New Research Summary: How is hegemonic masculinity conceptualized in men and masculinities research?
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We sat down with Nicole Wedgwood, Ph.D. (University of Sydney) to talk about her new article published in our flagship journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinities. In the article, entitled "Deploying hegemonic masculinity: A study of uses of the concept in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinities," Wedgwood and colleagues explored the use of the concept hegemonic masculinity in research within the psychological field of men and masculinities and the evolution of its study over the past two decades. This important work synthesizes the literature within this area as well as corrects common misconceptions of the term within the psychological literature base. We encourage readers to check it out!
Wedgwood, N., Connell, R., & Wood, J. (2023). Deploying hegemonic masculinity: A study of uses of the concept in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 24(2), 83–93. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000417
What were the key questions you were addressing in this article?
We were looking at how the concept of hegemonic masculinity has been used in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinities, and more broadly in psychology. We were looking specifically at how often, and how, the concept was used in the past, and how often, and how, it is used in the present. This involved a critical examination of the concept and its uses and applications in psychological research and practice. Finally we considered where the field can go from here, suggesting how research and understanding in this area of psychology can be improved.
What is hegemonic masculinity?
The concept of hegemonic masculinity emerged in the 1980s when it was recognized that there were multiple patterns of masculinity, and that they were related in terms of power and authority - broadly over women and also over more marginalized groups of men. The concept involves psychological, cultural and social dimensions, and relates to how privilege within gender relations is sustained over time. Hegemonic masculinity will often be linked to ideas about an "ideal" way for men to live, but the concept also implies the existence of other forms of masculinity, and raises questions about consent and resistance to inequality.
What are some misconceptions about hegemonic masculinity that your article sought to address?
There are several misconceptions. One is when the concept of hegemonic masculinity is
separated from its social and cultural context, understood as if it existed in its own right, separate from other forms of masculinity and/or femininity. A second is when the term is used more or less as an equivalent to toxic masculinity, involving violence, selfishness, absolute domination, without recognizing the issues of consent and cultural centrality, which are involved in hegemony. A third misconception is when the concept is treated as one extreme on an abstract dimension of individual differences, for instance with trait-based scales, separated from questions of relationships and socio-cultural context.
What are the key implications of your article for research, policy, or practice?
We urge researchers in the field to be adventurous in their methodology and conceptualization. There are a number of valuable starting-points for fresh departures in the field. Be more concerned with actual behavior and social practice, rather than abstract ideas of difference. Be conscious of the specific context of the group being studied, including the specific patterns of gender relations, and the cultural background involved.
Where do you see this line of research heading in the future (i.e., what's next)?
What's next? We see the field of psychology of men and masculinities becoming more global and multicultural; we encourage colleagues, especially in North America, to be acquainted with the resources that are emerging from the global South, and other regions of the world. We see in our crystal ball more methodological pluralism and disciplinary cross-fertilization. We would like to see more close-focus case studies, both individual and group, that use a psycho-social approach. And we hope the work will connect with a wider range of users, both psychologists working as therapists and workers in education and health, who have much need of research on masculinities.
How did you become interested in the concept of hegemonic masculinity?
One of the authors came to the problem by thinking about how to understand power and the persistence of gender inequalities. Another author became interested in the concept of
hegemonic masculinity from her initial work on gender and sports. The third author was doing research with boys and their "sex talk," and had been a youth worker, observing youth culture and behavior. So there were different starting-points but a convergence over time.
Pictured (from left to right): Nicole Wedgwood, Ph.D.; Raewyn Connell, Ph.D.; Julian Wood