Lumb, Marcus (2012) A Critical Realist Analysis of Masculinity: Men Gravitating to a Dominant Masculine Norm. Doctoral thesis, University Of Huddersfield.

This thesis documents a qualitative study investigating common patterns that cut across the behaviours of white, heterosexual, working and middle-class men. Previous literature has reported that men’s behaviour during their micro social relations is often risky and potentially harmful. This study provides an important contribution to knowledge regarding the motivation behind these patterns of behaviour.

The research is rooted within a critical realist philosophical perspective. Of key importance are the concepts of a dominant masculine norm, as a pre-established representation of social reality, common patterns of men’s behaviour, as occurring during relations between men, and social class dynamics, specifically amongst the working and middle-class. Data were gathered from four focus groups, two with working-class men and two with middle-class men, and from one to one interviews with the same respondents. Template analysis was used to thematically organize and analyse the recorded accounts.

Masculinity emerged in the data as a dominant, socially pre-established representation which establishes the transcendence of vulnerability as an esteemed form of men’s behaviour. Following the data, masculinity constitutes but one of a multitude of men’s social identities; with men gravitating to the dominant masculine norm within those contexts when they perceive their status as ‘masculine’ to be under threat. In this sense, men and masculinity emerged as separate constructs, with some men and women having the freedom to gravitate to both masculine and feminine gender norms. Men, during relations between men, police one another’s gravitations to the dominant masculine norm, ostracising those who expose vulnerability. As such, all-male domains emerged as the main context in which men demonstrate their masculinity. The data suggested that patterns of subordination and domination are common among groups of white, heterosexual men with similar social and material resources. The subordination of women and less valued varieties of masculinity emerged as being a by-product, rather than a direct objective.

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