Hegemonic Masculinities and Men in Sweden and Southern Africa: Theorising Power and Change

Hegemonic Masculinities and Men in Sweden and Southern Africa: Theorising Power and Change

The project aims to enhance understanding of a key concept in the gendered research of men, namely hegemonic masculinity.  The project will bring together researchers engaged in theorising and researching the issue of men and hegemonic masculinity. These researchers will discuss their respective findings in their different national settings which will enhance the understanding of how men relate to power, how they use this power, and how this can be changed.  This project will consider the strengths and weaknesses of the key concept of hegemonic masculinity, as currently used to theorize men and masculinity. Developed by Connell (1983; Carrigan et al., 1985) 25 years ago, this concept remains highly influential. It combines several features: a hierarchy of masculinities, differential access among men to power (over women and other men), the interplay between male identity, male ideals, power and patriarchy. Drawing on Gramsci's ideas of hegemony, the concept shows that power does not have to be enforced with violence or the naked display of power but can be exercised subtly on a foundation of consent or acquiescence.

The researchers will examine the concept in the context of their existing research data to generate an appraisal and a critique, as well as advance context-specific understandings of male power and identity. The collaboration is particularly interested in gender change and the way in which the ideals of masculine behaviour alter. It is widely recognised that gender relations and identities are in a constant state of flux. While there are marked differences in context between Sweden and Southern Africa (in terms for example of poverty and the levels of gender-based violence), the comparison between the two contexts may be of help if we want to understand the processes of gender inequality. The discursive context of gender equality in such different settings is an important framing for the project. Our concern is to examine ‘hegemony' (changes in male power and identity vis-à-vis other men and women) in national contexts which both feature formal commitment to gender equity but which are marked by very different gender orders. Sweden, for example, is marked by relatively low levels of gender-based violence but a labour market strongly differentiated along gender lines. South Africa and Mozambique, on the other hand, have undergone major changes in the gender structure of public life (particularly in Parliament where close on half of all parliamentarians and ministers are women) yet both countries have still a highly unequal gender order. South Africa, for instance, has amongst the highest rates of rape in the world. In these contexts, the challenge is to analyse the hegemony of men not just to explain how male power is translated into gender inequalities, and also to search for evidence that changes in masculinity are occurring which contain potential to assist progress towards gender equity and to understand what is influencing these processes.

The quest to understand male hegemony (‘hegemonic masculinity') is theoretically important but also has major implications for applied gender work. New understandings of male power have the potential to contribute to processes in which men actively and consciously produce alternative (and counter-hegemonic) forms of masculinity which explicitly eschew violence and endorse the principle of (gender) equity. 

The collaborative research will comprise engagement between the respective research teams that will provide an opportunity to debate issues, discuss and write. It is not the intention of the link to begin or undertake new research (understood here narrowly as data collection), but rather to think in creative ways about the material that we have already, in our various projects, generated.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
No
Keywords: 

Masculinities, International Comparison, Social Change, Gender Equality

The project aims to enhance understanding of a key concept in the gendered research of men, namely hegemonic masculinity.  The project will bring together researchers engaged in theorising and researching the issue of men and hegemonic masculinity. These researchers will discuss their respective findings in their different national settings which will enhance the understanding of how men relate to power, how they use this power, and how this can be changed.  This project will consider the strengths and weaknesses of the key concept of hegemonic masculinity, as currently used to theorize men and masculinity. Developed by Connell (1983; Carrigan et al., 1985) 25 years ago, this concept remains highly influential. It combines several features: a hierarchy of masculinities, differential access among men to power (over women and other men), the interplay between male identity, male ideals, power and patriarchy. Drawing on Gramsci's ideas of hegemony, the concept shows that power does not have to be enforced with violence or the naked display of power but can be exercised subtly on a foundation of consent or acquiescence.

The researchers will examine the concept in the context of their existing research data to generate an appraisal and a critique, as well as advance context-specific understandings of male power and identity. The collaboration is particularly interested in gender change and the way in which the ideals of masculine behaviour alter. It is widely recognised that gender relations and identities are in a constant state of flux. While there are marked differences in context between Sweden and Southern Africa (in terms for example of poverty and the levels of gender-based violence), the comparison between the two contexts may be of help if we want to understand the processes of gender inequality. The discursive context of gender equality in such different settings is an important framing for the project. Our concern is to examine ‘hegemony' (changes in male power and identity vis-à-vis other men and women) in national contexts which both feature formal commitment to gender equity but which are marked by very different gender orders. Sweden, for example, is marked by relatively low levels of gender-based violence but a labour market strongly differentiated along gender lines. South Africa and Mozambique, on the other hand, have undergone major changes in the gender structure of public life (particularly in Parliament where close on half of all parliamentarians and ministers are women) yet both countries have still a highly unequal gender order. South Africa, for instance, has amongst the highest rates of rape in the world. In these contexts, the challenge is to analyse the hegemony of men not just to explain how male power is translated into gender inequalities, and also to search for evidence that changes in masculinity are occurring which contain potential to assist progress towards gender equity and to understand what is influencing these processes.

The quest to understand male hegemony (‘hegemonic masculinity') is theoretically important but also has major implications for applied gender work. New understandings of male power have the potential to contribute to processes in which men actively and consciously produce alternative (and counter-hegemonic) forms of masculinity which explicitly eschew violence and endorse the principle of (gender) equity. 

The collaborative research will comprise engagement between the respective research teams that will provide an opportunity to debate issues, discuss and write. It is not the intention of the link to begin or undertake new research (understood here narrowly as data collection), but rather to think in creative ways about the material that we have already, in our various projects, generated.

 

Objectivos: 
By bringing together researchers engaged in theorising and researching the issue of men and hegemonic masculinity in different social contexts, the project aims to discuss  key concepts in this field of research and also to shed some light on contemporary forms of gender inequality. In this project the concept of hegemonic masculinity will be examined in the context of existing research data in order to generate an appraisal and a critique, as well as advance context-specific understandings of male power and identity. The comparison between Sweden and Southern Africa is particularly focused on gender change and the way in which the ideals of masculine behaviour alter and face the challenges brought about by contemporary globalization processes.
State of the art: 
Since the pioneering feminist and profeminist work of the late 1970s and early 1980s the area of study has been transformed into a huge research field with (at least 10) journals specifically dedicated to publishing research work on men and masculinity and virtually all gender journals now including considerations of men and masculinity (Kimmel, Hearn and Connell, 2005). While research on men has multiplied at an astonishing rate, the field is not characterised by unanimity. There are many areas in which disagreement is evident and there are many concepts which remain contested. <p>The concept of &lsquo;hegemonic masculinity' was created to explain how some men, without obvious recourse to violence or physical power, occupied a hierarchical position in society to the detriment of women and those excluded from power. Hegemonic masculinity was an ideal, a set of values, established by the men in power and this functioned to include and exclude and to organise society in gender unequal ways. While the concept has been taken up in many different fields, it remains controversial. In 2005, Connell and Messerschmidt mounted a defence of the concept though difficulties in using it persist. Among these difficulties are: What is hegemonic masculinity - is it a &lsquo;thing' that organises the gendered lives of men or something that men constantly make in ceaseless masculine performances? How does hegemonic masculinity operate in day to day relations? If hegemonic masculinity is fairly easy to identify in history or in macro sociological analyses, can it be so readily identified in the daily doings of men? And does hegemonic masculinity exist in the same way in all settings? Do all men contribute to the construction of hegemonic masculinity and if so, how? Is it possible to conceptualise of hegemonic masculinity in a gender equitable way or is it necessarily implicated in patriarchy? Connell's theories were intended to provide a set of tools and concepts that could be applicable generally, but as the field has diversified and spread to different contexts, questions about its value continue to develop.</p><p>In the context of gender studies in Southern Africa, Morrell (1998, 2001) introduced the concept of hegemonic masculinity into sociological and historical analyses of men and masculinity. In trying to explain why South Africa was (and is) such a violent society, Morrell examined how colonialism and racial capitalism shaped masculine identities and gender relations. His focus on violence, misogynism, homophobia, social exclusion and male power inclined his analysis to utilize hegemonic masculinity as a synonym for patriarchal power. While he distinguished different race-based hegemonies, this adoption of the concept paid too little attention to: a) the content of hegemonic masculinity; b) shifts within hegemonic masculinity; c) gender transformations. His subsequent work has shifted to examine contemporary gender relations in South Africa, and here his work meets that of Lindegger and Jewkes. Lindegger's work has contributed to debates about the impact of constructions of masculinity on HIV risk behaviour. It is especially through the performance of hegemonic masculinity, and especially the risk behaviours characteristic of it, that men and their sexual partners are put at risk of HIV infection. For this reason, it has been argued that intervention to reduce HIV infection needs to involve a challenge to hegemonic constructions of masculinity. Lindegger's research has been interested in how individual boys and men position themselves in relation to hegemonic norms of masculinity, and the subjectivity of this positioning. It has also been interested in the processes by which young men select other, non-conforming positions in relation to hegemonic masculinity and how in the process they preserve a sense of masculine identity and adequacy, in the face of the power of hegemonic masculinity. This research has also been interested in whether, and how, alternate forms or narratives of masculinity are emerging.&nbsp; Rachel Jewkes, a public health physician, social epidemiologist and ethnographer, has been undertaking research and theorising gender-based violence, for nearly 15 years. During this time she has done research on young men's use of violence against partners and other women, locating it within a theoretical framework of hegemonic masculinity and male expectations of male control of women (Wood &amp; Jewkes 2001). In analysis of a dataset of 1369 men, which has been collected as part of a behavioural intervention trial, she has described associations between different male violent and sexually risky behaviours and shown through the intervention which seeks to transform ideas of masculinity in the course of HIV prevention, that in response to the intervention the identified cluster of male risk taking behaviours change (Jewkes et al in press). Recently she has started qualitative research (together with Morrell and other academics from around the world) to understand men who behave in ways that run counter to ideas of hegemonic masculinity, engaging in caring, gender activism or 'caring' professions, and is exploring the origins of these ideas and behaviours in their life history and reflecting on the extent to which they represent a substantial and more holistic departure in identity from hegemonic masculinity or are better understood as isolated acts of deviance. She is also leading a community-based survey of men and masculinities, with particular reference to gender-based violence, men's health and HIV with a view to exploring epidemiologically childhood antecedents of adult male behaviours and the correlations between different manifestations of gendered male power with each other, as well as health indicators. </p><p>There has been a significant debate in Sweden on the applicability of the concept of hegemonic masculinity. Some of this has been critical of the concept, with growing interest in the concepts of &quot;manliness&quot; and &quot;unmanliness&quot;. This has been especially prominent in some historical studies (Liliequist, 1999; Tjeder, 2003), but less so in contemporary studies (Andersson, 2003). The key work done on the concept of hegemonic masculinity in the Swedish context has been by Nordberg (2001, 2005). The Swedish arm of the research project builds on various Nordic and European research cooperation that Hearn, Balkmar, Pringle and Nordberg have been heavily involved with since the late 1990s. </p><p>Sweden is in a very different place from South Africa, in terms of gender equity. The social democratic &lsquo;setttlement' has been well established for much of the 20th century. The question of men's involvement in gender equality built on this; but it has tended to be framed in terms of equality at work and heterosexual family/fatherhood, rather than questions of age, ethnicity/racism, sexuality, violence. But Sweden is not free from social problems related to masculinity. For example, in the last 10 years or more the issue of men's violence has become relatively high profile public issue. Even though the percentage of women in politics and parliament is high, men continue to dominate some arenas of public life, most obviously business and top management, and gender segregation in employment remains strong. </p><p>Understanding such contradictory processes is useful for understanding more about change in Sweden, when and what happened, how change in different areas of life articulated with each other, and how the agenda for change can be taken forward further, as well as understanding and conceptualising processes of change in South Africa. Sweden can learn from South Africa in a number of areas including intersections of men's gendering and ethnicisation/racialisation, which is still a relatively undeveloped area in Sweden, which in turn will shed light on the intersection of gender and other manifestations of social status/disadvantage. The collaboration would enable reflection on how masculinities in South Africa and Sweden are shaped by cultural and social context and the implications of this for an agenda of change. </p>
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/10/2009
End Date: 
01/12/2011
Duração: 
26 meses
Closed