Hegemonic Masculinity and Social Scripts in an All Male High School

Hegemonic masculinity, a social ideal of the “real man” was once described by Goffman like this: “In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports…Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself –during moments at least- as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior. (Goffman 1963,128) Basically hegemonic masculinity expresses those suave characters in movies that every guy wants to be such as Prince Charming or James Bond or John Tucker in terms of Rubin the hegemonic masculine male would be at the top of the pyramid and fit under all the good categories of the charmed circle. (Rubin 1984,102)He would never be called a “fag” and he would have all the privileges in the world granted to him. He is the ideal male and has the ideal life.
This idea of the hegemonic masculinity plays a huge role in high schools especially all male catholic high schools. In high schools all over the United States there are social “clicks” and groups that end up developing a high school hierarchy. This social constructionist hierarchy is one that has been caused through “social interaction that creates meanings and understanding…we create what we understand and believe.”(Smith 2009) This quote explains how this high school hegemonic masculinity has come about it explains that we ourselves have created this ideal, and it’s us that have separated this “real man” to stand above his peers. This “real man”, this hegemonic masculinity in high school is basically a tall handsome male, the best at every sport he plays, a gorgeous girlfriend, strong and athletic, he is catholic, everyone wants to be his friend, he is funny, wealthy, and he basically gets away with whatever he wants. This man actually existed and his name was Joe. His name is important because he will be referenced throughout this paper.
In an all boys Catholic high school there are multiple groups of people and a pyramid much like Rubin’s is formed. “Becoming a man is a matter of constructing oneself in and being constructed by the available ways of being male in a particular society. It is a matter of negotiating the various discourses of femininity and masculinity available in our culture, those powerful sets of meanings and practices which we must draw on to participate in our culture and to establish who we are. “(Gilbert & Gilbert, 1998, 46–47) We have the ideal hegemonic masculine guys at the top, usually the best football players that get all the girls, they are wealthy, their name means something. Under these guys are usually the “cool kids”, maybe to cool to play certain sports but they still get the girls, some of them get the grades, but these kids know how to party and they definitely like to talk badly about other people. Under these kids it is anyone that is athletic whether or not they get the girls but must at least get some action, it matters that they play sports and are athletic, they still have something in common with the hegemonic males. Just like Rubin said, “Individuals whose behavior stands high in this hierarchy are rewarded with health, respectability, legality, social and physical mobility, institutional support, and material benefits.” (Rubin 1984, 100) Under these kids is where most people start getting teased, first its the kids that are still somewhat in shape but they don’t play sports, they are still friends with people higher up on the pyramid and they still go to and are invited to all the parties. Under them are the intellectual kids the ones that have all the brains, the ones that get straight “A’s” this group is divided into two. The ones that are willing to help and possibly share answers with kids above them, these boys are more popular than the ones beneath them who are mostly quiet and for whatever reason hate all the people above them. Underneath the shy, quiet yet smart kids that don’t tend to get any girls are the “weird” ones that have been categorized as “weird” through different social situations. These are the kids that may or may not be smart. It turns out that some of these kids are genius while others tend to flunk but regardless they do not get the girls, they are not wealthy, they don’t get along with anyone outside of the group, they are ignored by almost everyone and they are indeed the bottom of the social pyramid. As Rubin put it, the people whose “Behavior or occupations fall lower on the scale, the individuals who practice them are subjected to a presumption of mental illness, disreputability…restricted social and physical mobility and loss of institutional support.” (Rubin 1984, 100) These boy that are on the bottom of the pyramid get all the ridicule they are called “fags”, “losers”, “weird” pretty much anything that they could be called they are called. They are called “fags” because as Pascoe puts it, “Becoming a fag has as much do to with do with failing at the masculine tasks of competence, heterosexual prowess and strength or an anyway revealing weakness or femininity.” (Pascoe 2005, 107) These boys on the bottom of the pyramid as compared to Joe would be considered “fags” by everyone in high school. They simply didn’t match up to this ideal of a hegemonic masculinity. They played band instruments instead of throwing a football, they sat around sometimes alone instead of playing basketball during lunch break. These kids did not get the girls and they did not go to parties. In high school these boys are usually considered “fags” due to society. Another quote “ The relationship between adolescent masculinity and sexuality is embedded in the specter of the faggot”(Pascoe 2005, 106) explains that in adolescence any boy who doesn’t meet the requirement of masculinity and sexuality is considered a “faggot”. These boys at the bottom have been victimized and placed in this pyramid of society through many different social techniques (Smith 2009). These boys have been affected through ostracism as they have been excluded from the “cool crowd” they have been victims of ridicule and gossip and the biggest of all, society has set an internalization of norms that sets aside these boys from the hegemonic ideal.(Smith 2009) This internalization of norms has made a large portion of adolescent society to recognize these kids as “faggots” even outside of their own high school. “There is no singular, unified discourse of masculinity—masculinities are linked to each other and constitute a hierarchical relationship (Connell, 1995; Webb & Singh, 1998). Subsequently, some masculinities may be more ‘at risk’ than others, and many are ‘constantly on the offensive and the defensive and in need of regular maintenance, renewal, repair and adjustment’ (Kenway, 1995;Kenway & Fitzclarence, 1997, p. 120). Nonetheless, each and all discourses of masculinity bring material consequences for those who take them up.” (Dalley-Trim 2007, 201)
Back to the top of the pyramid where our hegemonic masculine male, Joe, stands we see a much different set of circumstances. He gets all the privileges handed to him, in fact the part that he is white gives him even more privileges. “Obliviousness about white advantage, like oblivious about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all.” (McIntosh 87, 1995) Yes, Joe was one of the star athletes but there were many others. The football team was almost state champion with our top quarterback getting injured during the beginning of the season and was out the whole season, so obviously there were other star players than Joe. During actual school hours Joe was able to get away with everything, if he wanted to leave class he could and he was able to go off campus for lunch, which less than 5 people could get away with. Other teammates who were black didn’t get these same privileges, yes they got more privileges than most of the people at school but they couldn’t get away with the stuff that Joe got away with. Joe was white and that made him the very tip of the pyramid and everyone else trickled down below him. Joe once again was the ideal hegemonic masculine male and most others that were star football players were black therefore failing at possibly only one, yet still failing at Goffman’s definition of hegemonic masculinity. (Goffman 1963,128) Another privilege that is given to Joe is that he can be rude and sexually harass women but he gets away with it even though he has a girlfriend. All the girls want him regardless of this, to Joe this is natural to harass girls he know he’s the hegemonic male and that society has made him what he is today. A perfect quote to explain this is, “The analysis is grounded in the work of masculinity scholars such as Connell (1987, 1995) in that it attempts to explain the subject positions of the interviewed men- not the abstract and genderless subjects of patriarchy but the gendered and privileged subjects embedded in this system.”(Quinn 2002, 548) Since the hegemonic male is the ultimate ideal it’s just naturally embedded in our system that he can talk about girls however he wants. Its societies doing that has given Joe this sense of entitlement to the point where he feels above the law.
Basically we come down to one idea about high school that makes it different for all people. The idea of social scripts (Smith 2009) that people must play to fit in. A social script is something that everyone plays but certain people have different scripts. Social Scripts are described as “ A complex set of learned responses to a particular situation that is formed by social influences.”(Smith 2009) With these building blocks known as social scripts we can place people into categories, the type of categories explained in the social pyramid. These scripts and social pyramid then make up the idea of a play, such as the play by which Goffman sees the world. Goffman calls it the dramaturgical model of interaction (Goffman 1956) where we see “people as actors and roles as performances presented before audiences in particular settings”. (Smith 2009). Through scripting theory we understand doing hegemonic masculinity, “doing’ hegemonic masculinity becomes a dynamic, socially and historically sanctioned performance that is generally rewarded with power and popularity for young men in schools and the broader community. Hegemonic masculinity is not just the form of masculinity that is culturally dominant, signifying a position of authority, leadership, success and being in control, but is the ‘expression of the privilege men collectively have over women’ (Connell, 1996, p. 209). This echoes Kimmel’s point that ‘the very definitions of manhood we have developed in our culture maintain the power that some men have over other men and that men have over women’ (1994, p. 125)(Robinson 2005, 22)
With these social scripts we get a glimpse of the world. We get to see how being in an all boys school setting doesn’t differ to much from the general social scripts played out in most settings. The privileged are still the privileged and the hegemonic ideal still gets all the respect of his peers. We see how men relate with men and see who becomes popular versus not popular.. It’s the social constructionist idea that prevails when explaining these things, that society decides our direction in life and creates our path whether we are taking the hegemonic masculinity easy path of life or this other view of men and their much harder path to succeed in society.





Goffman (From Intro of Gendered Society Reader)



John Tucker Must Die segment 1

John Tucker Must Die segment 2

Not Another Teen Movie segment

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