Women’s Ideals for Masculinity Across Social Contexts: Patriarchal Agentic Masculinity is Valued in Work, Family, and Romance but Communal Masculinity in Friendship
The present study explores women’s ideals for masculinity in different social contexts (work, family/romance, and friendship) and compares how traditional (agentic) and non-patriarchal (communal) masculinity are valued in each context. Survey data were collected from one international (N = 159) and three South African samples (Ns = 86, 100, 161) of women. Results show that although women value patriarchal ideals for masculinity, agentic and communal versions of masculinity are valued differently across contexts. Specifically, traditional agentic versions of masculinity were most valued in the contexts most important to the long-term production of viable identity (family/romance and work). It was only in friendship that non-patriarchal communal masculinity was consistently idealized over traditional agentic masculinity. The results are discussed in relation to hegemonic masculinity (HM) and system justification theory (SJT). Congruent with SJT, women idealized versions of masculinity that may not be in their own or their group’s best interests, but in line with HM, the results emphasized the fluidity of masculinity and that the same individual can simultaneously idealize different versions of masculinity depending on the context. Because stereotypes are both explanations for the status quo and warrants for behaving in one way or another, these collective ideals for masculinity and contextual boundaries may be important obstacles to achieving gender equity.
KeywordsMasculinity Gender identity Romance Family Professional identity Friendship Sex role attitudes
The present research was supported by funding from the South African National Research Foundation (grant #TTK1206141295).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All studies reported on in this paper received full ethical review and approval from the responsible ethics committee prior to data collection.
Conflict of Interest
None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to declare.
All participants participated voluntarily, with clear information about the risks and benefits of participation and fully aware of their right to terminate participation at any time.
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