Critical Analysis of a “Real Man”: Masculinity Versus Hegemonic Masculinity

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction:
  2. Masculinity and hegemonic masculinity:
  3. Fashion and hegemonic masculinity:
  4. Hegemonic masculinity and consumption:
  5. Conclusion:


What should a “real man” be like? You may hear this couple of times, meanwhile, there are lots of voices trying to answer that question in the given society. So, who is defining the meaning / the methods of being a “real man”? does it come naturally? From which way the society keeps telling you? in this article, I will discuss about the relation between hegemonic masculinity, media, and consumption.

Masculinity and hegemonic masculinity:

Masculinity is about the relation between men and women and the relation between men and the other men. According to Connell, R (1995, p.67), societies have cultural accounts of gender, but not all have the concept of‘ masculinity’. there are some rules about ‘masculinity’, Sociologist Michael Kimmel explained:

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“The rules of masculinity? (a) No sissy stuff: avoid all behaviors that even remotely suggest the feminine. (b) Be a big wheel: success and status confer masculinity. (c) Be a sturdy oak: reliability and dependability are defined as emotional distance and affective distance. (d) Give ‘em hell: exude an aura of manly aggression, go for it, take risks. These four rules do not define masculinity that is biologically determined, nor do they even capture all masculinities in the United States today. But they do specify normative masculinity, that version—white, middle-class, heterosexual—that is often used as the standard against which other masculinities are compared and other social groups suppressed.”

Masculinities are numerous, hegemonic masculinity is not the only form available in society. There are a lot of elements that construct hegemonic masculinity: white, heterosexual, able-bodied, upper-class, cisgender, Christian .there are some of the words that describe it: rational, in-control, strong, physical, powerful, homophobia. In his analysis, Connell, R(1987, p.183) said: “ ‘Hegemonic masculinity is always constructed in relation to various subordinated masculinities as well as in relation to women.” The interaction between different types of masculinity is an important part of how the patriarchal social order brings the issue of gender inequality, which is two ways, both the power of men over the power of women and the power of some men over the other men. This concept has been widely used, analyzed, and discussed. Despite being abstract, hegemonic masculinity is still considered the key to men's dominance over women.

Fashion and hegemonic masculinity:

It’s a stereotype that fashion is considered a feminine domain. there is a tendency exists to assume that fashion is a female domain. But we shouldn't ignore the role of men play in the fashion industry as well. Clothing is playing the role of a medium, which could positively distinguish individuals from others in their surroundings. Clothing also serves as a symbol, which can quickly and easily tell others what kind of person you are or what kind of mood you are in. If you are a punk person, you might put on leather, denim, metal spikes or studs, chains, and military-style boots. costume defines initially.

From the research about hegemonic masculinity above, we know that it is very powerful, strong, and in control. So, what does society wants a hegemonic masculine man to wear, and what should they wear in order to be considered “as a man”? When it comes to hegemonic masculinity fashion, what’s the first thing comes to your mind? For me, it’s men wearing dark color suits and leather shoes. Art historian Anne Hollander (1994, p.55 and p.113) asserted, “The modern suit has provided so perfect a visualization if modern male pride that it has so far not needed replacement, and it has gradually provided the standard costume of civil leadership for the whole world. ” does these norms of outfits created by society in natural, cultural codes, historical process or are they created by fashion brands who want to capitalize and creates these stereotypes of how a man should wear?

Because of reform and opening, china is advancing to ever-higher levels. with the development of marketization and industrialization, the middle-class group is continuing to expand, and the request of asking mentally joy ran high, which result in the Chinese fashion industry, the magazine market is boosting. fashion magazines are the mass media that target the middle class. they gradually became popular in mainland China. But there were only a few women's fashion magazines. It was not until 1997 that the first male fashion magazine (Esquire CHINA) appeared in China. Through various visual effects and strong texts, has created a large number of Images of Social Elites who are well-dressed and with a very strong economic base for its readers. it has tried to give readers that idea about “what a man should be” or “how you should do to be a successful man”. The masculinity it constructed is highly praised by the patriarchal society and it has the character of hegemonic masculinity. has a clear class division of its readers. From the original white-collar workers to the later “successful” man, and now to the strongest, most influential people in the society. It can be seen that the male readers are served by having a certain social status and influence. I will try to analyze some covers to explain how (the media) constructs the hegemonic masculinity in the given society.

The magazine's cover is not only a magazine's aesthetic/reputation but also a selling point. To a certain extent, the selected cover character highlights the magazine's temperament and style, and also shows the idea and concept of the magazine. For ’s cover, most of them are a middle-aged man whose life has reached a certain level, and have made some achievements. Actors and pop stars are regulars on the cover of it. On the one hand, pop stars have certain popularity and influence which can lead the sales of magazines. On the other hand, a wide range of characters, and actors can effectively convey the value of the magazine.

By choosing Zhang Hanyu as the cover character, wants to present to the reader the idea of “tough man”. In one of the covers, he is wearing a leather jacket, holding a cigar in his hand, and has shaving cream on his face. the smile shows happiness. it looks like a successful man in his daily life. On the other cover, he is wearing a suit and has an expression of ambition on his face which looks like he is announcing his success to the whole world. The “tough man” image has the following characteristics: wise, indestructible, and successful. One of the key of presenting the “tough guy” is to the make physical and mental connections to each other. the cover constructs the “tough man” image through toughness, a strong body, and the feeling of spirit of the king. The muscles represent a strong physique and the wave on his forehead present times and all the experiences that make who he is. This is very< SHI SHANG XIAN SHENG >’s thing and it’s all about hegemonic masculinity. (

The person named Li Kaifu, is the former vice president of Google and the former president of Google China. As a businessman with overseas education background and working for Microsoft in the United States, Li Kaifu is described by the society “successful man. Many college students hope to become next LiKaifu in the future. He often has lectures talking about his experience, he is also answering people s questions patiently, so he has a large number of followers. He had lectured than 300 times in universities in China, working 20 hours a day, he is still energetic. He is a good president, a good mentor, a good husband, a good dad ... According to the above description, Mr. Fashion presents us with a sense of social responsibility man. presents us with some nearly “perfect images” of man: the good virtues of gentleness, courtesy and politeness, a strong sense of responsibility, and always pay attention to his appearance as well, which have always been elements of hegemonic masculinity. “Xiao Xian Rou”

Hegemonic masculinity has traditionally been presented for a very long time in China. Before reform and opening, man was more tending to wear suit or very settled colour set. However, with the changing technological developments of communication, internet is getting more and more influence on the beauty standards. An internet buzzword that used to describe girlish young males quickly became popular, “XIAO XIAN ROU”( little fresh meat), made in 2014 across China and the wider Asia region. it was used to describe Korean pop singers by their Chinese fans, later it’s been used in common life. in particular, to men who appear good looking in nature, his skin is so delicate and smooth, innocent, with an appeal which is often cross genders. which they look a bit girlish. They are usually much more attractive to others, when it comes to “little fresh meat” celebrity, noticeably they have more opportunities to work with fashion and beauty brands, because they have a huge fan base in general .Luhan, a Chinese singer, is one of the first celebrity of this phenomenon. he got the chance to work with l’oreal, KANS, MEILISHUO ( chinese online fashion shopping application for female)and so on.(Lu han, L’oreal 2015)

In countries like China, where there are still a number of problems obstructing gender equality, like traditional sexual stereotype, wage gaps, homophobia and so on. the popularity of “little fresh meat” is a significant movement, because it allows the new representations of masculinity showed on screen. they are challenging the status of hegemonic masculinity in people’s mind.

Hegemonic masculinity and consumption:

According to Breward, C. (1999,p.1-p.2).the year between 1860 and 1914 is seem as important moments in the history of mass consumption. women took the charge of the representation of consumption .the majority of males are assumed to have been absent from this sphere of activity ,it was mostly taken ,or they were convinced of its unworthiness by society with feminine ‘vanity’ or ’susceptibility’. Breward, C. (1999, p.24)also mentioned that the psychologist J.C.Flugel identified in order to play out of appropriate masculine identities, men relinquished aesthetic control over their clothing.

Nowadays, still some collections convey the idea of hegemonic masculinity. brands like diesel , it has a perfume commercial which contains a lots of masculine has the scene of fame as well. Neymar Jr, an international soccer star, played in the advertisement. (

Today, with the continuous growth of gender mobility and the development of LGBTQI rights in Western society, many brands are less scared. Whether traditional or new brands, they are attracting male customers by giving idea of diversity rather just simply define what a man should be like. Alessandro Trincone (Fall 2019 NYFW)

This is a resistance to toxic and hegemonic masculinity and it is a complete rejection. We don't see much of the traditional things we expect in this work, this is a non-gender collection. To see man in skit which is pale purple polished fabric, and has features on it, it’s very attracting, as well as the make-up and the headwear. The construction of masculine beauty and character breaks through the conventional rules, and becomes abundant and gives more diversity.

People's ideological of fashion are apparently different now. fashion is changing, people are changing, man are changing. A new era has arrived, more and more forms of masculinity waiting to show up.


Taking mass media as the entry point, i explore what kind of masculinity it constructs and how it constructs the masculinity. SHI SHANG XIAN SHENG gives the idea of hegemonic masculinity, has a masculine appearance and a responsible mentality. Magazines use symbols, evaluations, ideas, etc. to create and construct meaning. Through a series of ways, we got involved into the world which constructed by the media's own language. unconsciously, we put weak, non-energised to “not as a man” zone, and it is one of the propagators of stereotypes. What we shouldn't ignore is that this idea of single form of masculinity that magazine keep giving to the readers may have some impact on daily life, because the magazine displays a special gender ideology to the audience while showing gender stereotypes. For men, the magazine constructs what men should do. Which leading to the differentiation of social roles. The popular buzzword 'little fresh meat' on the Internet is a good symbol of diversified masculinity, which Promotes social inclusion. In consumerism, some brands are selling stereotypes to men, but there are still some brands that are constantly innovating and looking for new forms of masculinity. This action is of great value as it is helpful to realize the impact of the diversity and is essential to balance the social class.

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Critical Analysis of a “Real Man”: Masculinity Versus Hegemonic Masculinity. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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