Impact Of Hegemonic Masculinity On Life Chances In Australia


The concept behind hegemonic masculinity explains how society accepts and helps shape the culturally dominant behavior of men. Not only is it hegemonic to other masculinities, but the idea is a privileged representation and collective leverage that men have over women. The outcome of such models leads to the creation of social structures responsible for gender discrimination and helps define feminism and masculinity conduct patterns. In 1949, Simon de Beauvoir explained the binary sex understanding by implying that man’s superiority over others helped demarcate the gender idea and sex (Enloe, 2017). In his argument, de Beauvoir (1949) stated that no one is born a woman; instead, they become women, a notion that represents the social role of gender (Enloe, 2017). The historical masculinities formation results in the construction of two separate dimensions and gendered power relations that appear fixed, regular, and static. In Australia, hegemonic masculinity dimensions are embedded in power, ensuring that males dominate in the economic and political domains resulting in the need for social change movements.

The Theoretical Perspective of Hegemonic Masculinity

Raewyn Connell developed the notion that hegemonic masculinity is an analytical instrument that helps identify the practices and attitudes men use to perpetuate gender inequality (Connell, 1978). The attitudes and practices involve women’s domination by men and the power some men exercise over others. Over the years, the concept has been subject to debate. In 2005, Connell and Messerschmidt refined it to incorporate a culturally idealized form, a collective and personal project. Further, Connell and Messerschmidt (2005, p. 848) argue that gender is and has always been relational. Masculinity patterns are socially defined in contradistinction from some femininity models, whether imaginary or real.

Most recently, Jewkes and Morrell (2012) conceptualized hegemonic masculinity as a set of values created by powerful men, which function to exclude, include, and organize unequal gender in society. The recent concept ‘combines several features; a masculinity hierarchy, the interplay between men’s identity, interaction, patriarchy, and ideals, and differential access among men to power’ (Jewkes & Morrell, 2012, p. 40). Several masculinities exist and are dynamic, fluid, and hegemonic in every community. Moreover, masculinities are positions that are situationally occupied in such a way that the values one society practices and occupies are different from those in another society.

In the construction of hegemonic masculinity, heterosexuality is a core element. To a lesser or greater extent, hegemonic masculinity is constructed as a gender position where being gay or female has less difference. The consensus on hegemonic masculinity is developed to benefit those who promote it and most of those oppressed by it, mainly women (Yang, 2020). Hegemonic masculinity is a cultural manhood ideal for women, where women’s interests are rewarded with their efforts and attention when replicating the relationship women hold relative to their male counterparts.

Hegemonic Masculinity’s Impact on Life Chances in Australia

In Australia and other societies that have been Westernized, hegemonic masculinity is synonymous with identity and is broadly considered macho, which is aggressive, assertive, and courageous. Further, the identity incorporates being stoic in adversity and invulnerable to challenges and threats (March 2021). Therefore, hegemonic masculinity is perceived with behaviors and attitudes that display strength and courage, which includes the refusal to acknowledge weakness. In Australia and most Western communities, this is best manifested by men holding positions of power in economic and political domains (Elliott, 2019). Moreover, by understanding gender representation in Australia, where men make up less than half of the population, hegemonic masculinity is a normative standard by which men aspire and against which they access their identities.

Masculinity is intertwined with privilege and power despite the relationship being less straightforward or discernible. The argument raised on the reason men in Western societies are invisibly privileged and in power domains is that patriarchy needs serious contemplation in feminist thought (Kachtan, 2019). Despite being less than half the population, hegemonic masculinity has allowed Australian men to posit themselves as axiomatic. They socially develop systems that make them privileged over women, who are more in society. Enloe (2017, p. 22) shows that the crux of masculinity is the design that privileges men over despised masculinities and every femininity form, which makes patriarchy a dynamic web of men-based relationships and ideas. However, through social change movements, such a system is subject to modernization and updates, which take longer to be accomplished.

In Australia, hegemonic masculinity revolves around portraits of strong white men, who are explorers, lifeguards, bushrangers, and convicts linked to settler colonization. In an earlier investigation of hegemonic masculinity in Australia, Donaldson (2003) found the country’s ruling class elite could develop societal systems that made them authoritative. Further, due to their influence in the community, the elites raised their children in formal environments that lacked affection and intimacy to ensure they were hard, strong, stiff, disciplined, and challenging. The elite established class boundaries to distinguish their children from the rest and achieved this through strict policing (Donaldson, 2003). The key hegemonic component in Australian society is attributed to mateship identification, which helps define how Australian men relate to and hold domain positions even though their number is less.

Contextual requirements in economic and political domains have enabled Australian men to have the ability to maneuver in and out of varying masculine attitudes and expressions. Further, Elliott (2019) shows that due to societal structure-enabled abilities, Australian men have autonomy, which gives them the privilege to hold economic and political domains over women. Moreover, men continue to draw from reworked hegemonic masculinity that allows them to maintain liberty and autonomy.

Therefore, hegemonic masculinity impacts Australia’s life chances by setting specific behavior codes employable by men to conform to their masculinity. The desire to prove masculinity and the quest for manhood through power demonstration over women and other men from the central societal mechanism in Australia, enables men to hold economic and political domains (Elliott, 2019). However, Australian men remain oblivious to the gender inequality bred by their masculinity while the hegemonic masculinity challenge remains invisible. Due to this, Whiting et al. (2019) show that social change movements have been inevitable for women and minority men to challenge the gendered power relations in political and economic domains. The demanded social change movements aim to transform the existing social structures and asymmetric power balances (Whiting et al., 2019).

Why Social Change Movements

Historical masculinities formations are linked to two different gendered power relations and dimensions, which go unnoticed. The constituents of hegemonic masculinity, homophobia, racism, and sexism are rooted in the power dimensions that people often fail to see as an issue in Australia (March 2021). Social change movements are critical to challenging hegemonic masculinity alongside the constituents that allow gender discrimination, which mainly focuses on overcoming women’s oppression. The impact of stereotypical male standards in Australian society, responsible for male domination in political and economic domains, has resulted in a flawed system (Kachtan, 2019). Social change movements make it possible to question and, where possible, change the implied stereotypical male standards in society. The actions ensure the roots of the flawed societal norms practiced in homes and the public spheres are challenged (Kachtan, 2019). Further, the movements ensure the established distinctions between men and women, which are categorized into two, and their associated subordinates, making social constructions typically replaced.

Similarly, social change movements are at the center of challenging the rare yet existing hegemonic masculinities that make women and minority men experience a singular vision, which is not easy. The movements enable men, considered weak, and women to subordinate and stabilize the issue of gender dominance, which are harmful practices that make Australian men dominate the economic and political domains (Elliott, 2019). Hegemonic masculinity is responsible for producing specific benchmarks that ensure women and heterosexual men comply with and follow toughness and dominance ethos (March 2021). The adherence to such ethos makes social change movements critical in a male-dominated society.

Social change movements are contributed to by the defining and historic social work feature that focuses on individual well-being and that of society. Therefore, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) (n.d.) shows that the fundamental requirement of social work is founded on environmental forces that address, contribute to, and create problems among the living, like hegemonic masculinity-related challenges. Social change movements, therefore, work using NASW set core values like social justice, service, integrity, competence, a person’s worth and dignity, and human relationship importance (NASW, n.d.). With such values, it becomes possible for social change movements to challenge hegemonic masculinities in society by cultivating behavior codes that do not restrict people from adhering to gender oppression. The activities ensure that how men perceive their role, relative to masculinity-femininity relationships, is changed or at least challenged.


Hegemonic masculinity is responsible for how society accepts and helps shape the culturally dominant behavior of men. The notion behind it makes the attitudes and practices involve women’s domination by men and the power some men exercise over others. The consensus established on the idea of hegemonic masculinity is developed to benefit those who promote it and most of those oppressed by it, mainly women. Based on this notion, men in Australia and most Western societies are comfortable holding positions of power in economic and political domains. Hegemonic masculinity is established as a normative standard that enables men to aspire against which they access their identities. However, social change movements are essential since they help challenge hegemonic masculinity alongside the constituents that allow gender discrimination. Moreover, as established, the activities contribute to gender dominance stabilization and subordination to minimize, if not eliminate, the harmful practices that make Australian men dominate the economic and political domains. At the center of the movements are the set core values; social justice, service, integrity, competence, a person’s worth and dignity, and human relationship importance.


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