• Lise Hedegaard Schiølin
  • Maria El-Mallah Søgaard
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
Recent social and cultural movement towards breaking down traditionally constructed binary gender categories has not only rendered the collective understanding that gender is more fluid than previously accepted, but has also heightened the collective awareness that traditional gender classifications were socially constructed rather than naturally imparted. With such understanding, opportunity for progress emerges. However, as the contemporary discourse progresses, traditional binary gender indicators remain relevant measures to determine potentially heightened inclinations towards violence against women.
This thesis explores how understandings of masculine gender can contribute to an awareness that sexually abusive behavior towards women is a social problem. Because the thesis examines a current social issue that is constantly and perpetually in flux, it works to outline a snapshot of the social reality in which contemporary definitions of masculinity are constructed.
Thematic and structural narrative analysis of 17 men's stories about sexually abusive behavior towards women in the podcast series Grænseland reveals how societal and culturally embedded heteronormative CIS gender stereotypes continue to determine how the binary genders are constructed. Gender definitions and expectations are formed by embedded norms that are imparted and stored from childhood and which persist and are cultivated through adolescence and into adulthood. By repetitions in actions and language use, gender stereotypes are reproduced and perpetuate an inequitable distribution of privileges amongst the genders. Masculinity is constructed between men and for men; the threat of non-acceptance from other men weighs more heavily on binary male gender cultivation than does the threat of non-acceptance from women. Through analysis of the participant men's retrospective narratives, it is possible not only to achieve an understanding of their past experiences, but also how they position themselves today; despite their collective inclination to distance themselves from their experiences in youth, we still find deposits of traditional gender stereotypes in their contemporary language and identities.
With #MeToo, a new social reality is constructed, and the long established discursive framework for gender construction and analysis has commenced to disintegrate. Men now find their behaviors and gender identities in the spotlight. With this new wave of scrutiny, abusive behavior towards women can no longer be legitimized by mere virtue of the masculine gender identity. A new discursive framework must now be created, and within the process of redefining the frameworks for gender discourse, women are empowered to redefine and reposition what it means in society to be a man.
In Denmark, reactions to #MeToo have generally been delayed, have failed to gain resonance in media coverage, and have failed to obtain commensurate political recognition in the public discourse or--with the exception of labor market contexts--to result in political initiative. This thesis discusses how the structural recognition of sexually abusive behavior towards women in public and intimate spaces is societally necessary and must be considered and treated as a societal problem rather than an individual one. In light of particular analytical findings, the thesis reflects on how the establishment of a new and decisive societal framework (e.g., via legislation) can likewise bear the requisite foundation for the societal articulation of sexually abusive behavior towards women.
The understanding that gender is something we do allows us to cease the embedment of gender as a firmly fixed category and creates the potential for the deconstruction of entrenched gender stereotypes. The thesis clarifies through the study of modern masculinity constructions that operate and manifest between the dated “macho man” and “femme” norms. The thesis recognizes a gray area for the interpretation of situations, sensations and emotions within the context of male interaction with women. The personal narratives examined reveal that there exists a profound uncertainty amongst men about the future character of interactions between men and women--a future which shall and must be informed and defined by men’s increasing awareness of the parameters of their sexually abusive behavior towards women. A related question revealed and considered herein is whether women will now position themselves in a place of Firstness. With the position of Firstness typically follows privileges and a special place in the gender hierarchy, potentially creating a byproduct of a one-sided narrative of abusive behaviors. The thesis considers and discusses throughout how we can ensure that progress in binary gender stereotype disintegration will not perpetuate merely a fight between the genders, and how we can prevent an unequal power relationship wherein there fails to exist a common language for understanding gender identity’s role in the perpetuation of sexual abuse. For inspiration in the examination of this query, the thesis looks to Sweden, which through teaching about gender stereotypes and breaking with embedded cultural norms has promulgated new and different ways of performing masculinities and has thereby created a new and progressive dialogue among young people about gender stereotypes. The thesis posits that proper attention to Sweden’s focus on breaking down deeply embedded cultural gender norms may contribute to creating a common language about the range of male gender identification markers that exists not only in the contemporary construction of masculinity, but, indeed, also in male-female sexual behaviors and encounters. The thesis argues that by creating a common starting point through a common, shared gender language, we may also be able to come closer to realizing a common, shared interpretation of boundaries within the context of flirtation and sexual discourse and, thereby, prevent sexually abusive behavior from being experienced or perpetrated.
The thesis further posits that, within the Danish context, the field of social work must acknowledge and resolve the persistence of gender stereotypes and dated understandings of masculinity if we are to prevent sexually abusive behavior. It is incumbent on the field to integrate its knowledge of these phenomena to reach a shared understanding that sexually abusive behavior towards women starts in men, rather than continuing solely to target efforts on the victims of sexual abuse, the women.
In conclusion, the thesis emphasizes the need to create a common language at several levels of society in order to be able to prevent sexually abusive behavior towards women.
Publication dateJun 2021
Number of pages80
ID: 413356438