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Hegemonic masculinity has multiple meanings

March 16, 2012

“Several authors have argued that the concept of hegemonic masculinity is based on an unsatisfactory theory of the subject. Wetherell and Edley (1999) develop this critique from the standpoint of discursive psychology, arguing that hegemonic masculinity cannot be understood as the settled character structure of any group of men. We must question “how men conform to an ideal and turn themselves into complicit or resistant types, without anyone ever managing to exactly embody that ideal” (p. 337).

Wetherell and Edley (1999) suggest we should understand hegemonic norms as defining a subject position in discourse that is taken up strategically by men in particular circumstances. Hegemonic masculinity has multiple meanings—a point that some authors have offered as a criticism but that Wetherell and Edley take as a positive point of departure. Men can dodge among multiple meanings according to their interactional needs. Men can adopt hegemonic masculinity when it is desirable; but the same men can distance themselves strategically from hegemonic masculinity at other moments. Consequently, “masculinity” represents not a certain type of man but, rather, a way that men position themselves through discursive practices.” (841)

Ref: R. W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt (2005) ‘Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept’ Gender & Society 19(6)December: 829-859


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