R. W. Connell’s path-breaking notion of multiple masculinities (Connell, 1995) and hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1987, 1995) have been taken up as central constructs in the sociology of gender. Although there has been a great deal of empirical research and theory published that has built upon and utilized Connell’s concepts, an adequate conceptualization of hegemonic femininity and multiple femininities has not yet been developed. To redress this, the author presents a theoretical framework that builds upon the insights of Connell and others, offers a definition of hegemonic masculinity and hegemonic femininity that allows for multiple configurations within each, and that can be used empirically across settings and groups. The author also outlines how hegemonic masculinity and hegemonic femininity are implicated in and intersect with other systems of inequality such as class, race, and ethnicity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The specific content of the relationship between masculine and feminine sexuality as outlined here (erotic attachment to difference and penetration as domination) is limited to contemporary Western cultures. However, my more general assertion that a central, hegemonic function of masculinity and femininity is to establish a symbolic relationship between the features of masculinity and those of femininity in a way that legitimates men’s dominance over women can be utilized as an analytic framework across cultures.
I want to draw the important distinction between the symbolic meaning of penetrative sexual relations and the lived, embodied experience and relations of power and domination. I am not suggesting, as Catherine MacKinnon (1989) and others have, that embodied intercourse is always/already relations of male domination. The relationship between the symbolic construction of the masculine in hetero-sex as penetrative and dominating and the lived experience and power dynamics of hetero-sex is an empirical question. As Lynne Segal (1994) suggests, the symbolic construction of penetration as domination might in fact be an ideological move to mask the real relations of power that work to women’s advantage in hetero-sex. That is, the erotic content of the relationship between masculinity and femininity serves the hegemonic function of masking women’s sexual power.
This is where Halberstam’s (1998) work on female masculinities takes on such great importance. Halberstam reveals not only how women can successfully engage masculinity as oppositional culture, but that these oppositional cultures are the building blocks of, not only drag queen performance, but also the performance of hegemonic masculinity by men.
Here I am referring to transgender. Judith Butler (2004) suggests that the heterosexual matrix or binary construction of hetero-difference to define “man” and ‘woman’ makes transgender un-intelligible and therefore, transgressive. It is essential to recognize that gender hegemony does not simply ensure men’s dominance over women, but also men’s dominance over people who are neither men nor women and women’s dominance over people who are neither men nor women. Gender inequality is not simply the unequal distribution of resources, power, and value between women and men, but also between those who embody intelligible gender and those who do not. And gender hegemony, as conceptualized here, explains how masculinity and femininity ensure and legitimate those relations of domination as well.
Anderson, E. (2002). Openly gay athletes: Contesting hegemonic masculinity in a homophobic environment. Gender and Society, 16(6), 860–877.
Bettie, J. (2003). Women without class: Girls, race, and identity. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.
Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York: Routledge.
Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics. Cambridge: Polity.
Connell, R. W. (1992). A very straight gay: Masculinity, homosexual experience, and the dynamics of gender. American Sociological Review, 57(6), 735–751.
Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Connell, R. W. (2000). The men and the boys. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender and Society, 19, 829–859.
Dellinger, K. (2004). Masculinities in ‘safe’ and ‘embattled’ organizations: Accounting for pornographic and feminist magazines. Gender and Society, 18(5), 545–566.
Dowsett, G. W. (1993). I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours: Gay men, masculinity research, men’s studies, and sex. Theory and Society, 22(5), 697–709.
Eskilsson, L. (2003). Masculinity and the North. In S. Ervo & T. Johansson (Eds.), Among men: Moulding masculinities, volume 1 (pp. 115–126). Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate.
Fejes, F. (2000). Making a gay masculinity. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 17(1), 113–116.
Fonesca, C. (2003). Philanderes, cuckolds, and wily women: Reexamining gender relations in a Brazilian working-class neighborhood. In M. C. Gutmann (Ed.), Changing men and masculinities in latin America (pp. 61–83). Durham: Duke University Press.
Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality volume I: An introduction. New York: Vintage.
Garlick, S. (2003). What is a man? Heterosexuality and the technology of masculinity. Men and Masculinities, 6(2), 156–172.
Gutmann, M. C. (1996). The meanings of macho: Being a man in Mexico City. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Halberstam, J. (1998). Female masculinity. Durham: Duke.
Hennen, P. (2005). Bear bodies, bear masculinity: Recuperation, resistance, or retreat? Gender and Society, 19(1), 25–43.
Hill Collins, P. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: HarperCollins.
Kimmel, M., Hearn J., & Connell, R. W. (2005). Handbook on studies on men & masculinities. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Kippax, S., & Smith, G. (2001). Anal intercourse and power in sex between men. Sexualities, 4(4), 413–434.
Lambevski, S. A. (1999). Suck my nation-masculinity, ethnicity and the politics of (Homo)sex. Sexualities, 2(4), 397–419.
Lorber, J. (1998). Men’s gender politics. Gender and Society, 12(4), 469–477.
Lorber, J. (2000). Using gender to undo gender: A feminist degendering movement. Feminist Theory, 1, 79–95.
MacKinnon, C. (1989). Toward a feminist theory of the state. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Martin, P. Y. (1998). Why can’t a man be more like a woman? Reflections on Connell’s Masculinities. Gender and Society, 12(4), 472–474.
Martin, P. Y. (2004). Gender as social institution. Social Forces, 82(4), 1249–1273.
Messerschmidt, J. W. (2003). Flesh and blood: Adolescent gender diversity and violence. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Messner, M. (1992). Power at play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Boston: Beacon.
Pyke, K. D., & Johnson, D. L. (2003). Asian American women and racialized femininities: ‘Doing’ gender across cultural worlds. Gender and Society, 17(1), 33–53.
Schippers, M. (2002). Rockin’ out of the box: Gender maneuvering in alternative hard rock. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Segal, L. (1994). Straight sex: Rethinking the politics of pleasure. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Smith, G., Kippax, S., & Chapple, M. (1998). Secrecy, disclosure, and the closet dynamics. Journal of Homosexuality, 35(1), 53–73.
Underwood, S. G. (2003). Gay men and anal eroticism: Tops, bottoms, and versatiles. New York: Harrington..
West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing gender. Gender and Society, 1, 125–151.
About this article
Cite this article
Schippers, M. Recovering the feminine other: masculinity, femininity, and gender hegemony. Theor Soc 36, 85–102 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-007-9022-4
- Gender Relation
- Male Dominance
- Hegemonic Masculinity
- Subordinate Masculinity
- Masculine Characteristic