Masculinity through the eyes of Sociology

The meaning of masculinity through the eyes of sociology can be derived from feminist critiques of sex roles in the 1980s. The traditional meaning of this idea can be attributed to the anatomical fixation of God: masculinity is for men and femininity for women. The field of “sociology of masculinity” was established as a way to study the relationship of physical sex to social life for men and the role of manhood in social institutions. The sociological study of masculinity provides an opportunity to examine the structures within society that sustain this idea and give men social power.

Raewynn Connel, a leading sociologist and influential researcher on gender masculinities, explores this issue in an authoritative way, as her research has been the basis of many other follow-up studies on the issue. According to Connel, there is no ideal definition of masculinity; it varies from culture to culture, and there have been various competing models of masculinity at any given point in history. Many societies, such as “western societies,” have a singular view of how manliness should be expressed—by way of dominance over others.

In an uncomplicated way, the concept can be understood through society’s grooming of a man. Infants are not biologically embedded to be masculine; instead, they are socialised into manliness by older men. It is through social mechanisms that the concept is formed and replicated by men. Across various cultures, the definition of manliness varies. The definition of masculinity in the United States may be different from that present in India, and it may differ within the same country across different generations. In a nutshell, it can be understood that it is not biologically embedded but rather a cultural ethos.

Hegemonic Masculinity

Hegemonic masculinity is the most socially ideal form of the idea that an individual aspires to and that represents dominance over other masculinities. According to Connel, who has done pioneering work on hegemonic masculinity, “hegemonic masculinity exists as a cultural guide for what would be perfect masculinity, and men are gauged based on how well they approximate the hegemonic ideal.” For a better understanding, this concept can be termed as a form of masculinity where individuals are culturally infatuated to embody a set of standards determining the social power to each individual. The hegemonic form of masculinity is an ideal form of manliness that includes traits such as pain tolerance, emotional detachment, competitiveness, aggression, etc. Hegemonic masculinity symbolises a dearth of any emotion or vulnerability; emotions are classified as “feminine” in this particular domain.

Changing Paradigms of Masculinity

Hegemonic masculinity invoked traits that were culturally subjugated and were ideal for men trying to be superior. Since the work by Conell, which started in the 1980s, research on the evolving nature of hthis has been taken up more promptly. Changing social scenarios such as men taking more interest in household work, feeling less resentment towards gay men, and talking about gender disparity are some takeaways that embody a shift from hegemonic masculinity. Since ancient times, men have been stereotyped to be a certain way and have to embody certain traits in order to be masculine. Any signs of vulnerability or emotion were mercilessly pitted against them. Men with emotions were called to have “feminine” traits. The above aspects show manliness to be a cultural reinforcement rather than a biological obligation. Evolving cultures and gender equality strive for a positive change that is more inclusive. Proverbs such as “boys will be boys” and “Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota,” an Indian proverb meaning “a real man does not encounter pain,” which were prominent in the 20th century, are cautiously looked at today, suggesting a paradigm shift from the hegemonic masculine ways.

Masculinity and society

Masculinity is the result of the complex interactions between many social traits. The idea is formed inside a hierarchical structure of homosocial interactions that is self-replicating. There are controls within manliness that reinforce its existence and power. It does not exist in a single man or in a social vacuum; it is an institution that exists within society and between men. The definition and norms of it are as fluid as the self-concepts of the men who compose its very institution.

Inference 

As the topic of masculinity affects half of mankind and has a role in the lives of the other half of mankind, which means covering the entire human race, this topic is important and should be explored for a better understanding of our social identities. The inference drawn is that society plays an important role in determining manliness. The article has been written from a sociological point of view, and it inspires motivation by just glancing at the works of noted sociologist Raewynn Connell, hoping to provide a platform for healthy debates regarding masculinity.

Shitij Rao
Shitij Rao

New age journalist trained at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi, who specialises in Print, Television and Digital Journalism . Lifestyle, Politics and legal beat are my forte ! Passionate about print journalism.

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