Abstract understand hegemonic masculinity is to understand its roots

Abstract Throughout my research I found an overarching consensus between authors surrounding the topic of hegemonic masculinity and its prevalence and contribution to the culture of violence within the prison system. With each article, I found that the arguments and theories presented–rather than opposing one another–continuously built upon the foundations of masculinity and gender violence, strengthening a core argument between all authors. Thus, this literature review embodies little opposition between scholars, and instead, is an amalgamation of intersecting ideas. In Part I of this literature review, I explain how heteropatriarchy shapes the concept of hegemonic masculinity and its relation to not only women but other subordinated masculinities. Part II connects violence, masculinity, and status within the prison and explores how these interlocking concepts are utilized as a form of survival for those incarcerated. Part III connects the understood “convict code” within prison to the code of the streets, and examines how incarceration serves as the reproduction of gendered violence well within the construction of hegemonic masculinity. Part IV serves as a platform for my independent thoughts in response to the articles aforementioned, as well as my personal critiques in hopes that research continues to be exhaustive and comprehensive. Part 1 In Western culture there are a set of intersecting assumptions collectively called “Heteropatriarchy.” First is the assumption that every person is born either male or female, and will remain either male or female for life. Second, one’s sex determines one’s gender; in other words, biology controls one’s social behavior. Third, males and females are distinctively and dramatically different, so much that they are “opposite sexes.” Fourth, because “opposites attract,” sexual and romantic relationships should only occur between men and women. The fifth assumption claims that though male and female are opposite sexes, they are not equal, and masculinity is the privileged sex/gender (Harris, 2011). To understand hegemonic masculinity is to understand its roots in heteropatriarchy, which focuses on masculinity as disengaging from the feminine. “Hegemonic masculinity assumes the denial of emotions and behaviors which can be perceived as feminine or indicative of a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation” (Ilea, 2009). Separating oneself from ‘feminine’ feelings results in emotions being transformed into anger, and perhaps manifesting into violence. And while anger is an emotion, it is viewed as a ‘manly’ emotion due to its direct opposition to the female equivalent of sensitivity, and therefore allowed within the masculine framework (Ilea, 2009). The concept of hegemonic masculinity first appeared in the 1980s, and was further explored through the work of Raewyn Connell, whose expositions have served as one of the primary sources of masculinity studies. Connell defines hegemonic masculinity as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (Connell, 1995). Hegemonic masculinity is what scholars refer to as the privileged style of masculinity in a given historical moment: the most desireable or most proper way of being a man (Harris, 2011). Thus, the qualities associated with hegemonic masculinity include heterosexuality, whiteness, physical strength, aggression, and the suppression of emotions that display weakness. A significant feature of hegemonic masculinity is that although it is not the most prevalent form of masculinity, is the most dominant and desirable within Western culture. While some men have better access to hegemonic masculinity than others depending on their position within various intersectional hierarchies of power and oppression, hegemonic masculinity functions as an ideal that regulates all men (Harris, 2011). This regulation is imposed through hegemonic masculinity functioning as a valued status to which each man must react by either aspiring to it, rejecting it, making changes to it, or imposing its requirements onto others. And while hegemonic masculinity may not apply to all, it will always be contextualised, carrying a specific symbolic content that defines the ultimate meaning of ‘maleness’ across cultures (Michalski, 2015). While hegemonic masculinity describes the cultural dynamic of power between men and women, it is just as significant to understand hegemonic masculinity in relation to other subordinated masculinities. “Because gender intersects with class, sexuality and race relations, some men are able to dominate not only women, but also different types of men” (Seymour, 2003). For example, men who are regarded as homosexual, bisexual or effeminate, as well as men of color or members of other socially marginalized categories occupy different forms of masculinity that depart from hegemonic masculinity. Because hegemonic masculinity is rooted in the assumption that homosexuality is a form of femininity, homosexual masculinities are below heterosexual masculinities within the gender hierarchy (Ilea, 2009). Non-dominant race and class subgroups are also placed below heterosexual masculinities/hegemonic masculinities within this gender hierarchy. Because hegemonic masculinity recognizes the differential power relations between men and the inequalities between dominant and subordinate masculinities, it is useful in the study of the role of masculinity in Western male prisons. “Using the concept of hegemonic masculinity, it could be hypothesized that in the context of the prison, the hegemony of men over women found in the outside world will not result in a cohesive male group, enjoying their distant hegemony over women, but will actually result in the designation of some men to subordinate and others to dominate” (Ilea, 2009).Part 2 Violence is connected with hegemonic masculinity through the cultural notion that violence itself is masculine. “Boys don’t cry, but they do fight. Thus, for men acculturated to hegemonic masculinity, engaging in violence is a sword as well as a shield: it is both a way of defending oneself against shame and a way to affirmatively demonstrate one’s manhood” (Harris, 2011). In this excerpt, shame stems from failed masculine gender performances. As aforementioned, heteropatriarchy shapes the two most important rules of hegemonic masculinity: a “real man” is not a woman, and he is not gay. Thus, any expression of femininity is negated with a performance of masculinity, in this context, an act of violence, to re-establish one’s position within the hegemonic frame. Incarceration incorporates the most destructive forms of hegemonic masculinity, yet this dominant form of masculinity should not be regarded as unique to the prison; or as an abnormal manifestation of masculinity. Rather, it should be recognized as an exemplification of normal masculinity practices that are sustained and legitimated by Western culture. “Thus the crucial, and rather startling fact of ‘normal’ prison life is that it reproduces ‘normal’ men” (Seymour, 2003). While incarcerated, status within the social hierarchy is most important to survival. In any given situation, power often represents the key resource in determining one’s status. However, within prison, inmates are relatively powerless by virtue of having only the smallest forms of autonomy and decision making. Violence, in turn, serves as a primary source of status within the prison. “Within male prison systems, the evidence indicates that the key symbolic resource underlying the inmate status hierarchies involves various displays or evidence of masculinity” (Michalski, 2015). Here, violence serves as an expression of masculinity in order to position oneself within the hierarchy. In men’s prisons, the term ‘fratriarchy’ is used as a replacement for patriarchy to describe the existing hierarchy. “While the concept of patriarchy has been developed primarily as a means of explaining male domination and subordination of females, the idea of fratriarchy refers to the hierarchy of brothers rooted in excessive displays of manliness or hyper masculinity” (Michalski, 2015). Michalski argues that this status hierarchy exists primarily as a means by which inmates negotiate their safety and minimize risk while incarcerated. The first step to securing one’s position within the hierarchy while incarcerated consists of demonstrating one’s masculinity. This is typically expressed as a form of toughness by enduring a variety of initiation rituals (Michalski, 2015). This process differentiates ‘real men’ from those who are deemed as weak and therefore subjected to a marginal status within the institution. This marginal status can leave an inmate vulnerable to predatory violence, exploitation and even death (Michalski, 2015). Another way that status within the prison hierarchy is determined is through the charges that led to their imprisonment. Michalski notes, those with “solid” convictions such as armed robbery, selling drugs, murder, etc hold a higher status in prison, while those with sex related charges (e.g. rape) or whose victims were women or children are disrespected by other prisoners and become situated at the bottom of the hierarchy. This is due to the understanding that certain charges are viewed as masculine while others reflect a lack of dominance and power, and therefore are inherently feminine. Part IIIThe institutional and hierarchical structure of prison justifies the use of violence in order to create a culture of hegemonic masculinity dominating all other forms of marginalized and subordinated masculinities. However, violence to enhance or reaffirm one’s status cannot be used at any time. As Michalski explains, violence must be consistent with the inmate code. This inmate code or “convict code” claims that the legitimate use of violence mainly includes: (1) punishing disrespect; (2) using violence as self defence or to protect against victimization; (3) as a form of self help to resolve interpersonal conflicts; and (4) maintaining a reputation for toughness or fearsomeness. This code reflects a similar code that regulates the streets. Seymour (2011) calls this the “tenets of street justice.” The tenets of street justice are based on notions of dominance, revenge, and retaliation. Violence and aggression are valued as masculine norms and male sex stereotypes of bravado and toughness prevail (Seymour, 2003). Stewart (2006) adds that “the code of the street emphasizes that one must maintain the respect of others through a violent and tough identity, and a willingness to exact retribution in the event of disrespect, or risk being “rolled on” (Stewart, 2006). Thus, an important part of the code is to not allow others to defy you. Michalski (2015) offers a similar argument about maintaining one’s street credibility: “For those who are invested in the code, the clear object of their demeanor is to discourage strangers from even thinking about testing their manhood.” Both the “convict code” and the “tenants of street justice” are based around a culture of hypermasculinity. Hypermasculinity is a characteristic that complements hegemonic masculinity and can be described as: “a personal code of behavior based on confrontation and force rather than negotiation and respect” (Seymour, 2003). While hegemonic masculinity is used to understand the relationships between various kinds of masculinities with emphasis on the difference between the ideal masculinity and the homosexual masculinity, hyper masculinity exemplifies how men engage in certain behaviors to embody this ideal masculinity.  The hyper-masculine man sees the world as divided into the strong and the weak; and asserts himself in a situation of readiness to fight in the face of any insult. Ilea (2009) argues that male prisoners are aware that their inability to overlook incidents without enacting violence is what links men to masculinity, while inaction and fear are linked to femininity. This need to take action when authority or masculinity is questioned, whether in prison or on the streets, is what exemplifies the relationship between hegemonic masculinity and other marginalized and subordinated masculinities as described by Connell. If you are a “real” man, you will use violence to assert your status and not be situated beneath another man. Violence in the streets gets reproduced in prison due to the very few options prisoners have other than to exert hypermasculinity. While in the street, hypermasculinity offers a sense of credibility for men; however, within prison, hypermasculinity serves as a coping mechanism to help individuals avoid victimization. Ignoring incidents can result in further injury within the prison since in prison culture “vulnerability attracts predation and fear invites exploitation” (Ilea, 2009). The prison also situates itself as a “celebration of masculinity,” which “materially and symbolically reproduces a vision of order in which normal manhood remains unproblematic” (Seymour, 2003). If the same characteristics that perpetuate violence on the streets (e.g. aggression, domination) are normalized within the prison, then the reproduction of violence becomes institutionalized. Prison itself no longer serves as a behavioral form of correction and punishment because it becomes an environment that actively endorses the attitudes and values basic to violence that are found on the streets. Ilea (2009) further argues that prisoners are the products of a society in which violence is normalized and continues to promote the association of masculinity with aggressiveness and power and femininity with passivity and weakness. Because prisoners are unlikely to change and become less hyper masculine, it is up to society to change first. Part IVOne of my main critiques of sociological theory that came about through my research was the fact that gender, in relation to men and their experiences, has been given very little attention in criminological research and theory compared to women. Seymour (2003) writes: “Curiously, although gender is widely acknowledged as a fundamental determinant of human behavior, it is more commonly referred to in the context of women’s offending and women’s experiences in the criminal justice system. Men as ‘males’ are rarely the objects of the ‘criminological gaze.'” Research indicates that the rates of crime perpetrated by men disproportionately outweigh that committed by women, yet the connection between masculinity and offending in relation to violent crime has hardly been touched on within the sociological framework. I believe that we need to start viewing gender bias as not only applicable to the evaluation of women, but men as well, and begin exploring how gender stereotypes influence men negatively. This understanding of the link between violent crime and masculinity is fundamental in crime prevention as well as constructing new rehabilitative measures for prisoners. One question that I pose after reading Connell’s research on masculinity is whether or not it is possible for a positive masculinity to exist. According to Connell, the forms of masculinity that characterize the male are: hegemonic masculinity, subordinate masculinity, complicit masculinity and marginalized masculinity. And while some are defined by aggression and hypermasculinity more than others, each form of masculinity negatively positions itself as deriving some form of power over the domination of women, or higher status than women within the hierarchical framework of gender. Yet, is it possible for there to be a neutral or positive form of masculinity, and how would this look in application to the male? Another critique I have is the apparent lack of violence specific interventions the prison implements. Throughout my research, a general consensus was formed between authors that state that prisoners have no option but to use violence to protect themselves from victimization due to the fact that they cannot rely on prison guards to protect them. If the institution itself is not providing a form of protection for these individuals, it sets them up to reproduce the violence they live by on the streets within the incarceration setting. Thus, how can incarceration be seen as a form of rehabilitation if the cultural norms associated with it are no different than that of the street? We need to change the context of the prison so that stronger messages of encouragement for nonviolence are enforced. Other methods of coping need to be provided for these individuals so that violence does not become their one and only strategy. A new method could be the opportunity of work for prisoners. When other resources are unavailable for men to establish and accomplish masculinity, they turn to violence as their only way to exert masculinity. However, correctional work can be recognized as a source of “doing” masculinity. Conclusion Because so little research has been done on the impact of gender-stereotypes within all male correctional populations, this literature review is less of a comparison between multiple works, and more so the conjunction of different ideas used to build a foundation of criminological and sociological theory that can explain the use and reproduction of masculinity within prisons. This paper simply touches on the basic understanding that hegemonic masculinity plays a role on the social interactions prisoners have with one another due to the masculinization of the institution of the prison itself. When the notion of violence becomes culturally linked to masculinity, and men spend their lives trying to exert and prove they embody this masculinity, that is where the breakdown within our society occurs. Violence becomes just another form of being a “man,” and the negative and often dangerous implications this has for not only women, but other marginalized men goes unnoticed.