The Encyclopedia of Gender and Society defines hegemonic masculinity as a set of practices and societal norms that are seen as “masculine” and that are dominant in society. Hegemonic masculinity is a gender performance and regulates what it is to be a real ‘man’. Hegemonic masculinity is seen as the ultimate form of masculinity, one that embodies aggression, competition, physical strength, power and dominance. In the reading Gender: A Sociological Reader, Connell articulates that “the most important feature of contemporary hegemonic masculinity is that it is heterosexual, being closely connected to the institution of marriage; and a key form of subordinated masculinity is homosexual”.
In the YouTube video ‘Commercials that show Hegemonic Masculinity’ a series of advertisements are shown that portray hegemonic masculine men as men that don’t cook, men who smell like other men and men who are ultimately the heroes of the day. Hegemonic Masculinity is prioritized frequently in advertising, television and film. This can be seen in the YouTube video ‘Hegemonic Masculinity in Surfer Magazine’. The video shows how hegemonic masculinity is represented in a surf magazine, in which men are rewarded for their masculine behaviour, while women who present the same type of behaviour have their masculinity downplayed.
Hegemonic masculinity can be seen in many public spaces such as in the workplace and in sport. The website Emasculated states that “in business, it is expected for a man to be the head of the company” and that in sport “ideal masculinity is usually portrayed through athletes who are powerful, popular, successful, and married to beautiful, popular women”. As hegemonic masculinity continues to dominate throughout our culture it’s important that we are aware of the way our bodily practices and gender normitivity contributes to the power it holds.
You know you’re a hockey fanatic when you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the game you just played or the nightmare you just had about having 45 players for a team that only requires 11. Maybe that’s just me. As an athlete and a coach, I’m often left wondering what influence does my gender have on my athletic opportunities? And why do I have to wear a skirt? And why do girls have to have club approval to play in the mixed team?
In the YouTube video titled ‘Gender Issues Sport Science’ it is revealed that “women don’t have equal opportunities to play, nor do we have equal pay” in sport. Everywhere we look, sport is dominated by male coaches, male commentators, male umpires and male fans. In an arena fuelled by hegemonic masculinity, women athletes are often overlooked or sexualised to ‘tolerate’ their participation in sport. The YouTube video ‘Gender Inequalities in Sports’ assesses the effect that the sexualisation of female athletes has on women as athletes, role models and supporters. The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) reveals that the sexualisation of women in sports goes beyond the media’s representation of female athletes to where the very sports themselves deliberately sexualise women. For example, the ASC exposes that women’s beach volleyball “has introduced uniforms intentionally to focus attention of the athletes’ bodies rather than for any technological, practical or performance enhancing reasons. Women must compete in bra-style tops and bikini bottoms that must not exceed six centimetres in width at the hip”.
Inequalities in sport go far beyond the sexualisation of women, where the very gender of an athlete is challenged. In the blog post ‘Defining Gender in Sport’ Natalie Reed questions the efficiency of gender verification. She notes that “throughout the decades of gender testing being a common practice, it never once revealed a male athlete as a woman in order to cheat. In every single instance it was a result of intersex conditions”. Not only does the gender of an individual define their status as an athlete, but their sexuality does too. In the reading ‘Sexuality as a Structural Principle in Sport Participation: Negotiating Sports Spaces’, sport is identified as a heteronormative activity in which homosexual athletes are underrepresented in both mainstream and traditional masculine sports. As sport continues to thrive in our culture, it is important that we start to close the gap between gender and sexuality inequalities.
According to the article ‘Is online dating destroying love?’ online dating offers the dream of removing the historic obstacles to true love (time, space, your dad sitting on the porch with a shotgun across his lap and an expression that says no boy is good enough for my girl). Funny, but online dating has enabled us to do so much more. Online dating has empowered us to create a version of ourselves that may not be a true representation of who we really are. While in a face-to-face situation you may not believe me when I tell you I’m a 28-year-old male aerospace engineer who models in his spare time, but on the internet you would. Why? Because it’s the internet.
In the reading, Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment’ it is argued that there are three domains of the self: the actual self, the ideal self and the ought self. These three aspects of self-presentation are critical to online dating sites where the actual self creates a profile of their ideal self in order to seek a relationship (romantic or not). The issue arises when the relationship becomes more than just an online relationship and the expectations of the ideal self are not met. In the article ‘Online dating sites creating “Beauty Inflation”’ Marina Adshade believes that this problem begins with everyone putting their best photo on their online dating profile. When the profile photo is compared to the real life it creates a ‘contrast effect’ in which the real life is perceived as less attractive than it actually is purely because of the contrast between the two.
Online profiles have created the ability for an individual to pass as the gender of their choice. An example of this is MTV’s show Catfish. Each episode is focused on helping an individual discover if their online friend is who they really say they are. Most people are left disappointed as they find out that the guy they’ve been talking to for three years online is actually a girl whose life is completely different or vice-versa. Online dating has given these individuals the ability to be who they want and create a life different from their own. In most situations, the ability to distance our online identities from our actual identities is both important and appropriate but it also contributes to amount of deception on the internet. Online dating will continue to become more popular regardless, so as long as we are mindful of who we are presenting ourselves to be and who others claim to be then we will may thankfully never have our own horrible online dating story (just for your entertainment).
So the burning question is what’s a normal family? Our lives have been structured around the idea that a family must consist of a mother and a father, and typically two biological children. The reason I have specifically stated two children is because (if you haven’t noticed) whenever you go somewhere like the aquarium or an amusement park they always have these ‘family fun passes’ or discounts for families which are always limited to two parents and two children (three if you’re lucky, real lucky). So where does that leave the single parent who wants to take their four children to the show? According to this parenting blog statics prove that a family “is no longer a mother, a father and their biological children living under one roof”. Today, families are diverse and it would only make sense that as our social attitudes towards marriage and kinship change, our laws should too… right?
Wrong. As Judith Butler explains in Undoing Gender, marriage is still believed to be exclusively “a heterosexual institution” and “that kinship does not work, or does not qualify as kinship, unless it assumes a recognizable family form”. So the law states that you’re not allowed to get married unless you’re heterosexual and if your family doesn’t fit the norm than you’re screwed. The problem with this logic is that any family who doesn’t match this criteria is exempt from the benefits that traditional families are entitled to.
As the gay marriage debate continues, the arguments against gay marriage continue to become irrelevant. Examples of this can be seen in the youtube videos ‘5 reasons against gay marriage‘ and ‘Top 5 reasons 2 Ban Gay Marriage‘ where arguments such as ‘gay marriage creates more gays’ and that ‘gay marriage will encourage heterosexuals to get divorced’ are mocked for being illogical. Although the acceptance of gay marriage is important, we must also be mindful of the relationships and families that continue to be overlooked because they don’t fit into the conventional two parents, two children roles.
Does biology define who we are? We are often taught that our genitals determine who we are, what our interests should be and what our role in society is. But it’s not only our genitals that supposedly determine our gender. If we take a look at the reading ‘The Real Science Behind Sex Differences: Delusions of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine (2010) it can understood that many neuroscientists of the mid-nineteenth century believed that gender was established by structural differences in the human body. Not only did the size of your head or the angle of your face determine what gender you were but they also determined your intellectual capabilities.
As I continued my search on what the real differences between men and women were I came across an article titled ‘The male v female brain: is it all in the mind?’. The article aims to separate the assumptions made between biology and intelligence and biology and behaviour. Sociologist Professor Connell reiterates that “boxing boys and girls into different learning styles on the basis of supposed biological differences is educational nonsense and potentially harmful’. The article ‘Men aren’t from Mars and Women aren’t from Venus’ has also revealed that the differences between men and women aren’t really gender differences at all, they’re individual differences.
The idea that gender is purely based on biology has left many people feeling like they don’t belong. In an episode on intersex, the TV show Embarrassing Bodies reveals that while the “school of thought that a child born this way (intersex) should be left to make their own decisions later in life, growing up can be difficult for people who do not fit neatly into gender stereotypes”. The impact that biology has had on gender can also be seen in the question and answer video ‘Breaking the Gender Binary’. When asked whether a student identifies themselves as male or female they reply “It’s not the most important way that I define myself”. Clearly, biology does not define our gender, and our gender does not define who we are as an individual.
Every time someone asks me what ‘gender, sexuality and diversity studies’ is, I give them something along the lines of… “it’s all about questioning the gender binaries, about accepting gender and sexuality has something that is not limited to anything”, the usual. And every time I get the same response… “What?”, “Are you serious?”, “I don’t get what you’re saying”, “Sounds… interesting”. It’s society lack of understanding of the word gender that has led many to believe that gender is nothing more than male or female.
Youtube blogger Halle Hermanson recently posted a video entitled ‘what is gender?‘ in which students and teachers give their meaning of the word gender. Most of the responses are expected… “Boys and girls”, “Traditional roles of male or female”, “Penis and vagina”… and while these ideas of gender are dominant it’s still refreshing to know that some believe that gender is “fluid, a person can determine their own or choose their own gender” (See youtube video). These conflicting ideas of gender are also reinstated in another youtube film titled ‘what is gender?‘ by XCAlexandria.
The question is how do we break away from these binaries? Will gender neutral toilet facilities make a difference (British council rules toilets gender-neutral)? Will gender-neutral advertisements make a difference (Gender-neutral toy catalogues leave the boy holding the baby)? Perhaps education and awareness will be enough that one day gender will be seen as more than just a category. Perhaps it is classes such as gender, sexuality and diversity studies that will provide us with enough understanding to can create our own gender identities.
This blog used to be about ‘body image’. ‘I’d Rather Be Naked’ questions mainstream and commercial ideas about what the female body should look like and why I’d rather be naked than have to conform to something I’m not. While those posts are now long gone… in the trash… this blog still is about ‘body image’ and more specifically ‘gender, sexuality and diversity studies’.