Friday, December 10, 2010

Critical Analysis: Authoritarian Hegemony, Dimensions of Masculinity, and Male Antigay Attitudes

Article Reviewed:

Wilkinson, W. W. (2004). Authoritarian Hegemony, Dimensions of Masculinity, and Male Antigay Attitudes. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 5(2), 121-131. doi: 10.1037/1524-9220.5.2.121

This is a brief article review that I did for my critical research and statistics class. The study was interesting in that it did not confirm R.W. Connell's assertion that "hegemonic masculinity plays
a substantial role in heterosexual men’s antigay attitudes" - however, Wilkinson used a measure of authoritarianism as a stand-in, a "proxy," for hegemonic masculinity.

I think part of the outcome in this study can be explained by the choice to use an authoritarian measure rather than seeking out some other form of masculinity assessment that identifies traditional notions of masculinity without limiting it to an authoritarian type.

Back in 1994, if not earlier, Michael Kimmel had identified "Masculinity as Homophobia":
Homophobia is a central organizing principle of our cultural definition of manhood. Homophobia is more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay. "The word 'faggot' has nothing to do with homosexual experience or even with fears of homosexuals," writes David Leverenz (1986). "It comes out of the depths of manhood: a label of ultimate contempt for anyone who seems sissy, untough, uncool" (p. 455). Homophobia is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men.
To reduce this socialization process to a limited authoritarian definition is to seriously miss the point.

Further, as the author recognizes, the sample was not very representative, being largely white, college-aged males. Simply by virtue of being college students who agreed to take part in the study, they probably hold more liberal values as men and in relation to gay men than might the general population. Additionally, no effort was made to account for worldview, values stages, or ego development - one of which would be helpful in knowing where the subjects stand in terms of self/other conceptualizations.

My personal sense is that he chose his measures to get the results for which he was looking - a better study would have chosen scales that test the hypothesis rather than "data fishing."

Anyway, none of that made it into the brief article summary.

Critical Analysis: Authoritarian Hegemony, Dimensions of Masculinity, and Male Antigay Attitudes

Wayne Wilkinson (2004) examined R.W. Connell’s model of hegemonic masculinity (Masculinities, 1995) as it is related to and expressed through right-wing authoritarian religious beliefs, antigay bias, and the traditional values of masculine identity (i.e., masculinity is defined as that which is not feminine and not homosexual). Much of the earlier research on antigay bias had focused on the gender belief system (GBS) and how this collection of socio-cultural beliefs about what is appropriate for men and women shapes antigay sentiment. Wilkinson believes that right-wing authoritarian (RWA) beliefs around gender roles fosters an antigay biases in heterosexual men.

For the present study, Wilkinson proposed an examination of “the relationship of hegemonic thinking (as defined by Connell and measured in relation to RWA) to specific components of masculine role beliefs and the relation of those beliefs to male antigay attitudes” (p. 123).

His sample included 176 college-aged men at a medium-sized Midwestern public university. He administered the Male Role Norms Scale (MRNS; Thompson & Pleck, 1986) and the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS; O’Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986), as well as the the RWA Scale (Altemeyer, 1988) and the the six-item short version of the Christian Orthodoxy Scale (COS; Hunsberger, 1989). In addition, subjects answered shortened versions of LaMar and Kite’s (1998) original four component model (six items each from the Contact Apprehension, Morality Beliefs, Civil Rights Intolerance, and the Stereotypic Beliefs modules) that offered the greatest “factor loadings” referring to gay men (p. 125). Participants completed the surveys in groups of no more than 30 men, after which they were debriefed and thanked by the gentleman administering the surveys.

Wilkinson used Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) to analyze his data. However, it seemed assumed (personal disclosure: I know zilch about stats terminology) that the reader will find no obvious objection when he concludes: “The results of these factorability tests indicated that the present correlation matrix was suitable for EFA procedures” (p. 125). He also used a path analysis (using “maximum-likelihood estimations”) to “estimate the relationships of MSC (Masculine Status Concerns) and FAF (Fear of Appearing Feminine) to male antigay attitudes and to examine whether these relationships are mediated through their relationship to RWA” (p. 126). Wilkinson feels that his model (see figures 1 and 2, below) adequately tests Connell’s perspective that hegemonic masculinity shapes men’s attitudes toward gay men. In order to prevent the unintended influence of “non-normal data,” Wilkinson states that “all variables used in the present analysis were examined for univariate and multivariate normality and outliers” (p. 126).

In response to his initial research question, Wilkinson concluded that the present research did not support either a strong or a weak version of Connell’s hypothesis. However, the fear of appearing feminine (FAF) did have a significant correlation to antigay beliefs. He further concludes that his current findings lend added credence to the GBS approach to antigay attitudes that considers “heterosexual men’s disdain for gay men to originate in the masculine socialization process that teaches men what traits are considered feminine and best condemned in other men” (p. 128).

Among the proposed limitations are using a male-only, mostly Caucasian, college-aged sample. Previous studies found that antigay bias is higher both in minorities and in those with lower education levels. Wilkinson suggests future research might look at how education impacts heterosexual male attitudes toward gay men, as well as seeking a more racially diverse sample.

Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kimmel, M.S. (1994). Masculinity as Homophobia. Reconstructing gender: A multicultural anthology, 3rd Ed. Estelle Disch, Editor. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wilkinson, W. W. (2004). Authoritarian Hegemony, Dimensions of Masculinity, and Male Antigay Attitudes. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 5(2), 121-131. doi: 10.1037/1524-9220.5.2.121

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