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Gender Roles: Hegemonic Masculinity and Crime

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Society is stratified by gender roles, which unevenly distribute power and dominance. (Blumberg ,1984) Across most societies, gender roles are distributed on a patriarchal basis, awarding the dominant and powerful responsibilities to men. (Blumberg,1984) Hegemonic masculinity stems from these social organisations, reinforcing the masculine stereotype of strength and authority. (Connell,1995) Within this essay, I will argue that hegemonic mascu-linity can help explain crime and deviance of men by closely examining how families con-tribute to masculinity.(Besemer and Bijleveld, 2017) Additionally, I will examine the com-mon concept of a boy’s club in fraternities and how it relates to crime.(Martin and Hum-mer,1989) However, before examining how it explains the crime and deviance of men, one must first consider how hegemonic masculinity is established.

The concept of hegemonic masculinity grew from an Australian field study conducted in an Australian high school in 1982. (Carrigan et.al, 1985) What resulted from the study was em-pirical evidence that multiple hierarchies were interwoven in gender and class systems. However, it was the article published in 1995 by Raewyn Connell, which systemised the concept, while critiquing male sex roles, proposing a model of multiple masculinities and power structures. (Connell,1995) Connell argues masculinity is rooted in social systems ra-ther than on a biological basis.(Connell,1995) Similarly Bob Connells 1985 article argued women’s changing social position and the emergence of the liberation of the gay right, are contributory factors of the upheaval of sexual politics.(Carrigan et.al,1985) Furthermore, Connell notes that hegemonic masculinity is a form of gender practice which is established from an early age due to gender organisation.(Connell,1995)

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Predominately, women are thought about how to nurture and care for individuals, while men are shown how to achieve power through strength and dominance.(Carrigan, et.al,1985) Connell continues to establish hegemonic masculinity as the dominant force in the gender hierarchy, however acknowledg-ing that it is not easily obtained. (Connell,1995) Regarding hegemonic masculinity and crime, Talcott Parsons (1964) interlinked masculinity with aggressive behaviour, observing that during the process of socialisation, men attempt to differentiate themselves from girls by exerting masculine behaviours, most violent and aggressive behaviours. Similarly, Suth-erland discusses how teaching boys to be “rough” and “tough” makes them at higher risks of offending than women, in fact simply being born a man has constituted a risk of being incar-cerated.(Sutherland and Cressey,1924) While the basis of hegemonic masculinity derives from society’s conceptions of gender ideals, other societal factors influence masculinity and its relation to crime. (Connell,1995)

Within a nuclear family, the father maintains a hierarchical position, seen as the source of strength and power, father figures embody the masculine ideal.(Pittman,1993) Therefore, when discussing hegemonic masculinity, it is important to consider the role of one’s father in establishing behaviours which may lead to crime. (Alexander, et.al,1991) Young men primarily learn masculinity from their fathers, however, when fathers act aggressive and vio-lent, young men are taught that this behaviour defines masculinity. (Alexander, et.al,1991) Such intergenerational displays of masculinity regularly contribute to criminal behaviour and the possibility of offending. (Alexander, et.al,1991) According to Pittman (1993), mas-culinity is a learned behaviour from one’s father. Stereotypically, men recall their fathers as exerting dominant and powerful behaviour, with some men noting their fathers appeared more masculine around other men.(Pittman,1993) Thus, one must question if masculine be-haviour is learned from one’s father, what happens when the father embodies crime and vio-lence? (Alexander, et.al,1991) Research into the intergenerational transmission of crime acknowledges that children have a higher chance of offending if their parents have been convicted of a crime.(Alexander, et.al,1991) In a 1973 study conducted by Cambridge De-linquent Development, on a sample of four-hundred and eleven 20-year-old male inmates, it was found 48% had fathers who had previously offended. (Farrington, et.al, 2001)

However, one must look at how intergenerational transmissions of crime incorporates hege-monic masculinity. (Farrington, et.al,2001) Father-son relationships are intricately different from father-daughter relationships, with pressure on power struggles between a father and his son. (Pittman,1993) This behaviour is exhibited across society, as well as in nature, with younger males mimicking their father’s behaviour to appear masculine. (Pittman,1993) The learned behaviour, using violence as a means of asserting one’s masculinity, is inevitably linked with crime and deviance. (Farrington, et.al,2001) Contrastingly, households where fathers are highly affectionate towards their sons, display stronger emotional intelligence than those whose fathers display aggression.(Besmer and Bijleveld,2017)

Toby (1966) ar-gues the lack of power obtained by men in family relationships can contribute to them exert-ing compulsive masculine behaviour, made apparent through violence. The core of hege-monic masculinity is how men can appear more masculine, something which inherently is linked to violence. (Messerschmidt, 1993) However, it is the relation between a man’s father and the learned behaviour of acting in violent men’s to assert one’s masculinity where the problem occurs.(Messerschmidt,1993) When parents encourage and reward the use of vio-lent behaviour to assert one’s masculinity, it teaches the child to accept aggression as a means of defining their masculinity.(Holt, et.al,2012) Thus, what results from such expres-sive behaviours is the need to appear masculine, increasing a man’s likelihood of commit-ting criminal offences.(Alexander, et.al,1991) While it has been analysed the presence of a father who has been convicted of a crime increases one’s possibility of offending, it is essen-tial to also examine the effects of absent fathers. (Brod, 2018)

According to criminologists, men who are reared in single-mother households are often sur-rounded by anxiety which frequently expresses itself in overstraining to be mascu-line.(Brod,2018) Ruth Hartley researched the subject in 1959, determining American boys who grew up with an absent father would appear more masculine as an attempt of denying anything traditionally feminine.(Brod,2018) Furthermore, the study noted the anxiety sur-rounding the boys from single-mother households, where boys had a weakened father rela-tionship, resulting in young men’s oppression the overwhelming feminine energy surround-ing them.(Brod,2018) In a similar study, it was found men reared in single-mother house-holds exerted there masculinity similarly to those from a nuclear family. (Brod,2018) The overexertion of masculine behaviour within single- mother households can be a strong indi-cator of a man’s risk of committing criminal offences. (Brod,2018)

For example, the De-partment of Justice and Behaviour (1978) determined 80% of rapists were reared in a father-less household. While mother-son relationships are integral in shaping their intimacy and values, the absence of father figures also has a detrimental effect on a man’s behaviour. Ad-ditionally, a 2002 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, examined 7000 in-mates, finding 39% of inmates lived in single-mother households, while one fifth had fathers who were already incarcerated. (Besemer and Bijleveld,2017) Integral to this argument is the concept of nurturing young men’s gender identity. (Connell,1995) As previously stated, modern perceptions of gender are inclined to define gender as a socially constructed con-cept, however true this is, gender roles and the idea of masculinity is fundamentally estab-lished within society. (Hall,2012) Criminologists argue single-mother households are void of masculine energy, thus young men over-exert their perception of being masculine, through violent and aggressive behaviour which is a precursor for criminality. (Brod,2018)

Nevertheless, other criminologists have argued the lack of fathers and the over-exertion of masculine energy is a response to the changing position of women within society. (Brod,2018) Modern women are no longer limited to domestic tasks and can join the workforce.(Brod,2018) Hart-ley argues in single-mother households young men acknowledge the change in position and to maintain their hierarchical position within society, they retort to the over-exertion of vio-lent behaviours.(Brod,2018) While society is progressively moving towards equality, long-held stigmatisms surrounding women’s roles as an impact of patriarchy has awarded men the opportunity to assert their masculinity, often in violent aggressive manners which can lead to a life of violence. (Brod,2018) Though in one respect the emergence of the new feminine ideal transformed women’s role in society, it can also be accountable to the growth of ag-gression from men as an effort to maintain their masculinity.(Brod,2018) Women have been increasingly providing for their families and contributing to societies workforces, resulting in fewer opportunities for men and lesser importance on men to be the sole providers for their families. (Brod,2018)

From a similar perspective, the integration of young men into gang culture is often due to the male figures within the gang which propose idealistic forms of masculinity. (Anderson, 1994) Differential opportunity theory developed by Cloward and Ohlin is perhaps the best to define the concept.(Williams and McShane,1994) Drawing on Merton’s concept of strain theory, Cloward and Ohlin suggest crime is a result of an overwhelming amount of illegiti-mate opportunities, as well as the influence of older gang members to legitimise the use of violence for younger gang members.(Williams and McShane,1994) Common masculine ide-als are exerted from male gang leaders which warrant the use of violence and aggression as a legitimate form of masculinity.(Anderson,1994)

Such a theory is like previous conceptions of a father’s influence on their son’s masculinity.(Alexander, et.al,1991) Essentially if a young male is surrounded by other men who exert their masculinity through criminal acts of violence and aggression, there is a higher chance this will affect the idea of hegemonic mas-culinity for other men.(Anderson,1994) If one was to examine inner-city youths, as was con-ducted in the Chicago school, the striking resemblance of what young men classify as ideal masculine traits centre around violence and aggression.(Anderson,1994) From a criminolog-ical perspective, these ideal traits are forerunners for crime and deviance within men. (An-derson,1994) If one was to draw analysis from the “code of the street” model, developed in urban areas, it becomes apparent “street” families socialise their children in accordance to “street” values, often these beliefs focus on extreme violence and crime.(Anderson,1994) Adolescences who subscribe to the street code often draw their values from their mentors, resulting in feelings of bravado which materialise through violent behaviour. (Ander-son,1994) However, the code of the street is specific to lower-income areas, and therefore cannot convey a full depiction of hegemonic masculinity as a means of explaining crime and deviance of men. (Anderson,1994) Therefore, one must examine the middle-class depiction of hegemonic masculinity.

Violence within fraternities is widespread knowledge among the public, however, it is an area of criminology where research lacks. (Bleecker and Murnen,2005) College fraternities stereotypically consist of males from middle- and higher-income families in the United States. (Martin and Hummer,1989) The concept of a “boys club” is something that occurs in most areas in society, and specifically in corporations, colleges, and the general workplace. (Thrasher,1936) In a report conducted by the Association of American Colleges’ Project on the status of education of women, it was found that 50 rapes took place on college campuses across the U.S., with an overwhelming majority happening at college frat parties.(Martin and Hummer,1989) Many sociologists have speculated as to why this occurs, with some conclud-ing accepted pledges are often hypermasculine, therefore able to conform easier with the other members of the group. (Bleecker and Murnen,2005) Others have proposed excessive alcohol consumption, lack of supervision and acceptance of violence, as means of promoting sexual assault within fraternities. (Martin and Hummer,1989) Furthermore, it was observed that certain “all-male clubs” promote values coherent to sexual assault, with other members feeling pressure to conform to the group ideal. (Martin and Hummer,1989)

Similarly, it has been proposed that all-male groups over-sexualise women as a means of promoting their masculinity, often engaging with sexist cultural artifacts such as inflatable dolls.(Bleecker and Murnen,2005) Thus, this activity promotes the concept that women are sexual objects for men to exploit.(Bleecker and Murnen,2005) As observed by Sanday (1990), men in fra-ternities often watch pornography together, something she argues reinforces rape myths up-held in porn. Feminist theories propose, porn objectifies women and contributes to legitima-tise sexual assault claims. (Martin and Hummer,1989) Within the initiation process of fra-ternities, Sanday (1990) noted the anti-women rituals along with the objectification of wom-en’s bodies. Such behaviour is fundamental to the hegemonic masculine ideal, expressing men’s dominance through violent means which result in criminal actions. (Bleecker and Murnen,2005) This can be contributed to the concept of male-bonding and their reflection of masculinity on one another. (Bleecker and Murnen,2005) Through the research of four males under the influence of alcohol, it was found that “beer talk” and acting tough were methods used by men in their interactions with other men.(Gough and Edwards,1998) Also, this re-search concluded such behaviour exhibit anti-feminist beliefs, which men establish in socie-ty. (Gough and Edwards,1998)

Thus, the socialisation of men within these all-male groups contributes to the growth of hegemonic masculinity as a means of appearing macho for the group.(Bleecker and Murnen,2005) As anti-feminist ideals are promoted within these groups, Murnen (2000) found that fraternity men were more likely to engage in degrading sexual language towards women, than those who did not belong to a fraternity. At the core of fraternities is the concept of treating women as “other”, promoting their sexual masculini-ty as a means of control.(Murnen,2000) The concept of hegemonic masculinity is funda-mentally established within fraternities and when cultivated in a particular manner can lead to men engaging in criminal activities, often at the expense of a woman.(Bleecker and Murnen,2005) In a similar means, the concept of frat “hazing”, this being the initiation pro-cess into a fraternity, has come under speculation in recent years.(Bleecker and Murnen,2005) Following the death of a student in the Louisiana state university, nine fra-ternity members were arrested due to different hazing techniques used, such as the forceful consumption of excessive alcohol towards their pledges.(Wade,2017) The victim’s parents spoke on the issue, commenting on the brutal faith their son fell to at the hands of these men.(Wade,2017) Although in recent years fraternity hazing has come under speculation, the long-established custom as a means asserting dominance over the vulnerable pledges re-inforces the ideas of hegemonic masculinity. (Wade,2017)

To conclude, while gender is a social construct established in society to reinforce stereo-types, for most individuals it still holds weight in what it means to be a man or a woman. (Blumberg,1984) Within this essay, hegemonic masculinity was examined to explain the crime and deviance of men. (Connell,1995) Analysis of the father’s role in defining a son’s masculinity was integral to understand how hegemonic masculinity contributes to crime and deviance of men.(Alexander, et.al,1991) The learned behaviour of what is masculine and not can be attributed to a father’s position in their child’s life and the actions of the fa-ther.(Alexander, et.al,1991) Additionally, single-mother households were examined, finding those from within prison systems had heightened senses of what it meant to be mascu-line.(Brod,2018)

Similarly, examining street behaviour as a precursor for violent behaviour was fundamental in looking at the relation between hegemonic masculinity and crime in men.(Anderson,1994) Finally, while street behaviour reflected masculine ideals from a low-er-income standpoint, it became vital to consider middle- and higher-income area’s relations with masculinity.(Anderson,1994) Thus, fraternity violence was analysed, concluding all-male groups often assert their dominance in violent means which often are at the expense of women. (Martin and Hummer,1989)

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Gender Roles: Hegemonic Masculinity and Crime. (2020, Nov 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/gender-roles-hegemonic-masculinity-and-crime/

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