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date: 13 December 2019

Gender, Power, and Powerlessness: A Conceptual Framework for Researching Men’s Victimization

Summary and Keywords

Men are the main users of violence at every level of society ranging from the individual to the national; at the same time, they are the primary victims of violence outside of the home. Previous theoretical work on the gender of men has been criticized for pushing to the side men are the primary users of violence by not sufficiently incorporating violence as social practices underpinning men’s power. Violence generally and domestic violence and abuse (DVA) specifically are used as theoretical tools to analyze how theories on the gender of men facilitate understanding men’s experiences of power (e.g., primary user of DVA) and powerlessness (e.g., primary victim of DVA). DVA is utilized as a specific type of violence because it is a global social issue and because of the wealth of empirical studies showing that most men are the primary users, and a small minority experience DVA. Untangling men’s talk of DVA is rarely straightforward, as men who are the primary perpetrator may claim to be the victim, and men who are the primary victim may minimize their DVA experiences.

Gender refers to one set of unequal power relations that structures society. One of the most well-known theories on the gender of men is hegemonic masculinity theory, which drew from feminist and gay scholarship to describe the social process of men’s continual creation and maintenance of power over women and the hierarchy of power among men. In brief, hegemonic masculinity was a set of gendered practices that was understood in a particular cultural context to ensure men’s domination of women. The importance of violence was noted within hegemonic masculinity theory, but the conceptual links between violence and hegemonic masculinity were inconsistent. The hegemony of men theory clarified these ambiguities by shifting the focus from masculinities to men, noting that men—not masculinities—are the primary users of violence. However, not all men will engage in violence. Some may subvert practices of violence. Neither theory sufficiently linked structural understandings of gendered power with individual practices to facilitate exploring the complexities of men’s practices, particularly men’s discursive practices. This limitation is due largely to three factors: (1) the conflation of the hierarchy of power between men and women and the hierarchy of power among men; (2) the lack of engagement with intersectionality; and (3) the lack of engagement with theories explaining the everyday practices of gender.

Included in Walby’s theory of intersectionality are the structuring social systems of gender relations and violence. Adopting these systems provided the theoretical breadth and depth to explain the diversity of men’s engagement with violence within and between each hierarchy of power. Discursive social psychology (DSP) focused on how men used interpretative repertoires in their talk about themselves and others, to get a sense of how men (re)construct and negotiate gendered positions. Integrating DSP with intersectionality facilitated understanding how men in their talk reconstructing their experiences of DVA could use discursive resources to position themselves as men—a position associated with power.

Keywords: gender, power, victimization, men, hierarchy of power

Introduction

This article proposes a conceptual framework that provides the space and flexibility to consider both men’s perpetration and victimization of violence through a gender lens, specifically the gender of men. Gender does not refer to biological sex but to “a way in which social practice is ordered” (Connell, 1995, p. 71) or put another way, gender refers to a set of social relations imbued with a hierarchy of power (Walby, 2009). The gender of men takes shape within gender relations and is understood to be a social category constructed in relation and in opposition to the gender of women (Connell, 1995; Hearn, 2004; Walby, 2009). The proposed framework is situated within Critical Studies of Men and Masculinities (CSMM; Hearn, 1997, 2004; Hearn & Collinson, 1994), as it explicitly names men as the subject of study and critically examine men and their power (Hearn, 1997). This position is in line with feminist work on gender relations that calls into question approaches that do not consider men to be gendered and is critical of men’s positions of power as the assumed norm (e.g., Hanmer, 1990). Men are the main doers of violence at every level of society (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006; World Health Organization, 2002), while at the same time they are the primary victims of violence outside the home (e.g., Sivarajasingam et al., 2010; World Health Organization, 2014). Previous work on the gender of men has been criticized for deemphasizing the idea that men are the primary users of violence by not sufficiently incorporating violence generally and gender-based violence specifically (e.g., domestic violence and abuse), as a social practice underpinning men’s power (e.g., McCarry, 2007).

Throughout the article, violence generally—and domestic violence and abuse (DVA) specifically—are used as theoretical tools to analyze how theories on the gender of men facilitate understanding men’s experiences of power (e.g., primary user of DVA) and powerlessness (e.g., primary victim of DVA). Violence is considered to be interrelated with social practices, in which power is “used to dominate others, to create fear and shape their course of conduct” (Walby, 2009, p. 198). DVA is utilized as a specific type of violence because it is a global social issue (Krug et al., 2002) and because of the wealth of empirical studies showing that most men are the primary users and a small minority experience DVA (e.g., Ansara & Hindin, 2010; DeKeseredy et al., 1997; Hamberger & Guse, 2002; Hester, 2013; Hester et al., 2017; Johnson, 1999; ONS, 2016; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). However, untangling men’s talk of DVA is rarely straightforward, as men who are the primary perpetrators may claim to be the victim (e.g., Durfee, 2011) or blur the line between who is the perpetrator and victim (e.g., Boonzaier, 2008). And men who are the primary victim may minimize their DVA experiences (e.g., Eckstein, 2010; Oliffe et al., 2014). This chapter proposes a theoretical framework to help navigate the discursive complexities that arise when men’s experiences contradict their talk of DVA.

DVA refers to a pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, or threatening behavior—or violence or abuse between those who are or have been intimate partners regardless of gender or sexuality (Home Office, 2013). The coercive and controlling tactics of DVA are distinguished from other social practices of coercive control, such as hostage taking or mugging, by the intimate context they are used in (Hearn, 2012b). The intimate context may create a one-way relationship in which one has specialized knowledge of every aspect of a partner’s movements, habits, resources, and vulnerabilities and constitutes a medium to continually gather knowledge about a partner and to adapt coercive and controlling tactics (Stark, 2007). Coercive and controlling tactics of violence and abuse exist alongside of and within practices of intimacy and thus distinguish DVA from other types of violence (Hearn, 2012b). The intimate context is influenced by gendered expectations and understandings of social practices, which could include ideas that women should take care of the home and emotional well-being of the family and men should provide for women financially and materially (Donovan & Hester, 2011). These expectations shore up men’s power in intimate relationships to use violence and serve to maintain men’s collective power, thus linking it other forms of violence.

Hegemonic masculinity theory (Connell, 1995), arguably the most well-known theory within CSMM, puts forward a diversity of masculinities that vary across historical and cultural contexts and uses the concept of hegemony to describe the social struggle to maintain and naturalize powerful masculinities. While the importance of violence is noted within the theory, Connell is inconsistent when explaining links between violence and masculinities. The theory and its critiques are reviewed first, followed by the theory on the hegemony of men (Hearn, 2004, 2012a), as it seeks to clarify the ambiguities in hegemonic masculinity theory. Additionally, the theory of the hegemony of men shifts the focus from masculinities to men: This is in order to emphasize that men, not masculinities, are the primary users of violence. Both theories focus mostly on men’s power and practices of violence, creating the risk of reifying the gender of men as perpetrators only (Beasley, 2012; Christensen & Jensen, 2014). This limitation is accounted for by integrating the theories of hegemonic masculinity and hegemony of men with two fundamental concepts in Walby’s (2009) theory of intersectionality: regimes of inequality and institutional domains. Regimes of inequality are a type of social system characterized by unequal social relations, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability. The gender regime is one of multiple regimes of unequal social relations and is influenced by other regimes of inequality, such as class and ethnicity, but it cannot be reduced to other regimes. The gender regime exists at all levels of society from the micro (e.g., interpersonal) to the meso (e.g., group) to the macro (e.g., states), which provides the ontological breadth needed to consider the multiplicity of men’s positions and positioning in relation to violence. This integration is explained in the section “Intersectionality.”

While Walby’s theory provided the breadth and depth to acknowledge, within the context of men’s collective position of power over women—that men can be perpetrators, victims, or both—it left open how men may negotiate these gendered positions in their everyday discursive practices. Discursive practices refer to the linguistic resources men utilized and how men positioned themselves and others. Linguistic resources were considered to be the text and talk men used in social interactions and included resources considered to be more material and embodied: such as physical appearance and playing sports. Discursive practices “set the horizon for what can be articulated or thought in a particular context” (Seymour-Smith, Wetherell, & Phoenix, 2002, p. 265) and shape the social construction of violence, as well as who may be considered a victim or a perpetrator (Hearn, 2014; LeCouteur & Oxlad, 2011). Discursive social psychology (DSP) examines people’s discursive practices or what they do when they speak (Potter & Wetherell, 1995) and when used to look at the male gender, DSP offers a framework to examine how men utilized discursive practices to accomplish gender paradigms in social interactions (Wetherell & Edley, 2014). In the penultimate section of this article, DSP is explained in more detail and is integrated with intersectionality and key concepts from the theory of hegemonic masculinity and hegemony of men.

Hegemonic Masculinity Theory

One of the most widely used and influential theories within CSMM (Hearn, 1997, 2004; Hearn & Collinson, 1994) developed from the work of R. W. Connell (now Raewyn W. Connell; see Connell, 1987, 1995, 2003, 2005) and colleagues (Carrigan, Connell, & Lee, 1985; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005), who applied Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony to an understanding of masculinity. Hegemony was a term that encompassed both a social process and the end of the process. It described the social struggle for power across history, as well as the formation of groups that have won power. When applying hegemony to theoretical understandings of gender, Connell and colleagues drew from feminist work arguing that men collectively had power over women, meaning hegemony in this context was concerned with the social process of men’s struggle for power over women. The authors also drew from gay scholarship that theorized and documented the multiple forms of being a man and the hierarchy of power among men. Though an oversimplification, the theory has often been summarized as hegemonic masculinity theory. The theory of hegemonic masculinity was concerned with the relations among men vis-à-vis men’s domination of women. It was “the pattern of practices (i.e., things done, not just a set of role expectations or an identity) that allowed men’s dominance over women to continue” (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005, p. 832).

Men’s global dominance of women defined the “hegemonic form of masculinity,” as it was “always constructed in relation to various subordinated masculinities as well as in relation to women” (Connell, 1987, p. 183). Connell (2005) proposed a sparse framework to guide examination of hierarchical divisions of power between hegemonic masculinity and subordinated masculinities. The proposed subordinated masculinities were complicit masculinities, subordinated masculinities, and marginalized masculinities, all of which depended on the biographical details of men, including the historical and cultural context of men’s practices. Complicit masculinities referred to men’s practices that did not challenge the power structure but still allowed men to reap the patriarchal dividend of being male. For example, men engaging in complicit masculinities may not actively oppose the gendered division of household labor, but they may benefit from this division by rarely doing chores. Men engaging in subordinated masculinities could display characteristics or take up practices not in line with the local norms of what it is to be a man. For instance, if a man put on women’s makeup or was employed as a nurse, people in the local culture might view him as failing to prove he was a man. Marginalized masculinities were those enacted mainly by men who were pushed to the margins of society due to their socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. In this hierarchical division of power, men taking up subordinated and marginalized masculinities continually contest the power of hegemonic masculinity, but they still utilize norms and engage in practices that facilitate reaping the rewards of men’s power over women (Bagshaw et al., 2000).

Important sites in the contestation of hegemonic masculinity were men’s bodies, due to their important physical and symbolic representations of masculinity (Connell, 2005; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005):

The physical sense of maleness is not a simple thing. It involves size and shape, habits of posture and movement, particular physical skills and lack of others, the image of one’s own body, the way it is presented to other people, and the way they respond to it, the way it operates at work and in sexual relations.

(Connell, 1987, p. 84)

For instance, young men in Western cultures may learn through sports that skilled use of the body is a display of masculinity and the extent of the skills displayed becomes a symbol of the degree of one’s masculinity. Other men may learn that the use of their body to inflict violence on others is an important skill and image to present to society, particularly in institutions (e.g., the military) or certain cultural environments (e.g., some groups of men who have a lower socioeconomic status) where it is valued. The use of the body to inflict violence allows men to offer “symbolic proof of men’s superiority and right to rule” over other men and women (Connell, 2005, p. 54).

The theory of hegemonic masculinity filled a theoretical need, as evidenced by the breadth of studies utilizing it across disciplines and epistemological traditions (Hearn, 2012a). The widespread use, however, pointed to one of the strongest critiques: its vague conceptual definition. The lack of clarity can be seen when other authors have attempted to summarize Connell’s work. Two examples can be found in Jefferson’s (2002) and Flood’s (2002) work. When Jefferson (2002) summarized Connell’s use of hegemonic masculinity, he found that Connell used it to mean a social process, a configuration of gender practices, types of masculinity, and certain sets of attributes. Flood (2002) concluded that Connell used three different meanings of hegemonic masculinity: the “culturally exalted” or “most honoured” form of masculinity; the tactics men use to maintain their power over women; and men who occupy positions of power. One effect of the ambiguous definition of hegemonic masculinity, which was important to understanding men’s experiences of victimization, was the high frequency of studies equating men with masculinity, without describing the relationship between the two (Flood, 2002).

Before considering the relationship between men and masculinity, a brief word is needed on the limitations of each. Masculinity does not necessarily have meaning in all historical and social contexts, particularly in cultures which did not have a binary gender social regime: so it should not be assumed there were only two gender categories. Ethnographic studies on transgender individuals (e.g., Garfinkel, 1967) provided examples of when the binary system did not apply, and anthropological studies on other cultures (e.g., Mead, 1935) demonstrated that masculinity did not always take its meaning to be the opposite of femininity. Even when men and masculinities were examined in a society with a binary gender system, the relationship between men and masculinities was rarely interrogated (Flood, 2002), leading some to call for making clear distinctions between the two. This argued against the assumption “everything that can be said about masculinity pertains in the first place to men” (Sedgewick, 1995, p. 12). For instance, women could enact masculinity when they play sports (e.g., Thorpe, 2010) or use violence (e.g., Swan et al., 2012).

In addition to conflating men and masculinities, Connell and colleagues conflated hegemonic masculinity with dominant masculinities or masculinities that were widespread and or socially powerful (Beasley, 2008; Flood, 2002). Hegemonic masculinity was not the same as dominant masculinities because dominant masculinities would not necessarily guarantee men’s position of power over women and those that do may not be “culturally exalted” or socially condoned. Using DVA was not socially condoned, but it was socially accepted, as evidenced by men’s persistent perpetration (Walby, Towers, & Francis, 2016) and the low percentage of incidents in the U.K. criminal justice system that lead to conviction (Hester, 2006). Despite the theoretical slips in the meaning of hegemonic masculinity, hegemonic masculinity theory provided important insights in understanding the gender of men. Foremost among the insights was the hierarchy of power among men that is constructed in relation to men’s subjugation of women. Within the relations among men and between men and women, men may occupy different positions of power, and these positions can change over time and across cultures.

Hegemonic Masculinity Theory and Violence

Another theory within CSMM is the hegemony of men by Hearn (2004, 2012a). His development of the theory of hegemony of men (2004, 2012a) is reviewed, particularly his use of violence as a conceptual tool to understand how hegemonic masculinity explains how men are the primary perpetrators of DVA. Hearn explored as a first step the links between hegemonic masculinity and violence. Connell (2005) viewed violence as a tactical means via which men could maintain their dominance over women and assert their dominance over marginalized groups of men. “Violence is a part of the system of domination” (Connell, 2005, p. 84), as it allowed men to “draw boundaries and make exclusions” between them and women, as well as among men (Connell, 2005, p. 83). Connell described violence as a tactical resource to achieve domination. However, violence is not only a means to an end and a position of power, it also constitutes power and the unequal relations between men and women (Hearn, 2012a; Walby, 2009).

Hearn then shifted his analysis to Connell’s own use of violence as a theoretical tool. Connell tended to use violence in one of two ways (Edwards, 2006; Murphy, 2009): Firstly, violence was exemplar practice men used to assert dominance over each other on an interpersonal level, such as when men played and/or watched sports. Connell explains the significance of sports in the development of the gender of men:

The combination of force and skill that is involved in playing well at games like football, cricket, and baseball, and which is central even in highly individualised sports like surfing, becomes a strongly cathected aspect of an adolescent boy’s life . . . for most it becomes a bodily action that has a much wider relevance than the particular game. Prowess of this kind becomes a means of judging one’s degree of masculinity.

(Connell, 1987, p. 85)

As adults, men were more likely to watch than participate in sports. Televised sport, the primary medium for spectators, portrayed men as “strong, tough, aggressive, and above all, a winner in what is still a Man’s world. To be a winner he has to do what needs to be done. He must be willing to compromise his own long-term health” (Messner, Dunbar, & Hunt, 2000, p. 390). Through sports men learned which bodily action and images reflected masculinity.

Another example of when men might use interpersonal violence was in the struggle for power among other men. Men could use violence in the process of subordinating and marginalizing groups of men—for example, men who identified as gay, BME, or immigrants—which would in turn maintain their normative status. Alternatively, groups of men with less power could use violence in the process to obtain power. In both instances, “Violence can become a way of claiming or asserting masculinity in group struggles” (Connell, 2005, p. 83).

Connell’s discussion of violence shifted from men’s individual violence to a more macro-structural focus on institutional violence (e.g., the police, the prison system) and international conflicts and conquests (e.g., Connell, 1987, 2003). Taken together, Connell’s work suggested two routes by which men could use violence in the overall process of men creating and maintaining their collective power. When violence was used by one man against another individual, it suggested a direct relationship between violence and hegemonic masculinity while in other instances when violence was used by institutions, it suggested an indirect relationship between violence and hegemonic masculinity (Hearn, 2012a). Perhaps the link between DVA and hegemonic masculinity was not clear because Connell mostly described different examples of violence (e.g., gay bashing, World War II) and studies of violence in different contexts (e.g., colonialism in the southern hemisphere). The intention behind hegemonic masculinity was to offer a dynamic theory of gender that opened the space for transformation in gender relations (Hearn, 2004), not to “provide a simple key to understanding violence” (Connell, 2005, p. 258).

When Hearn could not identify a clear relationship between DVA and hegemonic masculinity in Connell’s work, he returned to the definition of hegemonic masculinity, which is:

the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and subordinate position of women.

(Connell, 2005, p. 77, added emphasis)

He argued that according to the definition, legitimacy was the central issue. As such, there was “the need to ask: for and from whom is legitimacy obtained, and how is this achieved and maintained? Legitimacy can be from various vantage points: of more or less powerful men or women, and so on” (Hearn, 2012a, p. 594). When testing the theoretical soundness of hegemonic masculinity, it would then become necessary to link legitimacy, hegemonic masculinity, and violence. One possibility is that violence was one configuration of practice available to men to legitimate the gender regime: or put another way, violence was a resource available to men. Indeed, Messerschmidt (2000) found young men, who lacked resources within school to demonstrate they were men, used violence within their homes to demonstrate their control and strength. In a study examining the influence of gender and status, as defined by biographical details, on the likelihood to perpetrate DVA, Anderson (1997) found men were significantly more likely to use DVA when their financial and educational resources were less than their female partners. Alternatively, violence could be an effect of other processes legitimizing the gender regime (e.g., persuasion). For example, men could be convinced that women should be violently punished for not adhering to gender roles. If violence was a resource in the process of legitimization or a result of the processes legitimizing the gender regime, the relationship between hegemonic masculinity and violence was murky.

Unable to identify a clear link between DVA and hegemonic masculinity in Connell’s work or in the definition of hegemonic masculinity, Hearn (2012a) turned to the term “hegemonic masculinity” itself. Hegemony was “not a matter of pushing and pulling ready-formed groupings but is partly a matter of the formation of these groupings” (Carrigan, Connell, & Lee, 1985, p. 594). Connell’s application of hegemony did not focus on the creation of groupings that legitimated the gender regime but on configurations of practices that legitimatized the gender regime (Flood, 2002). As Beasley (2008) and Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) noted, not all practices were hegemonic; however, the social category of men was hegemonic. Thus, a more theoretically precise use of hegemony would examine the hegemony of men, not hegemonic masculinity (Hearn, 2004). With this shift in focus from masculinity to men, hegemony could be used more precisely as an analytic tool to understand the construction of the social category of men within the gender regime, as well as the dominance of men collectively and individually. The shift from masculinity to men called for a different approach to masculinities. Hearn (2012a) suggested that masculinities be approached through considering “social construction of systems of differentiation of and between men and men’s practices, rather than the social construction of particular ‘forms’ of men, including men using violence, as ‘violent masculinities’” (p. 601). The focus on men, as opposed to masculinities, and the reconceptualization of masculinities facilitated exploring the link between violence and relations among men and between men and women.

Men’s use and/or experiences of violence could be explored in terms of how men reconstruct and or maintain their individual and collective power over women and among men, and in terms of how men (or women) construct systems to distinguish men and men’s practices of violence. Hegemonic masculinity theory has been used to look at the meaning men gave to their victimization experiences of sexual violence, physical assault, and DVA, and how men’s perceptions of the gender of men may restrict them from identifying with the victim position (e.g., Chan, 2014; Eckstein, 2010; Herlof Anderson, 2011; Stanko & Hobdell, 1993; Weiss, 2010). Men may self-impose these restrictions for many reasons including fear and or embarrassment that their social practices were not consistent with hegemonic masculinity, in turn indicating they could not or should not identify as men (e.g., Herlof Anderson, 2008). A few studies provided example excerpts from interviews that suggested men engaged in discursive processes to shift from (and in some instances prevent) a position of powerlessness associated with being a victim by reconstructing their power as men. For instance, in Weiss’s study (2010) on men who experienced sexual violence or threats of sexual violence, Weiss presented interview excerpts describing specific examples of these men engaging in practices associated with men—excessive drinking and using physical violence to stop an assault. Another example can be found in Corbally’s (2015) research on men who experienced DVA when she provided descriptions of men acting as the breadwinner and protecting their children from abusive behavior. While these studies provided example illustrations of the practices male victims engaged in that were associated with men’s positions of power, there remain questions about the processes men engaged in to shift from positions of powerlessness associated with being a victim to positions of power associated with being a man. More specifically, how do men position themselves as men, particularly in their everyday talk of using and experiencing DVA? Neither Connell’s hegemonic masculinity theory framework nor Hearn’s hegemony of men framework sufficiently linked macro-structural understandings of gendered power with individual discursive practices to facilitate exploring this question (Wetherell & Edley, 1999).

External Hegemony and Internal Hegemony

As a first step to make these conceptual links, Christensen and Jensen’s (2014) work differentiating external hegemony from internal hegemony is reviewed and utilized to expand understandings of the gender of men. They argued CSMM was “based on two interrelated and inseparable dimensions: (a) male dominance and oppression of women; and (b) hierarchical classification of masculinities” (p. 63). The former was referred to as “external hegemony” and the latter as “internal hegemony” (Demetriou, 2001). Both hegemonic masculinity theory and hegemony of men “privilege[d] a perspective that reads men’s dominance over women” into the social category of men and men’s practices, which did not allow for the theoretical space to explain internal hegemony (Christensen & Jensen, 2014, p. 66). If, however, external and internal hegemony were considered “two different analytical dimensions which may or may not coincide” (Christensen & Jensen, 2014, p. 66), there would be more theoretical space for acknowledging contexts in which the social category of men and men’s practices was not associated with legitimizing men’s power over women.

Messerschmidt (2012) put forward that this could be achieved by unravelling “dominant, dominating, and other types of nonhegemonic masculinities from hegemonic masculinity” (p. 73). He defined dominant masculinities as “the most powerful or the most widespread types in the sense of being the most celebrated, common, or current forms of masculinity in a specific social setting” and dominating masculinities as “commanding and controlling specific interactions and exercising power and control over people and events—‘calling the shots’ and ‘running the show’” (p. 74). These distinctions were important as not all masculinities, including dominant and dominating masculinities, would legitimate the gender regime (Beasley, 2008; Schippers, 2007).

The hegemony of men framework was in line with the suggested refinements of hegemonic masculinity theory. The different types of masculinities were analogous to the “systems of distinctions and categorizations between different forms of men and men’s practices” (Hearn, 2004, p. 60). However, both assumed clearly identifiable systems and forms of men and men’s practices as either hegemonic or not hegemonic, leaving little space to explain how alternative masculinities or systems of distinction and categorization might emerge (Christensen & Jensen, 2014). There was a question as to whether either framework had the theoretical tools to examine the complex gender relations between men and women and those among men. Taking external and internal hegemony as distinct analytic dimensions could provide an opening to consider the power relations between men and women as varying across contexts and social situations (Christensen & Jensen, 2014). It would be possible to take into account the positioning and practices of men (as well as the systems of distinction) that do not legitimize the gender regime. Additionally, it would be possible to more fully consider how other regimes of inequality (e.g., ethnicity, sexual orientation) influenced the gender regime—particularly how other regimes influenced men’s positioning and practices.

The proposed conceptual framework in this article takes up the call to focus “less on deterministic and stable power relations” in order to include more of the “contradictions, antagonisms, ambivalences, ruptures and on-going struggles to create hegemonic formations” (Christensen & Jensen, 2014, p. 67). This is not to say men’s practices of creating and maintaining power relations with the gender regime are pushed aside. Doing so would ignore the large body of evidence demonstrating that men are the primary users of violence toward women, as well as men (e.g., Connell, 1987; Kimmel, 2004; Ministry of Justice, 2014; Office of National Statistics, 2016). Taking up this call provides the theoretical space to consider other types of power relations that were contradictory, antagonistic, and ambivalent.

As a second step, Walby’s (2009) theory of multiple inequalities (also referred to as theory of intersectionality) is integrated with CSMM to allow for a more refined understanding of how men may occupy multiple positions within and across the external and internal hegemonies of the gender regime. It also allows for a better understanding of how other regimes of inequality interact with men’s positioning and practices in the gender regime. Nonetheless, understanding the nitty gritty of how men negotiate these positions through their talk is elusive. Beasley (2012) argued this ambiguity was due to CSMM not going far enough in engaging with postmodern feminist scholarship on gender, which emphasizes the fluidity of gender positioning and practices. This lack of engagement could be due to the structural underpinnings of power. Indeed, with few exceptions (e.g., Wetherell & Edley, 1999; Whitehead, 2002) most theoretical and empirical work on men and masculinities has been conducted within a macro-structural understanding of power. These studies contributed to the understanding of how men’s practices of power generally (and violence specifically) functions to sustain a position of dominance. However, as a result, men as a gendered position and masculinity as a word describing men’s practices became synonymous with perpetrating violence, and little was known about men’s experiences of violence (Edwards, 2006). A discursive social psychology (Wetherell & Edley, 2014) framework is employed to examine the gender of men and their gendered practices because it provided the conceptual tools to examine the multiple positions and practices of men, including the use and experiences of DVA.

Linking CSMM With Feminist Scholarship

Links between key concepts in CSMM and feminist theorizing on intersectionality and discursive social psychology are laid out in this section. Within CSMM, hegemonic masculinity theory and the hegemony of men are key frameworks for this article. Hegemonic masculinity theory explained the multiplicity of positions and practices associated with men, but it did not easily account for men’s violence to women, supporting Hearn’s call for a shift to the hegemony of men. This shift was needed because men are the main doers of violence toward women (and men). However, not all men will engage in violence; some might engage in and subvert practices associated with men and take up practices associated with women. Neither hegemonic masculinity nor hegemony of men easily provided theoretical tools to analyze alternative positions men may occupy and practices men may engage in, which do not necessarily dominate and or legitimize the gender regime. By making analytic distinction between the external and internal hegemony of the gender regime, there was the theoretical space to analyze the full variety of the gender of men. To do so, Walby’s theory of intersectionality (2009) and discursive social psychology of men (Wetherell & Edley, 2014) are adopted. Each is described before a framework is proposed that integrates the multiplicity of men’s position and practices and the hegemony of men with intersectionality and discursive social psychology.

Intersectionality

Though not coined until 1989 by Kimberly Crenshaw, the notion of intersectionality had long been discussed on both sides of the Atlantic. One of the earliest references could be located in 1851 in Sojourner Truth’s work; more recent references could be located in the 1970s in individual works by black lesbian feminists such as bell hooks and groups such as the Combahee River Collective in Boston and the Southall Black Sisters and OWAAD (Organisation of Women of African and Asian Decent) in England (Brah & Phoenix, 2004; Davis, 2008). Black feminist individuals and groups critiqued the feminist and anti-racist perspectives and political movements for normalizing white women in the feminist perspectives and black men in the anti-racist perspectives. Both perspectives marginalized and rendered black women invisible. Black feminists contended that gender and race as categorical social divisions must be considered and analyzed simultaneously to understand the unique experiences and oppressions of black women. During the 1980s, the perspectives of black feminists came together with feminist, postmodern, and poststructural theoretical perspectives to challenge not only the categories of gender and race but all social categorization—under the term “intersectionality” (Nash, 2008). This was not to say the notion of intersectionality has been accepted without contestation. For example, the interpretation of the intersection of social divisions as either additive or constitutive (e.g., Yuval-Davis, 2006) or as “mutually shaping” (Walby, Armstrong, & Strid, 2012), and the inclusion of all identities or only marginalized identities (e.g., Nash, 2008) have been debated. Intersectionality provided a framework to analyze how social categories are constructed and intersect in individual lives, social practices, social systems, and cultural ideologies, as well as the consequences of these intersections, particularly in terms of power (Davis, 2008).

Applications of intersectionality to DVA broadened the understanding of DVA beyond gender to include other “social contexts created by the intersection of systems of power (for example, race, class, gender and sexual orientation) and oppression (prejudice, class stratification, gender inequality and heterosexist bias)” (Bograd, 1999, p. 276). These systems of power and their history (Sokoloff, 2008), which created and sustained them, provided a societal context that allowed one person to have power and control over another. DVA was one manifestation of the intersection of systems of power and oppression, and this intersection of systems of power and oppression created unique experiences of DVA for each victim.

Walby (2009) adapted complex systems analysis (Urry, 2005) to social systems in order to develop a theory of intersectionality that simultaneously took into account multiple inequalities within and across social systems. Concepts developed in complex systems analysis included (but were not limited to) system/environment distinctions, co-evolution of systems, and emergence. When these concepts were translated to social systems, social systems were seen as adapting to their environment, which comprised all other systems and were evolving along with other systems they interacted with. They sometimes overlapped, but they were not nested within one another. Emergence considered all levels of systems to exist simultaneously and each level “contained the objects that are present in the other levels, but that they can be analysed differently” (p. 74).

Two kinds of social systems may be observed: regimes of inequality and institutional domains. Regimes of inequality referred to a particular set of social relations (i.e., class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.), and domains referred to a set of institutional relations. Within the gender regime, men were “both a social category formed by gender systems and dominant and collective and individual agents of social practices” (original emphasis, Hearn, 2004, p. 59). The formation and destruction of the social category of men took place in an external and internal hierarchies of power in the gender regime (Christensen & Jensen, 2014). Each hierarchy was influenced by other regimes of inequality. Taking the influence of other regimes on the external and internal hierarchies of the gender regime into consideration, there was theoretical and empirical space to examine the multiplicity of positions and practices that might or might not legitimize men’s collective and individual power, including men’s position and practices as a victim of DVA. This position was of particular importance for DVA research because “Men’s domestic violence occurs within relations between the formation of ‘men’, ‘women’ and other genders” in the gender regime and in the systems of distinction and categorization of gender (Hearn, 2012b, p. 11).

Walby (2009) proposed there were four kinds of institutional domains: polity, civil society, economy, and violence. Violence was considered to be neither solely material nor solely discursive (Hearn, 2012b; Walby, 2009). Hearn (2014) explained more fully how violence could be considered as simultaneously material and discursive:

What ‘violence’ is and what ‘violence’ means is both material and discursive. It is both a matter of experience of change in bodily matter, and a matter of change in discursive constructions. Violence is simultaneously material and discursive. It is simultaneously painful, full of pain; and textual, full of text. This is what I learnt from researching men who use or had used violence. It is very difficult to find a definition of violence that works for all situations and all times: this is a matter of material discourse. Violence, and what is meant by violence, is historically, socially and culturally constructed. Talk and (men’s) talk about violence is not just representation (of norms): it is (creation of) reality in its own right. This applies in the conduct of violence, and talk about violence. (p. 9)

Violence in all of its forms and variations has been and continues to be a central social practice structuring power in the gender regime; indeed, violence constitutes gender relations (Lundgren, 1995; Walby, 2009). Practices of violence create and/or maintain power through its use and regulation. Violence could be used and regulated at the macro level (e.g., states), meso level (e.g., groups), and micro level (e.g., interpersonal), and it could be used by those with power or in retaliation against those with power (Walby, 2009). The variety of ways in which violence could be used and regulated influenced the power relations in the gender regime, including the external and internal hierarchies of power. Practices of violence could be “a powerful performative way of demonstrating someone is a man, in both generic quality of violence, and more so men’s violence to women” (Hearn, 2012b, p. 11).

Additionally, Walby’s theorizing of social systems facilitated understanding of how men could experience coercive and controlling behaviors in a heterosexual relationship, a social site generally dominated by men not women. All regimes of inequality existed within the domain of violence, leaving open the possibility there could be a power differential based on one equality that created more power for the woman. However, men (unlike women) were imbued with more power as members of the dominant group; and as members they would have greater access to material, discursive, and social resources. With greater access, men’s experiences would not be the same as women’s experiences of coercive control. But what might this look like in practice? What resources do men talk about in their experiences of victimization, and how do they position themselves in their talk?

Discursive Social Psychology

Discursive social psychology (DSP) developed from the turn in the social sciences from examining language as a referential to taking “language as its central topic, examining the ways in which people talk about—or construct—things like identities” (Wetherell & Edley, 2014, p. 335). The talk and texts used in social practices were taken to be discourses (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Discourses “set the horizon” but did not determine “what can be articulated or thought in any particular context” (Seymour-Smith, Wetherell, & Phoenix, 2002, p. 265), and they were deeply intertwined in the creation and maintenance of the “reality” of domestic violence and abuse (LeCouteur & Oxlad, 2011). Noting how discourses tend to be monolithic (Edley, 2001) and have the potential to reify the topic under investigation (Potter et al., 1990), interpretative repertoire was developed as a conceptual and analytic tool to examine the linguistic resources used to talk about objects, events, and people. Interpretative repertoires are the building blocks of discourses, the “broadly discernible cluster of terms, descriptions, and figures of speech” (Potter & Wetherell, 1995, p. 89). During interactions, interpretative repertoires are used to construct particular identities or positions for particular occasions (Edley, 2001). Positions were “identities made relevant by specific ways of talking” (Edley, 2001, p. 210) or put another way, as people used interpretative repertoires they constructed positions or identities. As ways of talking could change within the same conversation and between conversations, positions could change as well. DSP took from CSMM the multiple positions men could occupy and the framework drew from intersectionality by taking up the idea that not all positions had equal power: this is due to the interaction of the gender regime with other regimes of inequality (Walby, 2009).

DSP theorization of discourses differed from other discourse theories in three important ways. First, DSP posited people who could both produce discourses and be produced by discourses (Wetherell, 1998); and second, it put forward discourse that was a type of social practice inseparable from material practices (Edley, 2001). This position, it can be argued, was in line with a growing body of literature advocating for a material-discursive approach (e.g., Donovan & Hester, 2014; Boddy, 1998; Hearn, 2014; Luyt, 2003; Mehta & Bondi, 1999; Robertson, 2006).

DSP examines people’s discursive practices or what they do when they speak (Potter & Wetherell, 1995) and when used to look at the gender of men, DSP offers a framework to examine how men utilized discursive practices to accomplish gender in social interactions (Wetherell & Edley, 2014). Discourses included the talk and text men used in accounts and interactions, though this did not exclude practices considered to be more material and embodied (Wetherell & Edley, 2014). For example, men could use or change their physical body, wear particular clothes, or engage in leisure activities such as following a professional football team. These more material and embodied practices were seen as matching the images and behaviors set out by the systems distinguishing men and women (Hearn, 2004). They served as gender displays and “identificatory displays that proclaim one’s membership in one or the other [sex] category” (West & Zimmerman, 1987, p.127).

A DSP framework examining men and masculinities focused on how men talked about themselves and others in order to get a sense of how they (re)construct and negotiate gendered positions (Wetherell & Edley, 2014). Earlier developments of this framework (Wetherell & Edley, 1999) focused on understanding men’s identities through their discursive practices: identities were “a matter of the procedures in action through which men live/talk/do masculinity . . . They represent the social within the psychological” (original emphasis, p. 353). Wetherell and Edley argued that these discursive practices “implicate a psychology” (Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 353). This was a psychology that could be used to understand how “hegemonic masculinity might become effective in men’s psyches” (Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 337). Jefferson (2002) criticized their work for reducing all psychological processes that could influence how men identify or not with hegemonic masculinity to discursive practices: they failed to create “an authentic inner world” (p. 74). Wetherell and Edley (2014) later broadened their framework by expanding the scope of DSP to look at how men “do gender” (West & Zimmerman, 1987) through their talk, not just how men negotiate hegemonic masculinity. This article was guided by their more recent work, as it facilitated examining what function talk served in terms of performing gender. Pursuing the psychology behind men’s performances of gender was outside the scope of this article.

In line with fundamental principles of CSMM and intersectionality, DSP (Edley, 2001; Edley & Wetherell, 1999; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2014) views gender as a feature that is accomplished or done in social interactions (West & Zimmerman, 1987). Individuals enact practices that social norms in a particular culture and at a particular point in history indicate are consistent with a particular gender category. Gender was done or accomplished in the interaction between individuals and audiences through audiences holding the performance of individuals accountable to the perceived sex category. Both individuals and audiences relied on social norms to (co)construct gender in the interactions. The practices associated with men are imbued with more power than those associated with women (Connell, 2000; Edley & Wetherell, 1999; Gavey, 1989).

Bringing together intersectionality and DSP was crucial to this article because it helped account for the various positions men may occupy simultaneously within different structures of power and how the structures of power may position men—and in turn discursive resources associated with those positions (Flood & Pease, 2005). The positions men occupy in various structures, in relation to other men and women, could depend on their age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other biographical details. For example, a BME man could be in a dominant position in his intimate relationship (i.e., perpetrate DVA) largely due to the gender regime that favors men, while at the same time he could experience positions of subordination to other men and women at his place of employment as a consequence of the regime of ethnic inequalities. Alternatively, a man who belonged to a lower socioeconomic class and who was in a subordinate position in his intimate relationship (i.e., experiencing DVA) could simultaneously be in a dominant position among his local community. The discursive resources available to each man will differ, as each occupied different positions of power within and outside their relationships. Within their relationships, the BME man might use discourses around what women should do within the home in order to control her behavior, whereas the partner of the other man might use discourses around how men should provide for their family.

One analytical focus of DSP was to examine the positions made relevant through discursive practices but DSP in and of itself would be stretched to account simultaneously for different positions taken up across different structures of power. The theory of intersectionality could explain the different practices and resources available, yet there was tension to explain on an individual level through intersectionality alone how practice might appear and which resources would be used. Walby’s reworking of the concept of emergence went some way to provide an explanation, as it suggested the elements identified at one level were present at another level. Even so, the nature of the elements would still need to be identified, so DSP would be needed to understand the discursive practices and resources used by individuals.

Concluding Remarks

In this article, a conceptual framework of men’s victimization is presented through the following: highlighting the limitations of hegemonic masculinity theory and hegemony of men, reviewing Walby’s theory of intersectionality as a way to account for the limitations, and integrating intersectionality with discursive social psychology. Hegemonic masculinity theory has been used to explain a variety of men’s behaviors but is rarely used to understand why men are the primary users of violence, which may be due to the elusive relationship between hegemonic masculinity and violence. Shifting the focus to the hegemony of men provided clear explanations of why and how men’s violence creates and maintains positions of power. However, the near exclusion of men’s experiences of powerlessness in both theories reified the gender of men and pushed aside feminist scholarship on the fluidity of gender.

Walby’s theory of intersectionality and discursive social psychology was reviewed to show how key concepts from hegemonic masculinity theory and the hegemony of men can be refined to offer a more nuanced understanding of the gender of men—one that includes power and powerlessness. Walby’s theory of intersectionality included two key concepts that were used to locate the topic of this thesis, namely regimes of inequality and institutional domains. Regimes of inequality comprised unequal power relations, such as those based on gender, age, ethnicity, etc., and institutional domains were considered to be the institutions of violence, economy, polity, and civic society, due to how each structures society. Institutional domains constitute regimes of inequality. The focus of this article, men’s experiences of violence, is located within the gender regime and the institutional domain of violence. According to Walby’s theory, other regimes of inequality and institutional domains “mutually shape” the gender regime and domain of violence, which in turn could lead to numerous social positions with a myriad of different experiences and ways of talking about DVA (Walby et al., 2012).

The synthesis of Walby’s concepts with theorizing on the gender of men created the space to consider how men could simultaneously occupy positions of power and powerlessness. Theorizing on the gender of men proposed there were multiple hierarchies of power within the gender of regime, one of which was characterized by men’s relations with women and another by men’s relations with other men (Christensen & Jensen, 2014). Men could occupy a position of power in one hierarchy while simultaneously occupy a position of powerlessness in the other hierarchy.

A discursive social psychology framework (Edley, 2001; Edley & Wetherell, 1999; Potter & Wetherell, 1995; Potter et al., 1990; Wetherell, 1998; Wetherell & Edley, 1999; 2014) provided the analytic tools to investigate what this might look like in everyday practices of talking about violence. Specifically, the concepts of positioning and interpretative repertoires were used. Positioning referred to “identities made relevant by specific ways of talking” (Edley, 2001, p. 210) and interpretative repertoires referred to a “discernible cluster of terms, descriptions, common places, and figures of speech” (Potter et al., 1990, p. 212; Potter & Wetherell, 1995, p. 89) that were used to construct positions. Interpretative repertoires were considered to be the building blocks of discourses (Potter & Wetherell, 1995). Taking DSP and Walby’s theory together, the positions in different structures of power made relevant through utilizing interpretative repertoires could be examined.

Further Reading

Beasley, C. (2012). Problematizing contemporary men/masculinities theorizing: The contribution of Raewyn Connell and conceptual-terminological tensions today. The British Journal of Sociology, 63(4), 747–765.Find this resource:

Carrigan, T., Connell, B., & Lee, J. (1985). Toward a new sociology of masculinity. Theory and Society, 14(5), 551–604.Find this resource:

Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press.Find this resource:

Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press.Find this resource:

Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), 829–859.Find this resource:

Christensen, A. D., & Jensen, S.Q. (2014). Combining hegemonic masculinity and intersectionality. NORMA: Nordic Journal For Masculinity Studies, 9(1), 60–75.Find this resource:

Flood, M. (2002). Between men and masculinity: An assessment of the term ‘masculinity’ in recent scholarship on men. In S. Pearce & V. Muller (Eds.), Manning the next millennium: Studies in masculinities (pp. 203–213). Bentley, Australia: Black Swan Press.Find this resource:

Hearn, J. (2004). From hegemonic masculinity to the hegemony of men. Feminist Theory, 5(1), 49–72.Find this resource:

Hearn, J. (2012). A multi-faceted power analysis of men’s violence to known women: From hegemonic masculinity to the hegemony of men. The Sociological Review, 60(4), 589–610.Find this resource:

McCarry, M. (2007). Masculinity studies and male violence: Critique or collusion? Women’s Studies International Forum, 30(5), 404–415.Find this resource:

Walby, S. (2009). Globalization and inequalities: Complexity and contested modernities. London, U.K.: SAGE.Find this resource:

West, C. & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1(2), 125–151.Find this resource:

West, C. & Zimmerman, D. H. (2009). Accounting for doing gender. Gender & Society, 23(2), 112–1222.Find this resource:

Wetherell, M. (1998). Positioning and interpretative repertoires: Conversation analysis and post-structuralism in dialogue. Discourse & Society, 9(3), 387–412.Find this resource:

Wetherell, M. & Edley, N. (2014). A discursive psychological framework for analyzing men and masculinities. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 15(4), 355–364.Find this resource:

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