Messerschmidt’s Theory of Hegemonic Masculinity

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Messerschmidt's Theory of Hegemonic Masculinity

By Rachel Bustamante, A #01507521

December 11, 2012

"Masculine domination…is neither fixed nor inevitable, but results from social struggles" (Messerschmidt, 1993). In order to better understand the male-dominated crime I have encountered personally, I thoroughly researched the theories in class and have chosen Messerschmidt's theory of hegemonic masculinity as the best possible explanation for male crime. Hegemonic masculinity deals with the culturally normative ideas of who a male is and how he should behave. It is a social process. However, the method of displaying one's maleness can vary with each situation, culture, race, and class. If legitimate opportunities are not available in order for one to prove his maleness, then force may be used and opportunities created through criminal activity. From the time we are born, we are conditioned to act a certain way based on only two concepts of gender: either male or female.

Those born with male genitalia are often taught to be aggressive risk-takers and also to dominate over women. Those born with female genitalia are predominantly taught to be "ladylike," be the main caregivers for children, and be subservient to males. This leads to the stereotype of a typical male persona, one which is often vulnerable to being challenged and frequently requires considerable effort to maintain it.

Messerschmidt states that "any attempt to understand masculinity and crime must begin with a comradely friendly scrutiny of the theoretical positions of radical and social feminism on men, masculine dominance, and crime" (Messerschmidt, 1993). It is important to examine both types of feminism because the hegemonic male intertwines, and is influenced by, a combination of these two movements.

Although radical feminism in itself is not a viable theory, the importance of it to Messerschmidt's theory is that it brings the intense changes...