Femininity and masculinity are acquired social identities: as individuals become socialized they develop a gender identity, an understanding of what it means to be a ‘‘man’’ or a ‘‘woman’’ (Laurie et al. 1999). How individuals develop an understanding of their gender identity, including whether or not they fit into these prescribed gender roles, depends upon the context within which they are socialized and how they view themselves in relation to societal gender norms. Class, racial, ethnic, and national factors play heavily into how individuals construct their gender identities and how they are perceived externally (hooks 2004). Gender identities are often naturalized; that is, they rely on a notion of biological difference, ‘‘so that ‘natural’ femininity [in a white, European, middle class context] encompasses, for example, motherhood, being nurturing, a desire for pretty clothes and the exhibition of emotions’’ (Laurie et al. 1999: 3). ‘‘Natural’’ masculinity, in contrast, may encompass fatherhood, acting ‘‘tough,’’ a desire for sports and competition, and hiding emotions (Connell 1997; Thompson 2000). In both cases, these constructions of gender identity are based on stereotypes that fall within the range of normative femininities and masculinities. Yet, as many sociologists have pointed out, not all individuals fit within these prescribed norms and as such, masculinities and femininities must be recognized as socially constituted, fluid, wide ranging, and historically and geographically differentiated (Connell 1997; Halberstam 1998; Laurie et al. 1999).
Feminist scholars have long addressed the social construction of femininities, particularly in the context of gender inequality and power (Lorber 1994). Early second wave feminist scholars such as Simone de Beauvoir (1980) argued that women’s subordinated status in western societies was due to socialization rather than to any essential biological gender difference, as evidenced in her often cited phrase, ‘‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’’ Many feminist scholars in Anglo Saxon and European countries have emphasized social construction over biological difference as an explanation for women’s ways of being, acting, and knowing in the world and for their related gender subordination (Gilligan 1993). Some feminist scholars have addressed the social construction of femininities as a way to explain wage inequality, the global ‘‘feminization of poverty,’’ and women’s relegation to ‘‘feminine’’ labor markets (e.g., secretarial labor, garment industry, caring labor) and to the so called private realm of the household and family (Folbre 2001). Because feminists were primarily concerned with the question of women’s subordination, masculinities themselves were rarely analyzed except in cases where scholars sought an explanation for male aggression or power. Likewise, hegemonic femininity was emphasized over alternative femininities such that the experiences of women who did not fit into socially prescribed gender roles were either left unexamined or viewed through the normative lens of gender dualisms (Halberstam 1998).
Particularly since the 1980s, at least three areas of research on gender identity have helped shift the debate on femininities and masculinities: (1) masculinity studies, which emerged primarily in the 1980s and 1990s; (2) queer studies and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) studies, including the pivotal research of Butler (1990); and (3) gender, race, ethnic, and postcolonial studies, a trajectory of scholarship in which researchers have long critiqued hegemonic forms of masculinity and femininity on the basis that these racialized constructions helped reinforce the criminalization and subordination of racial/ethnic minorities in industrialized societies and the colonization of both men and women in poor and/or nonwestern regions.
In contrast to feminist scholarship that focused primarily on women’s experiences with femininity, Connell’s (1987) research on ‘‘hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity’’ was among the first to systematically analyze both sets of constructions as they contribute to global gender inequality. Connell argues ‘‘hegemonic masculinity,’’ a type of masculinity oriented toward accommodating the interests and desires of men, forms the basis of patriarchal social orders. Similarly, ‘‘emphasized femininity,’’ a hegemonic form of femininity, is ‘‘defined around compliance with [female] sub ordination and is oriented to accommodating the interests and desires of men’’ (p. 23). Borrowing from Gramsci’s analysis of class hegemony and struggle, Connell develops a framework for understanding multiple competing masculinities and femininities. He argues that hegemonic masculinity is always constructed in relation to various subordinated masculinities as well as in relation to women. Thus, for example, non-European, poor, non-white, and/or gay men tend to experience subordinated masculinities, whereas men of middle class European, white, and/or heterosexual backgrounds tend to benefit from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity.
Especially since the 1980s, scholars of masculinity studies have produced innovative research on various aspects of men’s lives and experiences. Messner (1992), for example, examines men’s identifications with sports as an example of how masculinities are constructed and maintained. Messner analyzes the ‘‘male viewer’’ of today’s most popular spectator sports in terms of the mythology and symbolism of masculine identification: common themes he encounters in his research include patriotism, militarism, violence, and meritocracy. Scholars of gay masculinities have addressed how gay men of various ethnic, racial, class, and national backgrounds have negotiated hegemonic masculinity, sometimes in contradictory ways, and constructed alternative masculinities through their everyday lives (Messner 1997).
Importantly, research on hegemonic masculinities sheds light on how and why masculinity has been largely ‘‘invisible’’ in the lives of men who benefit from hegemonic masculinity and in the field of women’s/gender studies, which tends to focus on the experiences of women. Although there are obvious reasons why the field of women’s/gender studies has focused primarily on women, since women experience gender inequalities more than men, scholars increasingly have pointed out that male socialization processes and identities, as well as masculinist institutions and theories, should be examined as a way to rethink gender inequality. As Kimmel (2002) notes: ‘‘The ‘invisibility’ of masculinity in discussions of [gender] has political dimensions. The processes that confer privilege on one group and not another group are often invisible to those upon whom that privilege is conferred. Thus, not having to think about race is one of the luxuries of being white, just as not having to think about gender is one of the ‘patriarchal dividends’ of gender inequality.’’
Judith Butler’s research on gender performativity has opened space for discussion about the naturalized linking of gender identity, the body, and sexual desire. Butler (1990) argues feminism has made a mistake by trying to assert that ‘‘women’’ are a group with common characteristics and interests. Like socio biologists, feminists who rely exclusively on a sociocultural explanation of gender identity construction also fall prey to essentialism. Many individuals, especially those who define as ‘‘queer’’ or as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans gendered, do not experience gender identity, embodiment, and sexual desire through the dominant norms of gender and heterosexuality. Influenced by Foucault, Butler suggests, like Connell, that certain cultural configurations of gender have seized a hegemonic hold. She calls for subversive action in the present: ‘‘gender trouble,’’ the mobilization, subversive confusion, and proliferation of genders, and therefore identity. This idea of identity as free floating and not connected to an ‘‘essence’’ is one of the key ideas expressed in queer theory (EGS 2005).
Butler and other queer theorists have addressed how normative femininities and masculinities play a role in disciplining the lives of LGBT individuals. Halberstam’s (1998) research addresses constructions of ‘‘female masculinity’’ and argues that scholars must separate discussions of gender identity (e.g., masculinities, femininities) from discussions of the body. Women can ‘‘act masculine’’ just as men can ‘‘act feminine’’; how individuals identify in terms of their gender is not and should not be linked to their biological anatomies, however defined. Halberstam’s own research addresses how masculine identified women experience gender, the stratification of masculinities (e.g., ‘‘heroic’’ vs. alternative masculinities), and the public emergence of other genders. Other scholars have examined how medical and scientific institutions have managed normative gender (and sexual) identities through psychological protocols and surgical intervention (Fausto Sterling 2000). This type of research points toward a broader understanding of gender that places dualistic conceptions of ‘‘masculine’’ vs. ‘‘feminine’’ and ‘‘male’’ vs. ‘‘female’’ into question.
Scholars of race, ethnic, and postcolonial studies have addressed how normative femininities and masculinities, which tend to benefit those with racial/ethnic privilege, help rein force a racialized social order in which subordinated groups are demasculinized or feminized in ways that maintain their racial/ethnic sub ordination in society. One example involves the stereotyping of African American men as unruly and hypersexual. The ‘‘myth of the male rapist,’’ as Davis (2001) has discussed, has played a highly destructive role in black men’s lives and has influenced legal, political, and social actions toward them, including their disproportionate criminalization for rape, often based on fraudulent charges. Another example concerns immigrant men racialized as minorities in the US. Thai (2002) illustrates how working class Vietnamese American men have developed innovative strategies to achieve higher status in their communities by marrying middle to upper class Vietnamese women and bringing them to the US. Faced with few marriage options and low paying jobs in the US, working class Vietnamese American men who experience a form of subordinated masculinity seek upward mobility through these transnational marriage networks.
Women of color in the US and working class women in developing countries also face unequal access to hegemonic femininity, as defined in western terms. Hill Collins (2004) addresses how African American women have been hypersexualized in US popular culture, thereby placing them outside the realm of normative femininity according to hegemonic white, western standards. Postcolonial studies scholars have demonstrated how poor women in developing regions (particularly non-white women) have been sexualized by male tourists from industrialized countries and sometimes also by local men (Freeman 2001). More broadly, scholars of masculinities and/or femininities have pointed out how constructions of masculinities and femininities are embedded in social institutions (e.g., the state, economy, nation, educational system) and processes (e.g., social welfare policy, globalization, colonization, political campaigns, popular culture, everyday life) and shape individuals’ everyday experiences and gendered self-perceptions (Connell 1987, 1997; Laurie et al. 1999; Free man 2001; Hill Collins 2004).
Critics have defended normative femininity and masculinity on religious, moral, and/or biological grounds. Some, for example, have argued that these social norms (what Connell would call hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity) are ‘‘naturally’’ aligned with men’s and women’s assumed biological roles in reproduction and/or with their assumed heterosexual desire (see Lorber 1994; Messner 1997). On all sides of the ideological spectrum, individuals have participated in interesting political responses and social movements that either embrace or challenge dominant societal constructions of masculinity and femininity. Some women have joined feminist movements and challenged traditional notions of femininity; whereas other women have joined right wing women’s movements that embrace
traditional gender roles and identities (e.g., Concerned Women for America). Men have formed feminist men’s movements, based largely on the principles of women’s feminist movements, as well as movements to embrace traditional notions of fatherhood, as in the divergent examples of the Christian based (and largely white, middle class) Promise Keepers and the Million Man Marches, first organized in 1995 by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and attended by over 800,000 African American men as part of a movement to reclaim black masculinity (Messner 1997).
Future research on femininities and masculinities will likely be influenced by the recent scholarship in the fields of masculinity studies, queer theory and LGBT studies, and race, ethnic, and postcolonial studies. Although scholars vary in their disciplinary backgrounds and methodological approaches to the study of femininities and masculinities, most would agree that femininities and masculinities can be seen as sets of rules or norms that govern female and male behavior, appearance, and self-image
- Butler, (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge, New York.
- Connell, W. (1987) Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Stanford University Press, Palo Alto.
- Connell, W. (1997) Hegemonic Masculinity and Emphasized Femininity. In: Richardson, L., Taylor, V., & Whittier, N. (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers IV. McGraw-Hill, New York, pp. 22-5.
- Davis, (2001) Rape, Racism and the Myth of the Black Rapist. In: Bhavnani, K.-K. (Ed.), Feminism and ‘‘Race.’’ Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 50-64.
- de Beauvoir, (1980 ) The Second Sex. Random House/Alfred Knopf, New York.
- European Graduate School (EGS) (2005) Judith Online. http://egs.edu/faculty/judith-butler.
- Fausto-Sterling, (2000) Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. Basic Books, New York.
- Folbre, (2001) The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values. New Press, New York.
- Freeman, (2001) Is Local : Global as Feminine : Masculine? Rethinking the Gender of Globalization. Signs 26(4): 1007-38.
- Gilligan, (1993) In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
- Halberstam, (1998) Female Masculinity. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
- Hill Collins, P. (2004) Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. Routledge, New
- hooks, b. (2004) We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. Routledge, New
- Kimmel, (2002) Foreword. In: Cleaver, F. (Ed.), Masculinities Matter! Men, Gender and Development. Zed Books, London, pp. xi xiv.
- Laurie, , Dwyer, C., Holloway, S., & Smith, F. (1999) Geographies of New Femininities. Longman, London.
- Lorber, (1994) Paradoxes of Gender. Yale University Press, New Haven.
- Messner, A. (1992) Power at Play. Beacon Press, Boston.
- Messner, A. (1997) Politics in Masculinities: Men in Movements. Sage, Walnut Creek, CA.
- Thai, C. (2002) Clashing Dreams: Highly Educated Overseas Brides and Low-Wage US Husbands. In: Ehrenreich, B. & Hochschild, A. R. (Eds.), Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. Metropolitan Books, New York, pp. 230-53.
- Thompson, C. (2000) The Male Role Stereotype. In: Cyrus, V. (Ed.), Experiencing Race, Class, and Gender in the United States. Mayfield Publishing, Mountain View, CA, pp. 85-7.
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Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition of wealth, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stress caring and nurturing behaviors, sexuality equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles.What are the 4 types of masculinities? ›
Connell. This model conceives that the relationships among male individuals con- sist of four categories of masculinity: hegemony, subordination, complicity and marginalization.What is Connell's theory of masculinity? ›
Connell argues that hegemonic masculinity is “not a fixed character type, always and everywhere the same. It is, rather, the masculinity that occupies the hegemonic position in a given pattern of gender relations, a position always contestable” (1995: 76).What is feminism and masculinity? ›
Abstract. In this chapter, the construct of feminist masculinities refers to versions of masculinity that do not generate gender role strain for men and that do support gender equality for women. Gender equality implies sharing male privilege and power and rejecting sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.Who defined the concepts of masculinity and femininity? ›
Conceptualizing masculinity and femininity and measuring these orientations in men and women originated in the work of Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox Miles (1936). They created a 455-item test that detected masculinity and femininity.Who defined masculinity and femininity? ›
We now understand that femininity and masculinity are not innate but are based upon social and cultural conditions. Anthropologist Margaret Mead addressed the issue of differences in temperament of males and females in Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935).What are the 5 masculinity themes? ›
Themes of masculinity such as misogyny, sex, coolness, toughness, material status, and social status depicted in images and videos posted on SNSs are ubiquitous, however, they have yet to be examined.What are the three pillars of masculinity? ›
The 3 P's of Manhood: A Review of Protection, Procreation, and Provision | The Art of Manliness.What is the difference between masculinity and masculinities? ›
In other words, 'masculine' bodies, behaviour or attitudes can be the social practices of people who are otherwise defined as 'women'. For Connell, then, masculinities is a concept that 'names patterns of gender practice, not just groups of people' (2000: 17).What are the 3 gender theories? ›
These theories can be generally divided into three families: biological, socialization, and cognitive. According to biological theories, psychological and behavioral gender differences are due to the biological differences between males and females.
Developed by Robert Connell, the theory of gender and power is a social structural theory based on existing philosophical writings of sexual inequality and gender and power imbalance.Who created masculinity theory? ›
Having written the paper, Connell, 'being a good empiricist, thought “Where's the evidence?”' (Wedgwood 2005). Thus it was that in the late 1980s Connell designed a study to elicit empirical evidence on the construction of masculinities which later formed the empirical basis for the book Masculinities.What is feminine and masculine gender? ›
Masculine nouns are words for men, boys and male animals. Feminine nouns are words for women, girls and female animals.What is masculinity and femininity culture? ›
In a masculine culture, men are expected to be assertive, competitive, and focused on material success. Women are expected to be nurturing and focused on people and quality of life. In contrast, Hofstede says a feminine culture or feminine society is one where gender roles are more fluid.What are the 4 types of feminism? ›
Introduction – Feminism: The Basics
There are four types of Feminism – Radical, Marxist, Liberal, and Difference.
|Alma mater||Radcliffe College (1966) London School of Economics and Political Science (1967) Harvard University (1968) Brandeis University (1975)|
|Known for||Psychoanalytical feminism|
Examples of stereotypical masculine attributes include independence, aggression, strength, and competitiveness. Stereotypical feminine attributes include nurturing, caring, passivity, and subordination.What are the gender roles of masculine and feminine? ›
For example, girls and women are generally expected to dress in typically feminine ways and be polite, accommodating, and nurturing. Men are generally expected to be strong, aggressive, and bold. Every society, ethnic group, and culture has gender role expectations, but they can be very different from group to group.What is an example of femininity? ›
In our culture, a trait is deemed “feminine” if it is often associated with women. Common examples include being verbal and communicative, emotive or effusive, being nurturing and having an appreciation for beautiful or aesthetically pleasing things.What is masculinity in sociology? ›
Masculinity = social expectations of being a man: The term 'masculinity' refers to the roles, behaviors and attributes that are considered appropriate for boys and men in a given society. Masculinity is constructed and defined socially, historically and politically, rather than being biologically driven.
: the quality or nature of the female sex : the quality, state, or degree of being feminine or womanly.What are characteristics of masculinity? ›
Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness.What are the two types of masculinity? ›
identified four different types of masculinity: hegemonic, subordinate, complacent and marginal. In the first case, hegemonic masculinity is the form embodying male domination and exercising power and authority over women (and other men), with all the consequences of oppression, violence and privileges.What are the rules of masculinity? ›
There are only 3 simple rules: A real man is a fighter and a winner. A real man is a provider and a protector (of women, children and others) A real man retains mastery and control.What are the levels of masculinity? ›
The five stages outlined in the article are: Stage 1, Unconscious Masculinity; Stage 2, Conscious Masculinity; Stage 3, Critical Masculinities; Stage 4, Multiple Masculinities; Stage 5, Beyond Masculinities.What is femininity in sociology? ›
Femininity (also called womanliness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Femininity can be understood as socially constructed, and there is also some evidence that some behaviors considered feminine are influenced by both cultural factors and biological factors.What is masculinity in gender equality? ›
What is it? Masculinity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles typically associated with the male gender. Our views of masculinity are socially constructed, and masculinity itself is not based on biological differences between the sexes.Why Is masculinity so important? ›
Practicing healthy masculinity is important in the prevention of violence and encouraging equity in society. According to the American Psychological Association, in a society with unhealthy masculinity, men are expected to be successful, strong, dominant, fearless, and emotionless.What is the feminist theory of gender? ›
Feminist theory now aims to interrogate inequalities and inequities along the intersectional lines of ability, class, gender, race, sex, and sexuality, and feminists seek to effect change in areas where these intersectionalities create power inequity.What are the main social theories of gender? ›
We can examine issues of gender, sex, sexual orientation, and sexuality through the three major sociological perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism.
The six main theoretical approaches are: “(1) the welfare approach; (2) women in development (WID); (3) women and development (WAD); (4) gender and development (GAD); (5) the effectiveness approach (EA); and (6) mainstream gender equality (MGE).What is Raewyn Connell's theory? ›
In the late 1980s she developed a social theory of gender relations ("Gender and Power", 1987), which emphasized that gender is a large-scale social structure not just a matter of personal identity.What are the two theories of gender? ›
Theories of gender role development fall into two major categories, namely, biological and social-cognitive.What is the primary goal of Connell's southern theory? ›
Connell's primary objective is recovering the 'deep prior experience of subjection to globalizing powers' (2007: 65), that is consequent of colonialism, and integrating the instances of social thought that emanate from this into more generally accepted genealogies of social theory.What is the role of men in feminist theory? ›
Since the 19th century, men have taken part in significant cultural and political responses to feminism within each "wave" of the movement. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in a range of social relations, generally done through a "strategic leveraging" of male privilege.What is gender theory in history? ›
Gender theory is the study of what is understood as masculine and/or feminine and/or queer behavior in any given context, community, society, or field of study (including, but not limited to, literature, history, sociology, education, applied linguistics, religion, health sciences, philosophy, cultural studies).When was the term masculinity first used? ›
Entries linking to masculinity
Meaning "having the appropriate qualities of the male sex, physically or mentally: Manly, virile, powerful" is attested by 1620s. As a noun, "masculine gender," from c. 1500.
There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.What are feminine qualities? ›
- INTUITION. More often than not, we know what to do but don't take action. ...
- EMPATHY. People who want to be around people who care. ...
- SENSITIVITY. Similar to empathy, being sensitive enables you to care. ...
- CHARM. ...
- COLLABORATION. ...
- VULNERABILITY. ...
- NURTURING. ...
Androgyny/ous – (adj; pronounced “an-jrah-jun-ee”) (1) a gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity; (2) occasionally used in place of “intersex” to describe a person with both female and male anatomy.
List of masculine and feminine words in English:
This dimension looks at the extent to which a culture supports a traditional view of masculine and feminine traits. For these purposes, masculinity refers to traits associated with assertiveness and femininity refers to traits associated with nurture.What are the gender roles of masculine? ›
Traditionally, for men to be masculine, they are expected to display attributes such as strength, power, and competitiveness, and less openly display emotion and affection (especially toward other men).
However, most feminists agree on five basic principles, which include working to increase equality, expanding human choice, eliminating gender stratification, ending sexual violence, and promoting sexual freedom.What does femininity mean in sociology? ›
Femininity (also called womanliness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Femininity can be understood as socially constructed, and there is also some evidence that some behaviors considered feminine are influenced by both cultural factors and biological factors.What does masculinity mean in sociology? ›
Masculinity = social expectations of being a man: The term 'masculinity' refers to the roles, behaviors and attributes that are considered appropriate for boys and men in a given society. Masculinity is constructed and defined socially, historically and politically, rather than being biologically driven.What does feminist mean in sociology? ›
Feminism refers to the belief that women and men should have equal opportunities in economic, political, and social life, while sexism refers to a belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and in the inherent inequality between men and women.What are the two types of femininity? ›
Type 1: Careerist Femininity. Type 2: Individualised Femininity.What are the characteristics of femininity? ›
- INTUITION. More often than not, we know what to do but don't take action. ...
- EMPATHY. People who want to be around people who care. ...
- SENSITIVITY. Similar to empathy, being sensitive enables you to care. ...
- CHARM. ...
- COLLABORATION. ...
- VULNERABILITY. ...
- NURTURING. ...
Standards of manliness or masculinity vary across different cultures, subcultures, ethnic groups and historical periods. Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness.
Masculine nouns are words for men, boys and male animals. Feminine nouns are words for women, girls and female animals.How many types of masculine and feminine are there? ›
The 7 different genders include agender, cisgender, genderfluid, genderqueer, intersex, gender nonconforming, and transgender. Many people refuse to be classified as male or female, either because they do not identify themselves as male or female or because they are transitioning to the opposite gender.What are feminine and masculine features? ›
Generally speaking, men have chiseled features and larger bones, while feminine faces tend to have softer, rounder contours. For example, the brow ridge is often softer or not present in women.What are the 3 types of feminism? ›
Three main types of feminism emerged: mainstream/liberal, radical, and cultural. Mainstream feminism focused on institutional reforms, which meant reducing gender discrimination, giving women access to male-dominated spaces, and promoting equality.