Both Tough Guise and Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept examine the relationship between the social construction of masculine identity and various popular culture ideas including media images and social movements. Both sources discuss this “hegemonic” or “tough” exterior American males are socialized to display in order to successfully perform their male gender.
The hegemonic male is the reaction to men’s insecurities in the face of minorities increased assertion into the mainstream. Both Katz and Connell discuss the evolution of the “hegemonic” male in response to various social movements that threatens the dominate culture. With the growth of the civil rights, women’s, and gay/lesbian rights movements, the heterosexual white male needed take control of the idea of masculinity, essentially by defining “what is male.” . This narrow and “boxed” version of what is a “real man” is hyper-masculine and, just like emphasized femininity, is a constant performance of gender.
In my opinion, the most interesting theory of hegemonic masculinity is the fact that it is a pose; it is an act. As Katz states, “white kids ‘acting black’ is just as much of a performance as black kids ‘acting black.’” Acting male is nothing more than an imitation of what our culture and media portrays as male, which are consequently controlled by white males.
Further, another interesting aspect of the hegemonic male is the link to violence, especially sexualized violence. Particularly, the recent school shootings where bullied teenagers seek revenge by shooting their peers has a close connection with asserting manhood, by “being tough and strong.” With guns the “weak” students equalize the playing field by exhibiting their strength and toughness, essentially by displaying their masculinity.
However, the most surprising aspect of the tough guise theory lies in the reaction from the media of the increased violence in middle-white suburbia. By “normalizing” the problem with boys, the media ignores the problem altogether. Whereas, violence in low-income black neighborhoods goes unannounced, images of white violence are shocking when portrayed in the news. When “normal” kids are involved, we seek to find the solution to the problem by pointing fingers at music, video games, and television instead of at the socially constructed idea of manhood.
I also found the comparison of male icons from the 1950s to the 1990s incredibly interesting. When comparing the slimmer action figures to the buffer and more defined heroes of today, it’s no question that hegemonic masculinity is being force fed to American children. Further, with media images of chiseled male celebrities and models for boys with waif-like heroine-chic female role models for girls, it’s no wonder why there is an epidemic of sexual assaults, eating disorders and drug addictions in American. When boys can buy steroids online or search the web for all-protein diets, the hegemonic masculine identity flourishes.
This is a social problem that needs to be addressed and no longer can be ignored. Personally, I think we need to begin at the source of the problem, by educating children on equality and by de-gendering childhood. I think