Claire Duncanson (University of Edinburgh)
Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests lie at the intersection of international security, IR theory and gender politics. She has published widely on the topics of military masculinities, women in militaries, gender and peacebuilding. Prior to her academic career, she worked for a variety of human rights and international development NGOs, including Amnesty International, Jubilee 2000 and Global Perspective.
Hegemonic Masculinity and the possibility of change in gender relations
Hegemonic masculinity was introduced as a concept which, due to its understanding of gender as dynamic and relational and of power as consent, could explain both the persistence of male power and the potential for social change. Yet, when hegemonic masculinity is applied in empirical cases, it is most often used to demonstrate the way in which hegemonic masculinity shifts and adopts new practices in order to enable some men to retain power over others. This is especially so in feminist IR, particularly studies of military masculinities, where shifts towards “softer” military masculinities such as the “tough and tender” soldier-scholar demonstrate to these feminists merely the “flexibility of the machinery of rule” (Khalili 2011, 1491). In this article, I challenge the pessimism of these accounts of military masculinity. My particular contribution is to build on an emergent and underdeveloped strand of Connell’s work on hegemonic masculinity: how change might be theorised. I argue that hegemonic masculinity remains a useful concept, but that the process through which “hegemony may fail” (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005, 853) requires rethinking. I make this argument by exploring and working through empirical material on military masculinities, drawing on both my own research and critical analysis of the literature.