Deliberation Guide for Addressing Hegemonic Masculinity in Davidson Greek Life and Eating Houses


A Deliberation Guide for Addressing Hegemonic Masculinity in Davidson Greek Life and Eating Houses

Central Question

How does Davidson Greek Life and Eating Houses embody and perpetuate hegemonic masculinity and unequal gender relationships? And how can Davidson Greek Life and Eating Houses begin to address and dismantle hegemonic masculinity within its institutions?

Intended Audience:

Davidson Greek Life organizations including all the college’s fraternities and sororities as well as Eating House members. I will abbreviate this group using the abbreviation (DGL&EH).

Organizations that fall under DGL&EH include:

  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
  • Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.
  • Connor Eating House
  • Rusk Eating House
  • Turner Eating House
  • Warner Hall Eating House
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
  • Kappa Sigma Fraternity
  • Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc.
  • Phi Delta Theta Fraternity
  • Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity
  • Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

General Format:

DGL&EH represents a considerable number of students at the college so this deliberation would need to take place in a large space. However, as someone who has gone through large group orientations, such as Davidson’s first year orientation, I can speak to how students disengage very quickly in these contexts. For that reason, I propose this deliberation to take place over a series of events that would take place over the course of a week. I propose that the DGL&EH themselves host these events and oversee running them. That way, the DGL&EH members will not feel like they are being talked at (which leads to disengagement), but rather will be responsible for talking with their fellow DGL&EH members about these important issues. That means that every DGL&EH organization will be responsible for putting forth three members who will form part of three Leadership Teams (1, 2 & 3) that will oversee that the sessions go as planned.

Specific Format:

The deliberation will be broken up into separate sessions. Each session will be no more than 2 hours so that they minimize interfering with people’s schedules. The first will be devoted to defining hegemonic masculinity so that everyone can be on a level playing field when it comes to discussing how it manifests in DGL&EH in the second sessions. This will involve DGL&EH members intermixing and splitting into groups of 20 members to review materials that define hegemonic masculinity and how it operates. Each group will then be responsible for creating their own definition of hegemonic masculinity and writing it on a shared document that will be used by all those participating in the deliberation. This first session will take place in the Lily Gallery and the first floor of Union which means there will be two simultaneous sessions so that there is adequate space. Members of the Deliberation Leadership Team 1 will be in charge of splitting up into two groups and leading the sessions at the two locations.

The secondary sessions will entail DGL&EH organizations each giving a 10-minute presentation on how their institution embodies and perpetuates hegemonic masculinity. Every member of each organization may not end up being able to speak during the 10-minute presentation but will be required to be present, nonetheless. Leadership of each DGL&EH organization will be in charge of ensuring full attendance. These presentations will be hosted in the Duke Performance Hall so that every non-presenting DGL&EH member can attend each presentation. Attendance will again be overseen by the leadership of each DGL&EH organization. Additionally, I propose putting together a review panel of faculty and students interested in offering follow-up questions and feedback for each of these presentations. Deliberation Leadership Team 2 will be in charge of ensuring that the presentations run smoothly and stay within their time limits.

The final session will entail each DGL&EH organization preparing a report on hegemonic masculinity. These reports will entail an organizational definition of hegemonic masculinity and an organizational response to the results of an anonymous form on instances and experiences of hegemonic masculinity (which every Davidson student would be able to contribute to). The report will also include an internal reflection of how the organization has embodied and perpetuated hegemonic masculinity as well as a section devoted to steps towards addressing and dismantling hegemonic masculinity within the respective organization. Leadership Team 3 will be in charge of compiling these reports and building a rudimentary website on which the reports will be posted for everyone to see.

Background & Shared Language:

What is hegemonic masculinity?

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, hegemonic masculinity involves “the configuration of gender practice that embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy– which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.” The definition also contends that “there are also subordinated or marginalized masculinities” with the existence of hegemonic masculinity. Thus, hegemonic masculinity not only subordinates women but also marginalized masculinities, gender identities and sexualities. That being said, there is no fixed image of a hegemonic masculinity, rather hegemonic masculinity is a relational concept that can change based on who is involved in the creation of an unequal gender relationship, which is the true basis for hegemonic masculinity. The term was coined by Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell in her 1987 book Gender and Power. Connell reformulated her concept with sociologist James W. Messerschmidt in 2005 to emphasize the relational nature of hegemonic masculinity and that “that this relationship is a pattern of hegemony—not a pattern of simple domination—that legitimates unequal gender relations.”

Why is it important?

Since hegemonic masculinity legitimizes unequal gender relationships, I contend that is a particularly important concept to address and dismantle. I also think that because of its relational nature, any work towards addressing hegemonic masculinity will require an examination of entire institutions and systems that perpetuate unequal gender relationships rather than individuals who might embody “dominant” forms of masculinity.

Why do sororities and eating houses have to participate?

According to sociologist James W. Messerschmidt, “all participants constituting an unequal gender relationship are collective orchestrators of hegemonic masculinity.” For this reason, sororities and eating houses, which are comprised primarily of women, should participate in this deliberation, as hegemonic masculinity not only impacts their membership but can also be “orchestrated” by their members through their participation in unequal gender relationships. One area where this could be explored would be cases where eating houses host joint events with fraternities.

Conversation Agreements:

While every member of DGL&EH organizations are required to attend each of these sessions, it should be acceptable for members to opt out of conversations that have the potential to bring up traumatic topics.

Members should demonstrate respect towards one another, and members of the leadership teams should collectively define what this looks like to maintain the collective nature of this deliberation.

These will be fairly public events, but members should agree towards keeping personal stories in the conversations they were shared in only.

Questions for Consideration:

  • How did hegemonic masculinity manifest itself at Davidson College before it began to accept women in the 1970s?
  • What are people’s current conceptions of hegemonic masculinity and where do they come from?
  • What is the difference between hegemonic masculinity and dominant masculinity?
  • Why is it, or why is it not, important to emphasize hegemonic masculinity in discussions around unequal gender relationships?
  • Is it possible to dismantle hegemonic masculinity?
  • Is hegemonic masculinity too narrow of a concept when considering unequal gender relationships?
  • Does everyone have the same understanding/conception of gender?

Reflections and Follow Ups:

After each session, participants should be encouraged to reflect on these questions. Perhaps there can be an award system for the most thoughtful responses:

What have you learned about hegemonic masculinity?

What are some manifestations of hegemonic masculinity in your Greek Life or Eating House organization?

What steps can be taken to address hegemonic masculinity at Davidson College, but specifically in its Greek Life and Eating House organizations?