Masculinity Theory

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  • Created by: kasajones
  • Created on: 02-05-16 15:40

Features of Masculinity Theories

  • Emerged as a result of the short comings of feminist theories
  • Men and women have different interpretations of what it is like to be a man/woman, and there are reasons behind this that contribute to committing crime
  • Deveoped to redress the former feminist imbalances
  • To fill in gaps in the feminist focus
  • To restore agency and diversity to male and female actions & gender identity
  • To create awareness of the capacity of both men and women to be or engage in violence

Key Representative of the Masculinities framework:

  • Connell, R. (1987) 
  • Messerschmidt, J. (1993) 

Key Reading: 

Treadwell, J. & Garland, J. (2011). Masculinity, marginalisation and violence: a case study of the English Defence League.  British Journal of Criminology, 51 (4). pp.621-634

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Connell, 1987 (1)

Connells explanation of Masculinity Theory. 

Connells explains that it is in the fields of: 

  • Labour (work)
  • Power (patriarchy)
  • Sexuality

that being male and female acquire their ontological existence 

male and female roles are performed 

male and female expectations (to be a man or woman) are created, re-affirmed, negated and are changed. 

In other words, gender roles are learned through labour (work), power (patriarchy) and sexuality (what shapes our interpretations of what is means to be a man or woman). Gender roles are, therefore, socially constructed. 

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Connell, 1987 (2)

Connells explanations of Masculinity Theories

Connell suggests that one masculinity theory does exisit, there is more than one way to be a man or a woman. This is contradictory to the feminist theories which essentialises everyone. Connell explains that we have different kinds of mascuinties and femininities. 

The multiple masculinities are competing against eachother, and are seen as contracdictory. For example, what is seen as masculine at work may be different from what is being regarded as masculine at home. Every man is expected to practise different variants of masculinity depending on the setting they are in. 

In order to practice these multiple masculinites, it is essential to have access to the resources needed. Lack of access to resources and difficulties in reconciling the competing demands can lead him to seek refuge in deviant and criminal activities as the means to acquire a sense of manhood. 

The three masculinities are: hegemonic, complicity, marginalised. 

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Connell, 1987 (3)

1. Hegemonic Masculinity 

  • Ideological masculinity 
  • Desire to be strong, tall, dominant, confident, handsome and financially secure. 
  • There are the characteristics that society identifies as being desireable for men
  • Changable and location specific

2. Complicit Masculinity 

  • Conforming to the societal norms of society
  • They conform to the characteristics in order to be successful and doesnt challenge them. 
  • People change position depending on the circumstances 
  • Could be complicit at home, but hegemonic at work. 
  • We reflect upon situations and present ourselves according to the situation - which feminism doesnt allow for. 

3. Marginalised Masculinity

  • Ethinic minorities
  • Someone who is homosexual will be categorised in this way 
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Messerschmidt (1993)

Messerschmidt (1993) incorporated Connells (1987) insight of multiple masculinities to his work on crime, and applied it to male violence.

Acknowledgin the diverse nature of masculinity and the interplay between gender, identity, race and class, Messerschmidt put forward the idea that 'doing crime is doing gender' when men lack access to practise their sense of male identity, to experience its attributes, to demonstrate its meaning to themselves and others. 

In this context, violence becomes the vehicle to fulfil the gender related demands, representing a 'situational accomplishment of gender'. 

We live in a society where there are strains, whether we like it or not. The idea was that for people who are being brought up to believe they have a fair chance in life, and if they work hard they will be able to succeed in life, but they see they cannot because of discrimination and racism. 

One way of realising what mainstream society values is by engaging in crime, they get a sense of 'strong man', risk taking man, the main in charge and authority. One way of doing this is being violent to their families - this is where the 'doing crime is doing gender' idea comes from. 

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Critique of Masculinity Theories

Like with the masculinity theories framework that challenged the feminist pitfalls, Jefferson's (1997) contribution has been to challenge the pitfalls of the mascullinites theory itself. 

He takes aim at the absense of a pscyhoanalytic dimension of the idea that 'doing crime is doing gender' (Messerschmidt, 1993). 

This idea suggests that when men arent able to practice the mainstream experience, they may engage in some deviant behaviour to make up for their shortcomings. It does recognise diversity, however the problem is we assume that every black man will be engaging in criminal activity because there is racism, hwoever we know that is not the case, this can be applied across all minorities. We need to be more critical in order to be fairer to people. We need to dig further to avoid labelling. 

Jefferson suggests that in order to avoid stigmatization, we need to engage with the offender, we need to ask why they did it. This is a dialectical approach, by engaging with the offender. When we engage with the offender, we try and find out the phenomenal foreground, to understand the offender and their behaviour. 

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