Masculinity and the Justification of Social Inequality

Open Access
Weaver, Kevin Scott
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 04, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Theresa K Vescio, Thesis Advisor
  • Masculinity
  • Gender
  • Social Identity
  • Discrimination
  • Prejudice
Existing theory and research suggest that masculinity is a precarious identity, which when threatened can lead to aggressive and hostile behaviors, especially toward nontraditional women and gay men. Relatedly, endorsement of traditional masculinity norms has been found to predict negative attitudes toward women and gay men and greater acceptance of group-based inequality. The current research expands on these previous findings by examining how threats to masculinity may lead to acts of discrimination (Study 1) and greater acceptance of social inequality (Study 2) regarding women and gay men. Across studies, male college students were asked to take a test about gender knowledge and feedback was altered to either threaten or assure their masculinity. Following the test, men either allocated money to different student organizations (Study 1) or indicated their acceptance of discrimination and group-based inequality in society (Study 2). In both studies endorsement of traditional masculinity norms and identification with gender were measured as potential moderators. The results of Study 1 showed an interaction such that when men who did not highly identify with their gender were threatened, they cut more money from a women’s or gay men’s organization than when they were assured. The results of Study 2 showed that masculinity threat only directly led to denial of discrimination against gay men, though this effect seemed to be related to the salience of masculinity rather than threatened masculinity. There were also interactions indicating that (a) men who were assured in their masculinity and highly endorsed traditional masculinity norms denied more discrimination against women and (b) men who were threatened and highly identified with their gender accepted more group-based inequality. The practical and social implications of these findings are discussed in relation to the social construction of masculinity.