Hegonomy, Binary & Heteronormativity

In week 3 of Constellation, ‘The Body in Society’, we looked at bodies and identity: reading masculinity on the body.

We looked at and learnt the meaning to three key words – hegonomy, binary, and heteronormativity. All three of these words were new to me, but they were really interesting to learn about and sparked many opinions and friendly debates among our group.

Hegemony: On the topic of hegemony, which is leadership or dominance over others, we looked in particular at hegemonic masculinity. In gender studies, hegemonic masculinity is the concept (made famous by sociologist R.W. Connell) that proposes the dominant social position of men, and the subordinate position of women. An example of a hegemonic man would be David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK. When looking at Cameron, one can see he dresses in an expensive suit, displaying his wealth and dominance clearly. The hegemonic concept also suggests that, just as a man in a well dressed in a suit and tie is a dominant and hegemonic male character, a man in just a casual outfit couldn’t be. In my opinion, I disagree with this concept, for example, Steve Jobs (the creator of Apple), was very rarely seen wearing a suit, although he is still considered in most peoples’ eyes as a hegemonic male.

Binary: We looked in particular at the gender binary, which is the classification of gender in two distinctly opposite forms of masculine and feminine. The term can describe a social boundary that discourages people from crossing or mixing gender roles. For example, a male would be assumed masculine appearance (such as short hair), character traits and behaviour, including a heterosexual attraction to the opposite sex. Personally, I feel that this is wrong representation and belief on genders, and that whether you are male or female, you have the right to both look and behave however you like, for example, a woman should be able to cut her hair short without it being considered wrong just because it’s not the ‘norm’. Also, homosexuality is not wrong just because it doesn’t fit with the stereotypical binary of being attracted only to the opposite sex. The gender binary reduces options for people to act outside of their gender role without coming under scrutiny, so instead, it is important to distinguish femininity and masculinity as descriptors of behaviors and attitudes, without tying them directly to the genders man and woman. There is plenty of evidence showing that dividing humans into the two distinct categories of men and women is problematic – by allowing for a more fluid approach to gender, people will be better able to identify themselves however they choose.

Heteronormativity: This is the belief that people naturally fall into distinct and complementary genders. It also asserts that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation that is the ‘norm’, and states that relationships are most fitting between people of the opposite sex. Because of the view this concept, it is often linked to homophobia, which a lot of people, including myself, disagree with.

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