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  • Hegemonic masculinity (Conell, 2005): a set of values, established by men in power that functions to include and exclude, and to organize society in gender unequal ways. It combines several features: a hierarchy of masculinities, differential access among men to power (over women and other men), and the interplay between men’s identity, men’s ideals, interactions, power, and patriarchy.
  • Heterosexism (Ingraham, 1996): ideology that promotes the conventionality of gender, heterosexuality, and the traditional family as the only way of being of people, discriminating and undervaluing all the other sexual orientations.


First, we must consider that gender is a social construction that, based on our sex, determines the behaviours, attitudes, values, expectations, etc., that are considered more typical of men (or masculine) or more typical of women (or feminine) (Whitehead et al., 2012). This binary construction, apart from leaving out other genders/identities (non-binary, queer, intersex people, etc.) has been settled on unequal basis in which “the masculine” or the characteristics that are considered proper to it have been more valued than those which are considered “feminine”.

For more information you can read the topic on gender identity.

This has not only had an impact on women but has also influenced and harmed all those men who do not conform to this stereotype of masculinity and the sexual minorities who do not subscribe these codes. This is because hegemonic masculinity is built around four main axes (Méndez, 2002):

  1. The patriarchal ideology which proposes that men are the ones who have the power and legitimize their dominion over the rest.
  2. Individualism, which establishes that the “ideal person” is one who is self-sufficient by herself, rational and capable of imposing her willingness.
  3. Exclusion/subordination of others, that is, of those who do not correspond to this idea of “masculinity”
  4. Heterosexism, which assumes that the “ideal sexual orientation” is heterosexuality and discriminates and criminalizes any other (like homo or bisexuality).

To sum up, this hegemonic masculinity is mainly built among equals by rejecting everything that is feminine and assuming patriarchy. It is built from denial towards women and any sexual minority.


But how do we learn all of this? How do you transmit this hegemonic masculinity? How do we take care of heteronormativity?

As we have said, children are socialized within a heteronormative culture in which, through our contact with others, with our environment (our family, at school, in high school, etc.), in the media, etc. We are gradually assuming and internalizing how we should be, how we should behave, reinforcing the gender binarism (femininity / masculinity) and rewarding attitudes that are considered typical of heterosexuality

The society, therefore, installs in us this type of culture through different channels and messages. For example, clothes for boys rarely have flowers, small animals, they are pink… in this way the children are integrating what clothes they should or should not wear. Or, for example, when we tell a boy that “crying is for girls” we are shaping his character by telling him that he should do or should not do, or how he should or should not behave. Or, when a girl wants to play soccer and dresses in a masculine way and her peers begin to refer to her as “tomboy,” they are conveying an idea of what is an acceptable behaviour and what is not for her gender.

This type of socialization that establishes which are the hegemonic practices and reinforces the normative expressions and orientations has a negative effect on the well-being and mental health of those who do not conform to them, such as children and adolescents who belong to sexual minorities (gays, lesbians, bisexual, queer, transsexual, intersex, etc.) (Flores, Abboud, & Barroso, 2019). In fact, studies have shown how some of these effects are: poorer academic performance, psychological distress, depression, low self-esteem and even substance abuse (Bauermeister et al., 2017).

In recent years, fortunately, there is an increasing awareness of the heteronormative system in which we live and, therefore, a lower adherence to it. This makes it more and more possible for people to express themselves freely and not have to follow the rigid codes already mentioned.

However, as teachers, it is important to be clearly aware and implement behaviours and dynamics that question this heteronormative system and this type of hegemonic masculinity because, otherwise, stereotypes set unique and rigid models, and everything that deviates from this model is censored.


Imagine that in your school you are celebrating “the healthy week”. Every day, the first thing you do in the morning with your students is spending 15 minutes doing some exercise. The exercise is prepared each day by one student. Today it is Lucas’ turn, your 12-year-old student. He brings a USB that quickly connects to the computer, and he begins to play the latest pop hit. Lucas encourages you all to dance and, although most start dancing you see how a group of children does not do it and, not only that but, they begin to laugh at Lucas and his dances. You, as a teacher, decide to stop the activity and ask the group of children who do not dance and laugh at the reason for their attitude. To this question they answer that “they are girls’ things, and that they do not dance”. This answer gives rise to a very interesting reflection to do both with them and with the rest of the class. For example, we can ask the following questions: only girls can dance? Why do we think that dancing is for girls and playing football is for boys? Is there no boy here who likes dancing and no girl who likes football? Why do you think it’s not typical of boys to dance? Do we all feel represented in that stereotype of “being a boy” or “being a girl”? Do our friends conform to that? And our relatives? And the people we admire?


As a teacher it is essential that you review yourselves and try to become aware of the situations in which you, yourselves, are influenced by your own stereotypes and biases and try to control them. In the same way, it would be good if, in the tutoring hours, you raised debates related to these issues to identify what is the model of hegemonic masculinity and its characteristics and analyse how much of that model does not correspond to your personal characteristics.

Also, a common problem that often occurs in schools is the occupation of physical space (playground, games) that almost always occupy dominant or stereotypically masculine children instead of more introverted, feminine children or LGBTQ+ children. So, you could try to regulate the space of each one, make mixed shifts to play in the yard, use the baskets/goalposts only on certain days, monitor that all students practice all kinds of sports, etc.

Another problem is the discursive space since, generally in mixed spaces (the usual in school environments) girls speak less (some studies indicate that up to 75% less) and boys interrupt more, which makes them gradually monopolize the discourse and continue to reproduce the schemes of hegemonic masculinity that we have been commenting. To combat it you can form small groups of debate where all the students intervene, take care that the spokespersons of the groups are not always dominant children but that everyone can feel represented.


Bauermeister, J., Connochie, D., Jadwin-Cakmak, L., & Meanley, S. (2017). Gender policing during childhood and the psychological well-being of young adult sexual minority men. American Journal of Men’s Health, 11(3), 693–701. doi:10.1177/ 1557988316680938

Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), 829-859.

Flores, D., Abboud, S., & Barroso, J. (2019) Hegemonic Masculinity During Parent-Child Sex Communication with Sexual Minority Male Adolescents. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 14(4), 417-439. DOI: 10.1080/15546128.2019.1626312

Flores, D., & Barroso, J. (2017). 21st century parent–child sex communication in the United States: A process review. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(4-5), 532-548.

Ingraham, C. (1994). The heterosexual imaginary: Feminist sociology and theories of genderSociological theory, 203-219.

Méndez, L. B. (2002). Masculinidad hegemónica e identidad masculina. Dossiers feministes, 7-35.

Whitehead, J. C., Thomas, J., Forkner, B., & LaMonica, D. (2012). Reluctant gatekeepers: ‘Trans-positive’ practitioners and the social construction of sex and gender. Journal of Gender Studies, 21(4), 387-400.

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