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Masculinity In The Workplace Essay, Research Paper


The concept of masculinity first emerged during the early stages of the modern industrial revolution. With the rapid progress of technology, the conditions of living became better and the traditional definition of masculinity changed. Today, in the modern workplace of America, masculinity is a factor that has to be taken into account by managers and also by employees. It plays a crucial and distinctive role in the way people will interact with each other and shapes the way relations of power and hierarchy are formed.

The ancient concept of masculinity was that men didn?t choose to work because they enjoyed it, but rather because they had to do it, in order to be called men . After that, men began thinking that the worst that could happen to a man was to be dependent on a woman , which would mean losing all manhood. At that period, male-dominated work began to rise, because male workers and owners agreed to exclude women from the most important emerging sectors . Concurrently, the concept that man should be the only one providing for the family emerged .

Masculinity is different for everyone and when different people get in contact with each other, their own perception of masculinity can create conflicts. A good place to find these kinds of examples is the workplace because it is there that men will spend most of their time and where they get a chance to affirm their own masculinity.

Research tends to show that ?specific masculinities often crucially shape acts of shopfloor resistance.? Which means that power and gender are still affecting the work environment a lot, because men will always try to affirm their masculinity in the work place. This research also determined that employee skills, upon which managers have to constantly rely, are closely related to gender. Furthermore, it showed that within the members of the same sex, skills are also influenced by masculinity. It is the fact of being more masculine than someone else is that will determine not only the skill level but also the position relative to other of a peculiar worker. As an example of that, there is a manual worker in a big construction industry that says that responsibilities and specific tasks on the field are assigned and determined not by the knowledge level of a worker but rather by his masculine attitude . He explains that this masculine attitude can consist of throwing beers bottles or swearing in front of his coworkers, directly on the field or outside of work.

Another manual worker says that in order to affirm his masculinity and thus his place among his peers, he uses sexual discourse that defines the men?s sexuality as the center of his life and as something that one could never get enough of . He says that an important role of this discourses is to reduce woman to a sexual and docile object, even if he admits that his wife wouldn?t appreciate it at all and that he wouldn?t dare say it in front of her.

Another research study by Laurie Telford suggests that men in order to affirm their masculinity will try most often to gather with people that tend to verify their own concept of masculinity and that they will try to build ?a support network ? based on what they can compare themselves to. This suggests, for example, that if someone is not able to identify with one or more of his direct coworkers, this man will be rejected or discriminated against unjustly because he just can?t fit in. This approach may yield another problem because it would tend to freeze relations only based on one concept and will diminish the possibilities of advancement in a peculiar hierarchy or network.

The careerr orientation of a man is also influenced by masculinity. In fact, David L. Collinson believes that it is a major factor in the decision process of choosing a carrier for certain men . He conducted several interviews, mostly with middle-class manual workers, and was able to identify a pattern in the answers he got. Most the workers interviewed said that they wouldn?t see themselves doing any other job and that they feel happy and fulfilled in their occupations. One worker, Harry, says that ?being a manual worker is a source of masculine identity both in the public sphere and in the private sphere at home .? Others said that this line of work was made for them because they are tough men needing to do a tough job in order to affirm their masculinity . Collinson also noted that white Anglo-American workers mostly gave these kind of answers, which can be related to the old Mediterranean definition of masculinity.

Masculinity and continuous employment are also closely related, as Collinson suggests . Being unemployed or fired from a job can be a devastating experience for man. When all of a sudden a man finds himself unemployed, he loses all of his reference points, and it is not only the loss of his earning power that generates the most problems but the concept of being a man that is destroyed.

Masculinity is shaped in the early stages of life. As author Christine Williams says, boys and girls learn to have different aspirations throught textbooks, schools and sports . She says that boys are trained to be masculine early in their education and are thought to develop their typical masculine qualities through sports and competition.

Another fundamental concept explained by Williams is hegemonic masculinity. It is a concept that was first introduced by R. W. Connell and he defines it as follows: ?The socially dominant form of masculinity in any given historical period. Qualities currently associated with hegemonic masculinity include physical strength and bravado, exclusive heterosexuality, stoicism, authority, and independence.? According to Martin Kilduff and Ajay Mehra, male hegemonic masculinity is specially present in elite MBA schools where students learn to develop typical hegemonic qualities such as aggressiveness and competition. Furthermore, a statistical study conducted by Ely in 1995 showed that in the elite MBA schools, only fifteen percent of the students enrolled were females. This shows how still today the upper-level education system is sex-segregated.

This concept of hegemonic masculinity has been deeply shaped and emphasized by the media, the television and such movies as ?Rambo.? However, Collinson says that our sense of masculinity is shaped by one?s sense of personal freedom and independence. In addition, James Messerschmidt says that man maintains his masculinity through ?socially structured practices. ? Such as gathering with friends in a bar.

One reason that the workplace is still gender-oriented is because of the unequal distribution of household labor in most families . Men are favored because of qualities associated with masculinity and a research study showed that for a man and a women occupying the same job, the man will sometimes be paid more than thirty percent more than the woman will.

However, some men have a different perception of their masculinity. For the past twenty years some men have started working more and more in women-dominated fields such as elementary school teaching or social work. In fact, in 1990, more than 500000 men were involved in professions such as librarian, social work, nursing and elementary school teaching. Some of these, when asked, said that they didn?t had any problem with that kind of job and that they felt happy and fulfilled . Others also said that it was a good alternative to male dominated careers because they usually received preferential treatment and their advancement is facilitated. This is what author Williams refers to as:? The glass escalator .? She developed this theory by conducting several research studies and she came to the conclusion that men working in these professions get advancement easier and faster than women will, because they are the only authority figure in this environment.

In conclusion, masculinity is playing a major role in the workplace of America. Today, more than ever, it is a fact that should be accounted for in any business. It should become a prominent factor in decision regarding employment and work status.

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