Precarious Manhood

Pinel, E. C., Bronson, C. A., Zapata, J. P., & Bosson, J. K. (2018, April 23). I-Sharing After a Gender Status Threat and Its Implications for Attitudes Toward Gay Men. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. 

Despite patrarchal dominance of male supremacy, manhood itself is a relatively fragile social status. (Vandello et al., 2008).

Precarious manhood theory proposes three assumptions about the male gender role that distinguish it from the female gender role.
First, manhood is widely viewed as an elusive, achieved status, or one that must be earned.
Second, once achieved, manhood status is tenuous and impermanent. Men can lose manhood status by enacting stereotypically feminine behaviors or by failing to
demonstrate adequate levels of masculinity.
Third, manhood status is conferred primarily by others and thus requires regular, public demonstrations that center on themes of toughness, bravery, and antifemininity (Bosson, Vandello, Burnaford, Weaver, &  Wasti, 2009; Vandello et al., 2008; for reviews see Bosson & Vandello, 2011; Vandello & Bosson, 2013).

Real-world examples of men’s defensive reactions to gender threats abound as well. For instance, when men are outearned by their female relationship partners, they accordingly do less—and not more— housework, presumably as a way of restoring threatened manhood (Bittman, England, Sayer, Folbre, & Matheson, 2003). More chillingly, scholar and filmmaker Jackson Katz proposed that the epidemic of gun violence in U.S. schools arises from young men’s efforts to restore threatened masculinity (Earp, 2013). Similarly, some suggested that young men’s entrance into
violent and politically extremist militia groups may reflect, in part, a compensatory response to social and economic conditions that disempower and emasculate boys (Khan, 2010).


Gender dichotomization article:

Men take measures to distance the group “Men” from the group “woman”. JP: I’d argue this is because “woman” or “femininity” or wahtever is devalued and subjugated in our society “invites” (thats an evil word) domination. Not inherently. I gotta think about Jimmy Carter’s quote about how women’s uniqueness could have been exhalted rather than envied.

Vandello & Bosson 2008 PRecarious Manhood

The authors report 5 studies that demonstrate that manhood, in contrast to womanhood, is seen as a precarious state requiring continual social proof and validation. Because of this precariousness, they argue that men feel especially threatened by challenges to their masculinity. Certain male-typed behaviors, such as physical aggression, may result from this anxiety. Studies 1-3 document a robust belief in (a) the precarious nature of manhood relative to womanhood and (b) the idea that manhood is defined more by social proof than by biological markers. Study 4 demonstrates that when the precarious nature of manhood is made salient through feedback indicating gender-atypical performance, men experience heightened feelings of threat, whereas similar negative gender feedback has no effect on women. Study 5 suggests that threatening manhood (but not womanhood) activates physically aggressive thoughts.

Vandello & Bosson 2013 Hard Won and Easily Lost: Precarious Manhood Theory and Research

This article reviews evidence that manhood is seen as a precarious social status that is both difficult to achieve and tenuously held. Compared with womanhood, which is typically viewed as resulting from a natural, permanent, and biological developmental transition, manhood must be earned and maintained through publicly verifiable actions. Because of this, men experience more anxiety over their gender status than women do, particularly when gender status is uncertain or challenged. This can motivate a variety of risky and maladaptive behaviors, as well as the avoidance of behaviors that might otherwise prove adaptive and beneficial. We review research on the implications of men’s precarious gender status across the domains of risk-taking, aggression, stress and mental health, and work–life balance. We further consider how work on precarious manhood differs from, and can add to, work on individual differences in men’s gender role conflict. In summary, the precarious manhood hypothesis can integrate and explain a wide range of male behaviors and phenomena related to the male gender role.

This article reviews theory and research concerning manhood as a precarious social status. The precarious manhood thesis has three basic tenets: First, manhood is widely viewed as an elusive, achieved status, or one that must be earned (in contrast to  womanhood, which is an ascribed, or assigned, status). Second, once achieved, manhood status is tenuous and impermanent; that is, it can be lost or taken away. Third, manhood is confirmed primarily by others and thus requires public demonstrations of proof.

we (and others) often successfully manipulate manhood threats in our lab by inducing men to perform stereotypically feminine behaviors (e.g., Bosson, Vandello, Burnaford, Weaver, & Wasti, 2009; Weaver, Vandello, & Bosson, in press) or by offering them
feedback indicating that their psychological profile is similar to that of a woman’s (e.g., Vandello, Bosson, et al., 2008



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