Hegemonic Masculinity

The authors of new research on masculinity have previously found that the endorsement of “hegemonic masculinity” – an idealized form of masculinity – was associated with support for Donald Trump.

They wrote,  “In collaboration with my advisor, Dr. Theresa Vescio, we found that the endorsement of hegemonic masculinity, or the belief that men should be high in power/status, should be tough, and should be nothing like women, was related to support for Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. Presidential elections.”

In addition, the participants who completed the Male Role Norms Scale and who scored high on this measure of hegemonic masculinity were more likely, in general, to vote for conservative candidates.   

I must confess that this is the first time I have come across the term “Hegemonic Masculinity.”  It seems that this descriptor is similar to “toxic masculinity and hyper masculinity” but it appears to be used exclusively with the Male Role Norms Scale (MRNS).  Another term used to validate the MRNS results is “TMI – traditional male ideology” which has been used in research articles that report an association of high scores with an adverse effect on a man’s mental health. 

I was obviously prompted to explore the MRNS items to see not only how I would score but to form my own opinion as to its validity in attempting to define masculinity.  The scale has several forms with the 21 item short form deemed most useful to mental health professionals.  Each item is to be scored from 1 – 7 with 7 meaning strong agreement.

I will share some items from the scale with my comments.

1. Success in his work has to be a man’s central goal in this life.

(Does the word work mean one’s overall purpose or occupation?  If I interpret work in the broader sense I would rate it a 7.  If strictly an occupation I might be a 4.  Could we substitute person instead of man and get the same response? If a stay at home mom saw child rearing has her work she would rate this as a 7.)

2. The best way for a young man to get the respect of other people is to get a job, take it seriously, and do it well.

( Why is doing your job, whatever it might be, seriously and with excellence a hegemonic notion?  Not taking you job seriously is a sign of weak character not non-masculine behavior.)

5. A man always deserves the respect of his wife and children.

(The ambiguity is how we interpret deserve.  If we are a good mother or father we always deserve respect.   If we are lousy parents then we don’t.  Again I do not see the link with hegemonic masculinity)

7. A man should never back down in the face of trouble.

( If one interprets back down as being physical it has an aggressive feel.  However, if back down means not dealing or not confronting trouble it is an entirely different interpretation and in my opinion equally unappealing for a man and for a women.)

13. Nobody respects a man very much who frequently talks about his worries, fears, and problems.

(Frequent whining and complaining is equally unattractive regardless of gender and has little to do with masculinity.)

I could analyze a bunch more of the questionnaire items with a similar conclusion that the items are skewed to favor a knee jerk response about masculine stereotypes.  The fact that there are higher scores among conservatives may simply mean that these men have a positive reaction to a more traditional belief system – the definition of a conservative  – rather than a true reflection of masculine behavior.