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Masculinity in the 'Post-'World: Crisis and Opportunities


Masculinity is defined as a social construction that is expressed both in everyday practices and male appearance, regardless of the biological sex (Connell, 2002a). Doing gender refers to differences that are not natural, essential, or biological. The natural arrangement of males' and females' features, claimed by essentialists, is just a tool of reinforcement of the gender construct (Wharton, 2004).

Gender depends on historical, cultural, economic, and political contexts, and its patterns reflect the history and development in the world of male dominance (Behnke & Meuser, 2002). Different situations, rituals, and routines, standardized in bigender culture, build a framework for doing just one gender. From a historical perspective, gender polarization is determined by socioeconomic processes – the doctrine of separate spheres emphasizes the connection between home/work separation and gender prescriptions. In the case of the USA, race and nationality also played their role because slavery and cheap immigrant labor left no (or almost no) time and a possibility for home/family sphere (Wharton, 2004).

. Moreover, masculinity itself is not homogenous. Studies on masculinity assume that there is a diversity of masculinities organized historically, culturally, and hierarchically. On top of that hierarchy, there's a masculinity type that is the most desirable and powerful – hegemonic masculinity (Casey, Masters, Beadnell, Wells, Morrison, & Hoppe, 2016). Though its traits change according to time and situation, all views and cultural ideals within patriarchy were directed toward emphasizing power (Ricciardelli & Williams, 2012). Basing on the concept of hegemonic masculinity in the center, researchers were able to specify other types of masculinity and build typologies to describe their interrelation. In this paper, I would try to describe several types and typologies of masculinity and see how they work in modern society.

Hierarchy as a Core

As has been mentioned, hegemonic masculinity as the top of the hierarchy was used as a starting point. Thus, Rayewin Connell (2005) created typology, basing on a hierarchic approach – it included dominant, complicit, subordinate, and marginalized masculinities. Three years earlier, she addressed hegemonic masculinity itself and concluded that though it is central for the typology, from the demographic point, it is not very common. A lot of men do not inhabit hegemonic form, though all of them are affected by the existence of hegemony (Connell, 2002b).

Some researchers see 'hegemonic – marginalized' polarization as hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity (Cheng, 1999), which is reasonable from the point of observation of the whole spectrum of binary identities.

The main themes of modern masculinity include both multiple masculinities phenomena and hierarchy/ hegemony distinction. Also, modern masculinity can be expressed in collective masculinities – those are enacted in groups and institutions. The other traits of masculinity are – the body as an arena for expression, active and dynamic constructing processes, and internal division (Connell, 2002b).

 Interaction of Masculinities
Figure 1

Hegemonic vs. Toxic Masculinity

The power of male hegemony is supported by different means available. Because hegemonic males have most of the power, their striving to keep their place is understandable. Masculinity can be depicted as a triangle where hegemonic masculinity on the top, the normative masculinities (complicit and subordinate) in the middle, and marginalized masculinity in the bottom (Figure 1). Hegemonic ideas, practices, values, ideologies are passed from the top and shape the normativity for others. This normativity is directed toward the stabilization of the current subordination. Those are diluted, internalized, and reproduced, so they become perceived as natural and inevitable (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009).

Economic and political limitations for non-hegemonic groups are based on long-term strategies appealed through medium-term means. As for the short-term impact, the most effective and the most destructive weapon is gender-related violence, and this is a result of hegemony.

Hegemony is a somewhat standard by which men evaluate themselves and their place in the hierarchy, and for many men, especially those with low income, the impossibility to achieve hegemony becomes a hurtful reality that needs to be fixed or addressed; sometimes, it leads to violent behaviors, that form toxic masculinity (Bannon & Correia, 2006).

Systemic, structural, and individual, gender-related violence is delivered through a special kind of masculinity, which is usually called "toxic masculinity." In some works, it is also referred to as anxious masculinity (Watson and Shaw, 2011). Sometimes toxic masculinity is confused with hegemonic masculinity, but the core of hegemony is power and privilege, while toxic masculinity is based on misbalance between the ideal and real manhood (Ukockis, 2019). In other words, toxic masculinity is a way of coping with a non-hegemonic position.

If applied on the triangle, it is reasonable to assume that toxic masculinities exist within normative masculinities sphere piercing throughout like a red thread. In his speech, Terry Crews (2019) described how toxic masculinity, being transferred and reinforced through violent patterns, affected his self-esteem and erased the very sense of gaining power – "everyone thought I was great, but I didn't," he said.

Toxic masculinity exists on different social levels and in different situations. The ways it is performed range from war and mass murder to cyberbullying. The goal of toxic masculinity is to approve an individual's manhood by any possible means, including homophobia and misogyny, microaggressions, "locker room talks," etc. (Ging, 2019; Uckokis, 2019). The goal that might not be considered – security for hegemonic masculinity, the aggressive upholding of its ideals.

New vs. Traditional

Researchers note the new wave of performing masculinity in hegemonic and toxic layers. Emerged within the anti-feminist movement, modern masculinity has reassessed its toolsets and adjusted them according to the current situation. Vingelli (2017) emphasized that the new masculinity has got rid of practices that are considered "unhealthy," for example, risky behaviors, which, however, didn't move the new masculinity closer to humanism and equality. New masculinity, or "beta masculinity" (Ging, 2019), claimed itself the victim of the feminism and basically switched the manner of demanding privileges from aggressive to passive-aggressive. The preposition of beta discourse does not really differ from traditional – it states that initially, men have the right to oppress women. Thus, involuntary celibate men (incels) claim that sex is a common source, and every man should have access to it, so every woman is obligated to have sex with those who cannot find a partner for different reasons (Ging, 2019; Sloan, 2019).

Magazine/ Popular Masculinities

Probably, the most expressive masculinity is depicted by mass media, art, and social networks (movies, comics, glossy magazines, ads, websites, blogs, etc.). Hyperbolized masculine traits, however, are not homogenous. Thus, Tan, Shaw, Cheng, and Kim (2013) analyzed ads in magazines and were able to derive seven types of masculinity: 1) Tough/Macho, 2) Vigorous/sunny 3) Refined / Gentle 4) Stern / Sophisticated 5) Trendy / Cool 6) Sensual/Sexy 7) Androgynous. Basing on these, we can draw the components of modern masculinity: 1) power, strength, narcissism, wildness 2) positive approach, effectiveness 3) secularism, elegance, effeminacy, hedonism 4) smart geek with autistic spectrum treats 5) following fashion trends 6) sexually gifted, desirable 7) opposing binary. The issue devoted to Performing American Masculinities (Watson & Shaw, 2011), we can find the types that correspond in a sense with "ads masculinities," such as metrosexual, Bachelor (good-looking man of middle age who is in search of long-term romantic relationships and who is able/can afford to choose from different women, judging their strengths and weaknesses), and Flavor Flav / Emergent masculinity (hyper-masculinity, hypersexuality, misogyny, one-time sex).

Crisis or Perspective?

Some scholars argue that modern masculinity is passing through a particular crisis related to switching to the post-industrial epoch, also mentioned as post-racial and post-patriarchal. The new circumstances led males to different unstable states, such as anxiety, depression, alienation, loss of sense of masculinity, perceived disability, excessive consumerism or, in contrary, reevaluating traditional values and feeling unsafe due to raising consciousness (Behnke & Meuser, 2002; Shafer, Fielding, & Holmes, 2019; Stanley, 2007; Watson & Shaw, 2011).

Traditional order is challenged on different levels – organizations, families, friendships do not suppose prescribed gender roles. The results of these changes are reflected in the emergence of new masculinities. Moreover, it seems like the dominance of hegemonic, powerful masculinity is questioned as well (Bannon & Correia, 2006). New fatherhood, non-male professions, new family role bring opposing masculinities into the focus of social attention and equalize them, at least in their visibility.

New masculinities settle in different places within the gender spectrum and thus blur the coherence of hegemony. They may align with hegemony, like herbivore masculinity in Japan (Charlebois, 2013), oppose masculinity in part of sex, for instance, queer masculinities (Heasley, 2005), female masculinities (Cheng, 1999), sexuality, like gay masculinities (Speice, 2011), race, like Obama vs. 50 Cents types (Watson & Shaw, 2011), and occupation.

In the part of the occupation, it seems that traditional distinction women are heart keepers vs. men are breadwinners who gradually loses its relevance. In 2002, the list of the organizational types of masculinity included caring type as one of 5 masculinities - militarized, managerial, techno, hero, and caring - and this fact was related to specifics of the healthcare field (Boyle, 2002). Now we can witness (and participate in) the discussion about the potential harm of traditional masculinity for organizational culture. The high levels of concurrence, especially in the management layer, create excessive tension, which has adverse outcomes for team and business (Berdahl, Glick, & Cooper, 2018). Back in 2005, researchers noted that women have to perform masculine behaviors if they want to keep the position (Collinson, & Hearn, 2005). Currently, more and more organizations try to think outside of the gender binary system (McGregor, 2019).

The goals of inclusion and diversity overlap not only with the generation of millennials, as it was said in the article, but also with the switch to transformational leadership, which has already shown its effectiveness (Gang, In-Sue, Courtright, & Colbert 2011).


This paper was planned as masculinity types observation, but soon it turned out that the problem is deeper and broader than it seems. Gender binary has rooted in our families, our relationships, our works, and studies. In terms of gender polarization, masculinity gained its dominance and proceeded to division inside itself.

The vertical-mode society strived for perfection, which was seen in power and dominance, and gaining as many privileges, as it was possible. Until the last decades, male hegemony generating oppression and discrimination were normalized. They are normalized in most societies now, unfortunately.

However, the time of "post-"brought its changes pushing masculinity into crisis. My assumption is that this "post-"epoch is actually related to emerging gender flexibility, when traditional masculine roles suddenly turn into an equation with at least one unknown. The fixed positions on the intersections of race, gender, and class tend to collapse gradually. A white male is no more necessarily a respectful middle-class – that might feel frustrating, and obviously, masculinity copes new challenges with varying success. We still have mass shootings and policemen, killing people of color on our streets.

I want to be optimistic. I have seen different men who, like Terry Crews, were strong enough to admit how harmful the masculine patterns might be. I have even seen men who came to #MeToo postings to say, "I am sorry – for myself and for all of us." Hopefully, I would also be able to see the time when humanity overcomes masculinity and femininity.


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