New masculinities vs hegemonic masculinity: both have always existed

The new masculinities are no longer afraid to confront preconceived structures and myths about what it means to "be a man."

Career development

In recent times, the concept of “new masculinities” has been increasingly talked about and it is a frequent topic in the media and social networks. But do you know specifically what the term refers to and what it means to achieve real equality between women and men? I keep telling you more… 

What do we mean by being masculine?

Gender identity is constituted through actions naturalized in the person’s social context and that are considered essential and biological rather than social. These socialization processes reinforce and underpin a system of preconceived ideas about what it means to be a man and a woman and condition the way we behave, feel and think.  

Masculinity is, therefore, a historical and cultural construction that involves a set of practices, behaviours, values ​​and functions that each society attributes naturally to men, characterized by qualities such as virility and strength, and other elements that pivot around the privilege of power and the denial of affections (Rodríguez, 2021). 

Hegemonic masculinity is a concept created

It was the sociologist RW Connell who developed the concept of hegemonic masculinity in the 1980s and it has been widely debated since then.  

From the perspective of gender studies, it is understood as a social category and an organization of meanings and norms that make up a series of social discourses that define the masculine term of gender. It is one of the two categories of the generic definition of people and refers to what it means to be and not to be a man.  

While it is true that there are positions that speak of versions of this masculinity, from the point of view of the individual person, there is only one that dominates the construction of masculine identity. It is a symbolic – arbitrary – construction, composed of a set of myths, beliefs and meanings about being a man, which tells us what an “authentic” man should be like (Burín and Meler, 2000).  

When we talk about traditional masculinity or hegemonic masculinity, we talk about values, stereotypes, myths, and behaviours that are characteristic of men in a specific social context. 

In this sense, androcentrism bases a traditional masculinity that places men in the social, political, cultural and economic centre and women in the private sphere for reproductive and care functions.  

Men for equality? 

At an individual level, many men maintain that they share household chores and care for minors or dependent people, or that their salary is not higher than that of their partner, but at a global level, the wage gap, the feminization of care or gender violence show that there are very notable structural differences and that legal equality is not reflected in reality. 

An apparent change in the traditional model of masculinity is shown, but the social structure that supports it has not changed substantially. Women are increasingly demanding equality, but the majority of men have not advanced at the same pace of demands. This is what is known as complicit masculinitymen who consider themselves feminists but who continue to repeat patterns that perpetuate the inequality suffered by women without questioning them.  

New masculinities: The most powerful threat against patriarchy

There is more and more talk about new masculinities and it is closely related to gender equality since it breaks with the current gender stereotypes that are assigned to us from the moment we are born.  

The new masculinities or egalitarian masculinities are a way of being a man from an approach of equality and respect, not only towards others, but also towards oneself. To do this, it is necessary to rethink the traditional role of masculinity, unlearn it and look for other ways of being and relating from a position of equality: 

  • The new masculinities advocate establishing egalitarian relationships while being aware of the privileges that being a man entails in today’s society.  
  • They also seek to break with all those socially acquired ideas that relate masculinity to strength and competitiveness, to leave room for weakness and fear.  
  • The new ways of being a man involve eliminating aggressiveness and violence in all its forms as well as sexist comments and expressions. 
  • They are committed to breaking with traditionally learned gender roles and eliminating the idea that men do not cry, do not show their weaknesses or are not caregivers.

For legal equality to be reflected and materialized, a social transformation is necessary that implies a change in feeling, thinking and showing oneself. But this change must not only be personal but also structural: at a political, economic, institutional level, … and be aware that the patriarchal system not only harms men but half of humanity: women.  

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