Thursday, July 7, 2011

R.W. Connell – "Masculinities": The History of Masculinity: Present day masculinity

In the concluding segment of chapter eight of "Masculinities" (1995) titled "The History of Masculinity" R.W. Connell offers a perspective through which to examine changes in the global network of gender relations and modern masculinities.

Connell holds that the deepest change on the global scale is the exportation of Euro-American gender order to the colonial world, especially with capitalistic mode of production creating local versions of western patriarchic institutions. These conditions provide a place for transforming gender ideology and its corresponding images, and the disappearance of traditional local forms of masculinity.

These changes, the imposition of western hegemonic masculinity on the rest of the world has also induced counter reactions, such as in Muslim countries where traditional masculinity is reasserted with a growing discrimination of women.

Urban western men are the prime beneficiaries of the new economical world order, as for Connell, of the new gender world order. Giving these circumstances, Connell is not surprised that men are very aware of the changes in their position and the claims that undermine their privileged status. 

R.W. Connell suggests that the massive growth in material possession of men in metropolitan countries was accompanied by an escalation in the crisis of masculinity, the legitimacy of patriarchy and gender order. The feminist challenge to western masculinity has brought about tension with the third world regarding the western-originated tradition of racism and chauvinism. In the local context, oppositional movements opened the door for a variety of gender relations, types of masculinities and sexual identities. Connell finds ample evidence for these developments in contemporary popular culture.

Connell argues that men in metropolitan countries occupy a paradoxical moment in the history of masculinity. On the one hand they possess the greatest power in history to shape their own future; however, on the other hand, the category of "men" in rich countries does not indicate a group which is able to chose and execute a single historical course. For R.W. Connell this is a moment is the history of masculinity in which men have achieved ultimate power only to find themselves fragmented as a gender, with a multitude of masculinities replacing a single uniform notion of masculinity.

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