There are a range of masculinities in the contemporary UK. Traditional masculinity – hegemonic masculinity (Connell) – is associated with male dominance and power, laddish culture, aggression and heterosexuality. This hegemonic masculinity is typically associated with negative behaviours, such as sexism. However, this is not the only type of masculinity. As the UK’s norms and values have changed over time, so have the types of masculinities which are accepted.
Hegemonic masculinity is associated with traditional working class values. Nayak (2006) argued that in the 50s and 60s men with hegemonic masculine identities had ‘body capital’, meaning that their lives stemmed around jobs involving physical labour, being the main breadwinner of their family, opting out of domestic jobs, living in the public world of work and away from the private, unpaid labour of women in the household. This ethos can be seen in Willis’s study of young boys in school. The boys displayed typical hegemonic masculinity, and did relatively little work when in school. Instead, they would mess about in class and disrupt lessons. Willis concluded that this was due to the acceptance by the boys that they would only enter professions requiring unskilled labour, and so school would not bring them any further benefits.
Jackson (2006) argued that the boy’s behaviour was not due to the inevitability of entering the labour trade, but rather the hegemonic masculinity identity which the boys adopted. This masculinity was not one which valued work, and instead saw it as feminine or uncool – this in itself stemmed from a fear of failure and a desire to fit in with the other boys in the peer group.
Archer (2003) studied groups of Asian students in the North West of England. Asian students were typically more focused and studious, however Archer identified one ‘laddish’ group which displayed hegemonic masculinity. These boys talked back to teachers, took pride in messing about and were eventually labelled as ‘stupid’ by their teachers. However, being stupid was seen as a positive trait which set the boys apart from the girls in their class. When interviewed, the boys argued that their behaviour was natural, the teachers led them…