Men at the margins: Age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and work trajectories in the construction of non-hegemonic masculinities

Men at the margins: Age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and work trajectories in the construction of non-hegemonic masculinities

Over the past few decades there has been a growing interest in men and masculinities driven by the massive changes within the gender order, the second-wave feminist critique of the masculine dominating culture and practice, and the development of critical scholarship concerned with deconstructing the ideological singularity of a universalistic "male way of being". The erosion of a patriarchal male figure rooted upon the traditional provider role and uncontested authority over women has set the need for a deeper understanding of contemporary masculinity as plural masculinities. However, although plurality is a central feature of gender relations, no longer conformed to monolithic models, there exists still, as Connell argued (Carrigan, Connell & Lee, 1985), a symbolic ideal-type of masculinity, that imposes upon all other forms of masculinity (and femininities) meanings about their own position and identity. Therefore, the understanding of contemporary gender relations is largely dependent on the grasp of the ways through which hegemonic masculinity operates not only as a process of domination of men over women, but also of some men over other, subordinated and marginalised, men.

Entering an area of research which has been little explored in Portugal, our central concern is to investigate, in line with developing trends in other countries (Hearn and Pringle, 2006; Pringle et al., 2006), the building up of non-hegemonic masculinities at the margins of the dominant form: that is, professionally successful, heterosexual, physically strong and virile, and European (non-racialised "white"). The research addresses men in a diversity of intersecting marginalised positions by exploring four key-dimensions of discrimination: age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and work trajectories (unemployment). Through these coordinates, potentially stigmatised positions are identified in Portugal, where changes in the demographic configuration, with the rapid pace of aging processes and the growing presence of non-European individuals (mostly immigrated from former Portuguese African colonies and Brazil), the globalised economy and the demands for an equalitarian politics of identity have set new challenges to men. In their lives, different men, and different groups of men, are facing the gap between the norms of dominant masculinity and their own practices and identities in less powerful situations. Older men are dealing with the loss of physical and sexual vigour alongside the withdrawn from professional activity; non-European men, most often placed at the bottom of the social ladder, hardly meet the racialised features of the hegemonic model; gay men, while still subordinated by a homophobic culture, fight for legitimacy; finally, those in long-term unemployment see themselves deprived of their providing role. In all cases, key principles of discrimination, often leading to the perpetuation of inequalities, are being mobilised.

In this investigation we seek to answer three main questions. The first explores the complex ways in which men in these non-hegemonic positions are building up their identities and practices, in both their private and public lives, by reference to the norm of masculine power, success and virility. Secondly, we aim to understand the extent to which these men, while protagonists of main societal processes of change, may contribute to redefine the features of hegemonic masculinity. Are masculinities becoming more plural in equal terms or there are still strong mechanisms of marginalisation of non-hegemonic positions? Finally, it is important to analyse power relations between men and women and also how changes in masculinity(ies) may redefine femininity(ies).

In methodological terms the study adopts a theoretical perspective drawn upon the concept of intersectionality. Rather than binary categorisation, it privileges the mutually constitutive relations of social identities, examining the ways in which various socially and culturally constructed categories interact on multiple levels. Additionally to the criteria used to select four exemplary groups of men, diversity in terms of class and biographical trajectories is also held as fundamental. We will accordingly carry out a qualitative research through in-depth interviews and focus-groups analysis with older men (above age 65) in their post-retirement life phasis, men from African countries and Brasil, gay men and unemployed men in the 30-50 age group. For each group a sample of 15 to 20 individuals living in Lisbon and having different class backgrounds will be constructed. In individual trajectories the intersection between two or more criteria will also be examined (e.g., an unemployed african imigrant, etc.).

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Keywords: 

Masculinities; Hegemony; Gender; Intersectionality

Over the past few decades there has been a growing interest in men and masculinities driven by the massive changes within the gender order, the second-wave feminist critique of the masculine dominating culture and practice, and the development of critical scholarship concerned with deconstructing the ideological singularity of a universalistic "male way of being". The erosion of a patriarchal male figure rooted upon the traditional provider role and uncontested authority over women has set the need for a deeper understanding of contemporary masculinity as plural masculinities. However, although plurality is a central feature of gender relations, no longer conformed to monolithic models, there exists still, as Connell argued (Carrigan, Connell & Lee, 1985), a symbolic ideal-type of masculinity, that imposes upon all other forms of masculinity (and femininities) meanings about their own position and identity. Therefore, the understanding of contemporary gender relations is largely dependent on the grasp of the ways through which hegemonic masculinity operates not only as a process of domination of men over women, but also of some men over other, subordinated and marginalised, men.

Entering an area of research which has been little explored in Portugal, our central concern is to investigate, in line with developing trends in other countries (Hearn and Pringle, 2006; Pringle et al., 2006), the building up of non-hegemonic masculinities at the margins of the dominant form: that is, professionally successful, heterosexual, physically strong and virile, and European (non-racialised "white"). The research addresses men in a diversity of intersecting marginalised positions by exploring four key-dimensions of discrimination: age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and work trajectories (unemployment). Through these coordinates, potentially stigmatised positions are identified in Portugal, where changes in the demographic configuration, with the rapid pace of aging processes and the growing presence of non-European individuals (mostly immigrated from former Portuguese African colonies and Brazil), the globalised economy and the demands for an equalitarian politics of identity have set new challenges to men. In their lives, different men, and different groups of men, are facing the gap between the norms of dominant masculinity and their own practices and identities in less powerful situations. Older men are dealing with the loss of physical and sexual vigour alongside the withdrawn from professional activity; non-European men, most often placed at the bottom of the social ladder, hardly meet the racialised features of the hegemonic model; gay men, while still subordinated by a homophobic culture, fight for legitimacy; finally, those in long-term unemployment see themselves deprived of their providing role. In all cases, key principles of discrimination, often leading to the perpetuation of inequalities, are being mobilised.

In this investigation we seek to answer three main questions. The first explores the complex ways in which men in these non-hegemonic positions are building up their identities and practices, in both their private and public lives, by reference to the norm of masculine power, success and virility. Secondly, we aim to understand the extent to which these men, while protagonists of main societal processes of change, may contribute to redefine the features of hegemonic masculinity. Are masculinities becoming more plural in equal terms or there are still strong mechanisms of marginalisation of non-hegemonic positions? Finally, it is important to analyse power relations between men and women and also how changes in masculinity(ies) may redefine femininity(ies).

In methodological terms the study adopts a theoretical perspective drawn upon the concept of intersectionality. Rather than binary categorisation, it privileges the mutually constitutive relations of social identities, examining the ways in which various socially and culturally constructed categories interact on multiple levels. Additionally to the criteria used to select four exemplary groups of men, diversity in terms of class and biographical trajectories is also held as fundamental. We will accordingly carry out a qualitative research through in-depth interviews and focus-groups analysis with older men (above age 65) in their post-retirement life phasis, men from African countries and Brasil, gay men and unemployed men in the 30-50 age group. For each group a sample of 15 to 20 individuals living in Lisbon and having different class backgrounds will be constructed. In individual trajectories the intersection between two or more criteria will also be examined (e.g., an unemployed african imigrant, etc.).

 

Objectivos: 
Our central aim is to analyse processes of dominance and marginalisation among men by focusing on key dimensions of discrimination (age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and work trajectories/unemployment), that place men in a diversity of intersecting non-hegemonic positions. Traditionally, the ideologically prevalent form of masculinity was defined at the intersection of at least three conditions: men's position in the labour market and as breadwinners, men's ability to manifest a positive identity, recognised as such, in the public sphere, and their ability to prove themselves as virile heterosexuals. Thus, the theoretical reasons underlying the choice of four exemplary case studies develop from this threefold notion of hegemonic masculinity. Each group (older, gay, non-white immigrant and unemployed men), represents a different principle of dissociation from the hegemonic norm. Homosexuality symbolises the most profound antinomy, given that dominant masculinity is still, and above all, defined by its homophobic features. The other three groups bring about a variety of intersectional processes of gendered social exclusion, built upon the loss of important power symbols. Unemployed men are deprived of their role as providers and of professional achievement, still a central value of masculinity. Older men also face the loss of physical and sexual vigour that goes along with bodily ageing.
State of the art: 
Over the last few decades in Portuguese society profound changes have been shown to underpin massive transformations at the core of the gender order (Am&acirc;ncio, 1994; Aboim, 2008; Vasconcelos, 2004). Women's emancipation, either through paid work or the conquest of sexual freedom, the relative decline of the male-breadwinner model, and, broadly, the dismantling of gender differences as naturalised legal categories have raised new demands on traditional gender segregation. Whether by reason of the power of symbolic change, whereby a strong expectation of equality became established as a legitimate norm (Vasconcelos, 1998; Aboim, 2006), or by reason of the changes in women's social position, it is certain that the traditional model of masculinity began to change. As recent research as highlighted, the pluralisation of the &quot;ways of being a man&quot; constitutes a key development in the reshaping of gender divisions, pointing to renewed tensions between traditional masculinity and new ideals of manhood (Aboim, Vasconcelos & Neves, 2009; Wall, Aboim& Marinho, 2007; Wall & Aboim, 2009). However, this is a subject about which little is as yet known in Portugal. As such, the overall purpose of this project is to examine how the equation between dominant and marginal models of masculinity has been transformed and how it affects men in less powerful positions. Furthermore, it is important to evaluate how this remaking of masculinity influences women's position in society and even contributes to transform femininity and the ideal gender contract. To understand contemporary gender relations, and the obstacles blocking gender equality, we argue, it is imperative to see how hegemonic masculinity operates in culture and in real practices (Connell, 2003). <p>The concept of hegemony, as applied by Connell (1995) to masculinity(ies) in an inspiring tying up of Gramsci's (1988) approach to power with a theory of practice (Bourdieu, 1998), is a powerful but complex notion meant to capture the underlying structures of domination in gender relations, which result in the subordination of women and also in unequal relations between different forms of masculinity (Donaldson, 1993; Pease& Pringle, 2001). In this view, one dominant form of masculinity gains ascendancy over others, subordinated and marginalised, masculinities, thus creating hierarchical relations amongst men and groups of men. Although hegemonic masculinity is directed to the domination of women, thereby nourishing a traditionally dichotomised gender system that cuts across social class, it most often discriminates men from lower classes and even more the gay and the non-white. Hegemonic masculinity is, however, a complex notion, as it integrates different levels of analysis of power relations, whether cultural patterns, institutional settings or real practices are examined (Hearn, 1996; Whitehead, 2002; Demetriou, 2001; Howson, 2006). It refers both to crystallized ideologies, which are historically and socially variable (Kimmel, 1995), and to the institutional organisation of the gender system, which is translated into different welfare policies, for instance (Pfau-Effinger, 2004). The concept has also been fruitfully applied to the study of men's practices. In Portugal, Vale de Almeida (1995) stressed the gap between practices and ideologies by putting forward that the symbolically dominant model of masculinity - the hegemonic male - applied only to a small group of men. In this line of reasoning, empirical studies focusing on the plurality of masculinities and the tensions generated in the process of building up masculine identities have been considered of great importance (Hearn and Pringle, 2006; Pringle et al., 2006). Previous research carried out by the applicant team suggested that in Portuguese society, the rapid pace of changes in gender relations, led men to recreate hybrid identities, between old and new codes of masculinity. Many men are expressing dilemmas and even conflict when describing their life trajectories by comparison to the values and the examples they inherited from their fathers and grandfathers (Aboim, Vasconcelos& Neves, 2009). Some important tensions arise from uncertainty regarding the proper meaning of manhood in a context where women's empowerment has become legitimate in both public and private domains. The rise of a dual breadwinner model, which diminishes men's supremacy as main providers for their families, and the transformation of patterns of sexual behaviour based on a difficult negotiation of equality with the codes of male virility constitute key dimensions where conflict is emerging. On the other hand, among subordinated or marginal masculinities there are permanent struggles for supremacy, as it happens with gay men or immigrants and non-Europeans (Aboim, 2008b). Therefore, the distinction between hegemony, as a static photo of what in a given moment in time is at the centre of the ideological field, and domination, as a social process existing in practices, is central to comprehend plurality in the lives of men, who may combine contradictory references when relating themselves to models of masculinity. In the reconstruction of masculinity, domination is taking place, altering, through a compound of multiple actions, the balance between equality and inequality. Thus, the starting point of our theoretical argument is to propose a heuristic distinction between ideological hegemony and domination in everyday interaction. Men in less powerful positions, either because their sexuality is antithetic with the heterosexual norm or because they are deprived of social capitals (whether economic, symbolic of physical), mobilise power in complex ways. When facing discrimination and exclusion they may be recreating and transforming the own structure of hegemony, that is to say, the forms of masculinity, and the way they interconnect, and also the relations between masculinities/men and femininities/women.
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Pedro Vasconcelos Coito
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/01/2010
End Date: 
31/12/2012
Duração: 
36 meses
Closed