 9 3 9 7 3 16 . skincare) Clothing Shoes Accessories (watches. Year 2 In advertisements/photos 62  23 exact same ads appear in both magazines Appendix 2 MAGAZINE: Men s Health DATE: November 2009 1) Representations of race 175 9 2 4 White men Black men Asian men Other 2) Advertisements 30 16 8 18 15 4 4 Gun.2 American Express.2 Cosmetics (perfume.

Year 2 4) Representation of women 28 In advertisements/ photos  23 exact same ads appear in both magazines 17 .Hegemonic masculinity Ana Opris Media and Cultural Studies.