Richardson and Goff masculinity threat summary

Gender theorists argue that men are constantly concerned with how they are being rated by other men Frank Rudy Cooper, “Who’s the Man?”: Masculinities Studies, Terry Stops, and Police Training, 18 COLUM. J.GENDER & L. 671 (2009) and are also chronically
anxious that they will be found wanting in their masculinity Angela P Harris, 2011 Heteropatriarchy Kills: Challenging Gender Violence in a Prison Nation

Social psychologists have confirmed the precarious nature of masculine identity. Men generally see manhood not as a developmental guarantee, but as a status that must be earned…and once manhood status IS earned, it can be lost relatively easily.
– Weaver et al, 2010 The Proof is in the Punch: Gender Differences in Perceptions of Action and Aggression as Components of ManhoodSex Roles, 62;
– Vandello et al, 2008 Precarious Manhood, J of Personal and Social Psychology, 95.

Threatened masculinity will make men engage in riskier financial behavior Jackson, M.C., 2013, Male Pattern Blindness: The Consequences of Defending Manhood, unpublished doctoral dissertation.

Furthermore, threats to masculinity can lead men to engage in violence.  This is likely to occur “in contexts in which physical aggression is the most salient masculine option or other routes to restoring manhood seem less attractive or effective.” Vandello et al

Numerous studies confirm that masculinity threats can result in aggressive behaviors. In one of these studies, men whose masculinity was threatened chose afterwards to punch a bag rather than to solve a puzzle. Additionally, they punched the bag harder than men whose masculine identities had not been threatened.
Bosson & Vandello, 2011, Precarious Manhood and its links to action and aggression, Current Dir in PsychSci, 20

In another study, men performed more pushups when threatened than when not. Phillip Abita Goff, Brooke Allison Lewis Di Leone & Kimberly Barsamian Kahn, Racism Leads to Pushups: How Racial Discrimination Threatens Subordinate Men’s Masculinity, 48 J. EXPERIMENTAL SOC. PSYCHOL. 1111 (2012)

Evidence also demonstrates that behaving aggressively can actually relieve the anxiety caused by a masculinity threat. Thus, when masculinity is threatened, aggressive behavior not only allows men to perform their masculine identity, but it also reduces their gender anxiety. Bosson & Vandello 2011

Men often respond to masculinity threats with aggression because physical aggression “is part of men’s cultural script for sustaining and restoring manhood.” This was confirmed in a study in which participants were asked to interpret the physically aggressive acts of another man whose masculinity had been threatened. Researchers found that male observers were more likely to explain these acts as a necessary response to the situation rather than resorting to explanations that attributed the behaviors to the actor’s personality. Weaver et al 2010

As the authors noted, “men display[] a unique sensitivity to the situational factors that compel men to defend their gender status with aggression.” Bosson and Vandello 2011

Their finding is all the more remarkable because, typically, people explain the behaviors of others with resort to dispositional rather than situational explanations, a psychological process known as fundamental attribution error.


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