ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Othering the Self

Masculinity Studies and Feminism

Masculinity studies emerges from a conversation with feminism rather than either political activism that equates to feminist endeavours or reaction against the historical experience of oppression. But can men as social beings take part in a "conversation" that seeks to dismantle their social selves?

Masculinity refers to the “socially produced but embodied ways of being male.” Dominant masculinity stands in a relationship not just to its perceived antithesis, femininity, but “also to those ways of being male” that are seen to deviate from the ideal. It is also for this reason that we speak of masculinities rather than “masculinity.” It is important, however, to remember that “masculinity” and “femininity” are not simply opposite and equal categories, such that (as is frequently asserted) “each has its own sphere of activity.” Rather, each stands in a hierarchical relationship to the other and the “feminine” acts as complement to the masculine, defined in a manner that produces “masculine” identity as a superior one.

It is important, also, to differentiate the linked concepts of “patriarchy” and “masculinity.” Patriarchy refers to a system of organising social life that is premised on the idea of the superiority of all men to women. Masculinity, on the other hand, is not only a relationship between men and women but also between men. Hence we might say that while patriarchy “makes” men superior, masculinity is the process of producing superior men.

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