Carrigan, Connell, and Lee. 1985. “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity.”

Carrigan, Tim, Bob Connell, and John Lee. 1985. “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity.” Theory and Society 14 (5): 551-604.
Sexual politics and feminism in field and in sociology has had impact on both women and men, particularly gay politics and gay masculinities. Sex-role research had talked mostly about women’s roles in the family, and was extended into men.
Pre-feminist studies on masculinity focused on modernization, inability to acknowledge power/oppression, and focused a great deal on sex role paradigms. However, works that actively analyze masculinity are scarce, save for those that analyze gay masculinities.
Men’s work that is focused upon guilt of the patriarchy, sexual exploitation and violence – “paralyzing politics of guilt” (552). But, does not encompass sexualities between men, or heterosexual/homosexual relations intra-men, or other issues of feminist inquiry – division of labor, class dynamics, etc.., and does not appropriately address the relationship between structure and agency.
Hopes to converge “feminism, gay liberation, contemporary socialism, psychoanalysis, and the history and sociology of practice” (553)
Early sociology of gender was preoccupied with women, biologies, and women’s lives in response to emancipation and newly industrialized economies – psychologists were attempting to find “sex differences” to back political oppressions, but finding no real differences. Early women sociologists and psychologists started bring new perspectives to table, vocabularizing experiences, but was soon overwhelmed by small-c conservative functionalists
Sex-role theory was primary to mid-century sociology (functionalism) – well-written-on, but did not address power relations between genders, and posited sex and gender as contextualized by family.
Then, move toward psychoanalysis, and framing gender in terms of sexuality and socialization; functionalism and psychoanalysis merged through Parsons’ work – discussion of kinship, socialization, personality formation, household divisions of labor, and interactional patterns – coined “expressive” vs. “instrumental” leaderships – men and women working together in small groups to aid in socializing youth, and reproducing gender patterns across generations. Acquisition of sex roles as “relative to the total culture as a whole, the masculine personality tends more to the predominance of instrumental interests, needs and functions, presumably in whatever social system both sexes are involved, while the feminine personality tends more to the primacy of expressive interests, needs, and functions. We would expect, by and large, that other thing being equal, men would assume more technical, executive, and ‘judicial’ roles, women more supportive, integrative, and ‘tension-managing’ roles ***7 (Parsons obviously oversimplifies and notes that homosexuality is universally taboo as to reinforce sex roles – this is obviously false). Focuses on complimentarity, not on relations of power – focus on classed family dysfunction, delinquency, and familial conflict during this era.
Research on men (and sex role research) drastically jumped in early seventies, reintroduction of feminism; late seventies, strong argument to end sex-roles research. Emerging demands of masculinity required study, dissecting and critiquing sex roles in the light of new roles for women, and absence of men from families. Acknowledgement of variation in masculinity, masculinity as situational. Studies of emasculation and masculinity in crisis blamed alienation at work, bureaucracy in politics/war, sexualization of commodity goods, disconnect between hegemonic image and real life
Anthropological understandings of how control of war, politics, work, sport reflected genetic patterning – MTH, WTG – sociobiological understandings, emphasis on sexual dimorphism
Exposure of women’s discontent in working-class families, offering them voices on power, domestic violence, familial and labor divisions created unease, fueled men’s movement as a response of “increased” visibility of challenges to men’s power
Men’s studies emerged in late 70’s, in coalition with feminist critiques of patriarchy – but focused on narrow view of purporting dysfunction and reasserting hegemonic masculinity. Moved to spectrum-ing of gender types – feminine to masculine men, masculine to feminine women, androgyny being “measureable”
Men’s rights and literature surrounding it became popular to note that men were oppressed in a method similar to women, but the enemy was not women (except in far right movements), but the prescribed male role. Literature was often divided into four principle themes: evils of masculinity and men’s discomfort in it , men’s liberation, biological vs. social determination debates of gender and disposition; role of change in masculinity.
Key figure: Joseph Pleck – social psychologist. Develops sex role perspective, treating masculinity not as something fixed but dynamic over lifespan and cultural experience. Wrote The Myth of Masculinity – not really about masculinity – uses role theory, norms, conformity, sanctions, and role strains to develop masculine practice… rejects biological determinism, simplicity of masculine/feminine scaling. NASCENT DEVELOPER OF HEGEMONIC THEORY! – “a connection between the subordination of women and the hierarchy of power among men. This hierarchy is maintained in terms of wealth, physical strength, age, and heterosexuality, and the competition among men to assert themselves produces a considerable amount of conflict” (571)… “Thus, men’s patriarchal competition with each other makes use of women as symbols of success, as mediators, as refuges and as an underclass. In each of these roles, women are dominated by men in ways that derive directly from men’s struggle with each other.” ***48
Men’s organizations, parallel to women’s organizations, sponsored by NOW and other feminist organizations; more radical men noted this as anti-feminist; sociology of masculinity explored in Tolson’s “Limits of Masculinity” – workplace studies, class differences, work as central to masculinity and capitalism, parenthood, peer relations. Does not easily blend homosexual masculinities into these analyses.
Sex roles:
“At the simplest level lit is clear that the sex role framework accepts that sexual differentiation is a social phenomenon: sex roles are learnt, acquired, or ‘internalized.’ But the precise meaning of the sociality proposed by the framework is not nearly as simple as its proponents assume.” (578)
– Often noted that though masculinity is learned, it originates from a non-social essence – often assumed to be biological or genetic. Deviance is something that occurs when role is disrupted by individuals, as hegemonic masculinity is the true nature of man.
– Alternative – individuals’ experiences create points of conflict and dysfunction because hegemonic masculinity does not reflect true nature of men
– Problems with sex role theory: cannot contextualize interrelations of praxis and structure; incorporates social change, but not as a dialectic arising within gender relations (micro to macro); focuses on differences between sexes, not similarities or relationships between sexes. Focuses on distinction criteria and classification, rather than power relations between genders.
AUTHORS ARGUE THAT MALE SEX ROLE DOES NOT EXIST: “It is impossible to isolate a ‘role’ that constructs masculinity (or another than constructs femininity). Because there is no area of social life that is not the arena of sexual differentiation and gender relations, the notion of a sex role necessarily simplifies and abstracts to an impossible degree” (581).
Parsonian views skip over psychoanalytic ideas, which authors argue may be useful for unpacking masculinity. Men’s domination over women sources from fear of castration, tensions between love and desire and masculinity, and resistance of men being passive to other men. Feminist psychoanalyses create gynocentricism, in rebellion to mainstream phallocentrism; academics aim to bring phallocentrism back into analysis. Refers to feminist psychoanalysis Chodorow’s ideation of change in childcare and division of labor as a means to create gender equality… however, this ignores homosexual familial arrangements.
Homosexuals as first men to adopt feminisms, creates complications for sociobiologists and social learning theorists. Many gay liberationists embraced femininity, effeminacy as a new definition of masculinity. Incorporation of radical drag – “there is more to be learned from wearing a dress for a day than there is from wearing a suit for life” ***78 – not to create glamorous stereotypes of femininity, but to create combinations of feminine images with masculine ones, gender confusion – personal liberation from hegemonic masculinity, and subverting gender categories through “genderfucking”. Currently defined through patriarchal divisions – active/passive in sexual relations, masculine/feminine replications. Homosexuality challenges heteronormative men’s movement and literature, hegemonic masculinity, dichotomization of sexual subjects and object. Centrality of hetero/homo relations.
“Any kind of powerlessness, or refusal to compete, among men readily becomes involved with the imagery of homosexuality” (38) ***80 Hegemonic masculinity adds that not only women are oppressed, but certain masculinities oppress other types of masculinities; dynamicism of masculinity in power, social relations. Homosexual identity versus behavior. Common early understandings of homosexuality as gender inversion, transvestitism
Recent and synthetic ideas of masculinity
Old works about masculinity focus on division of labor (through lens of patriarchy), and the structure of power (through Millet’s “sexual politics” ***89), work aims to work in ideas about sexuality and attraction, class. Subordination in one field may be transient and contextual. Imitating models of masculinity outright gain derision, comedic slurs… but large numbers of men are complicit in maintaining these ideals – fantasy, displace aggression,
Hegemony as historical, contextual… not about the struggle of current groupings, but how those groups were initially formed and organized. Hegemony about division of labor as gendered – tension of gender order and class order,
“To transcend is not to ignore: the bodily dimension remains a presence within the social practice. Not as a “base,” but as an object ofpractice. Masculinity invests the body. Reproduc-tion is a question of strategies. Social relations continuously take account of the body and biological process and interact with them” (595).
Use of transsexual, as body as identity – becomes personally problematic (to kx)
“The dominion of men over women, and the supremacy of particular groups of men over others, is sought by constantly re-constituting gender relations as a system within which that dominance is generated. Hegemonic masculinity might be seen as what would function automatically if the strategy were entirely successful. But it never does function automatically. The project is contradictory, the conditions for its realization are constantly changing, and, most importantly, there is resistance from the groups being subordinated. The violence in gender relations is not part of the essence of masculinity (as Fasteau, Nichols, and Reynaud, as well as many radical feminists, present it) so much as a measure of the bitterness of this struggle” (598)
*** 7 : T. Parsons and R.F. Bales. 1953. Family, Socialization and Interaction Process. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Page 101.
***48/80: J.H. Pleck. (no date) “Men’s Power with Women, Other Men, and Society: A Men’s Movement Analysis.” The American Man. Page 427.
***78: Mieli, Homosexuality and Liberation. Page 193.
***89: K. Millett. 1970. Sexual Politics. New York: Doubleday.


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