Critical Pedagogical Strategies to Transcend Hegemonic Masculinity

by Amber E. George (Volume editor) Russell W. Waltz (Volume editor)
©2021 Textbook VI, 218 Pages


This book presents educational strategies for combating the harmful effects of hegemonic masculinity in the college classroom. The critical pedagogy presented in this book challenges some of the heteronormative tendencies present in the fields of media studies, literary studies, linguistic studies, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Why Critical Pedagogy?: Illustrating the Importance of Critical Pedagogical Strategies in the Classroom
  • Part One: Feminist Approaches to Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity and Sexism
  • Chapter One: “She Really Got You.” Transcending Hegemonic Masculinity at a College for Men
  • Chapter Two: We Are How We Teach: Black Feminist Pedagogy as a Move Towards the Legibility and Liberation of All
  • Chapter Three: “I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff”: Becoming Masculine in Fables
  • Chapter Four: Feminist Mythmaking: Reclaiming the Myth
  • Chapter Five: Implicit Attitudes and Explicit Harms: Combating Biases that Hinder Inclusivity
  • Part Two: Anti-heterosexist Approaches to Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity and Sexism
  • Chapter Six: “Sex≠Gender!” Reframing Cultural and Linguistic Assumptions in Undergraduate Courses
  • Chapter Seven: Grammatical Gender Trouble: Counteracting the Discriminatory Nature of Grammatically Gendered Languages
  • Chapter Eight: Putting the T and the Q into First-Year Composition: Using Queer Theory to Make Courses Trans-inclusive
  • Chapter Nine: Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity: An Argument for Reconstructing the Literature Classroom
  • Chapter Ten: Queer Pedagogy and Engaging Cinema in LGBTQIA+ Discourse in Africa
  • Chapter Eleven: Becoming an Ally in the College Classroom: One Front in the Battle Against Homophobia
  • Editors’ Biographies
  • Contributor Biographies
  • Index
  • Series index

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Introduction: Why Critical Pedagogy?: Illustrating the Importance of Critical Pedagogical Strategies in the Classroom


Critical Pedagogical Strategies to Transcend Hegemonic Masculinity goes beyond what many other critical pedagogy collections have contributed to the field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies since it brings together an entire collection of essays on practical critical pedagogical strategies for use in the classroom. An in-depth analysis of hegemonic masculinity is crucial to understanding how heterosexism and masculinity surfaces in the expanding interdisciplinary field of critical pedagogy studies. This collection is meant to make gender and sexuality visible so that educators can disrupt the hegemonic nature of masculinity; hegemonic masculinity is the normative ideal of manhood. As the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci (1992) once stated, hegemony saturates what we think of as common sense as it becomes part of our lived system of meanings and values. We take as our foundation that gender is performative: gender is what you do, not as much who you are (Butler, 2004). Thus, the “successful” genders are learned by copying normative or hegemonic examples that are emulated generation after generation. We end up reprocessing familiar stereotypes of what it means to be feminine and masculine in the traditional sense while omitting what it means to be queer and nonbinary in gendered performances. This collection is intended to be a corrective to generate inclusive pedagogical approaches that avoid reinforcing gender inequities.

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Sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia must be explored together as overlapping systems of oppression to demolish gender inequity. Sexism perpetuates rigid gendered stereotypes that keep men locked in patterns of masculinity that are toxic to not only women but also LGBTQIA+ members. Heterosexism denigrates and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, or community, which also uses sexism to keep shallow gender roles firmly in place. Furthermore, homophobia or the irrational fear and hatred of LGBTQIA+ identity, people, or perceived LGBTQIA+ behavior further contributes to this destructive pattern. Masculinity describes the complexity of the male social position, identity, and experience as men differ according to their other social identities, including race, socioeconomic background, disability status, and sexual orientation. Men must adhere to masculinity at all costs, often at the expense of women, queer individuals, people of color, people with disabilities, and others whom they abuse in their efforts to measure up as “real men.” Men often get locked into a guide of tokenizing women to repel emasculation and accusations of being queer because the fear of appearing gay (homophobia) keeps men exaggerating their masculinity. To ensure that no one gets the wrong idea about them, men often resort to sexist and heterosexist behavior that harms, limits, and destroys the lives of all those in its path.

Ignoring masculinity in academia and beyond perpetuates the power that keeps masculinity invisible, normative, and privileged. Making masculinity visible through reflective praxis and critical pedagogy will provide the tools needed to dismantle the most destructive aspects of inequity. Thus, we felt there is no better time to challenge hegemonically toxic masculinity for the harms it inflicts not only on vulnerable populations but also on the men themselves. Disrupting the stronghold of hegemonic masculinity invigorates gender and queer equity efforts and allows men to live unencumbered by antiquated notions of manhood. Unlocking the secrets behind hegemonic masculinity means that students and educators alike are offered the possibility of leading more vibrant lives with families and friends.

Critical Pedagogical Strategies to Transcend Hegemonic Masculinity interweaves theories of discourse, identity politics, feminism, critical race studies, queer studies, linguistics, religion, art, and film as a means of providing concrete strategies that educators can use to create inclusive engagement within the classroom.

Definitional Foundation

The current social climate in the United States and elsewhere has been one of social conflict and strife. A glance at the news or social media reveals that some ←2 | 3→citizens are active in promoting social justice issues, while others affirm structures of inequity. These same actions are enacted as microcosms within classrooms in the U.S. and abroad. Educators involved with critical pedagogy studies, and scholarship within research on hegemonic masculinity in higher education, can uniquely contribute to scholarship that fosters social change as well as influence others to join in the struggle against inequity. Within the walls of academia, students come to the classroom seeking knowledge, awareness, and often, inspiration to challenge assumptions that disadvantage LGBTQIA+ persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some of the most ardent supporters of fostering inclusivity and diversity are students seeking to improve their lives and the lives of others.

Critical pedagogy is defined as the practice of deconstructing scholarly works, media, and popular culture to search for deep (rather than superficial) meaning to uncover the social context and consequences of speech acts, propositional attitudes, implicit attitudes, societal customs, value judgments, norms, mores, and other socially entrenched means of expression (Friere, 1970; Shor, 1992; Giroux, 2011). The author of the label “critical pedagogy,” Max Horkheimer, sought to shift away from traditional pedagogy because he recognized the need to raise class consciousness, continuing in the traditions of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx (Horkheimer, 1937). Hegemonic masculinity and heterosexism have been ingrained within modern Western society through the sort of traditional pedagogy that Horkheimer rejected. It is only within environments that feature the application of a critical lens that individuals can be shown the causes, symptoms, and effects of hegemonic masculinity and heterosexism. Educators must raise the consciousness of their students like critical theorists of the past in the hope that educators succeed in awakening their students to promote equity.

What this book offers gender and sexuality studies is “illustrated” critical pedagogy. While plenty of high caliber scholarship has created a theoretical foundation for critical pedagogy in the classroom, educators still need a means for transforming their classrooms into spaces of inclusion where hegemonic masculinity and heteronormativity can be eliminated. We hope that by challenging hegemonic masculinity and heteronormativity in their classrooms, educators will be able to offer students a more equitable environment in which to share ideas, cooperate with their peers, and grow both academically and personally. The desire is to provide educators with a tangible guide that could prove invaluable during attempts to create an equitable learning environment for all students, and especially those students who identify as women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

This book is invaluable to educators who wish to create inclusive engagement in the classroom. Far too often, students self-segregate and create both mental ←3 | 4→and physical divisions in the classroom. Some of the concrete strategies and activities in this book can be used by educators to work through the mire created by hegemonic masculinity and form collaborative bonds with one another in the classroom. Establishing cooperative relationships fosters an environment of listening and reflecting upon the experiences of others, rather than traditional pedagogy that often pits students against one another during clashes of intellectual combat fueled by unchecked drives toward competition.

Part One: Feminist Approaches to Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity and Sexism

We have organized this book into two main parts to highlight how educators might disrupt hegemonic masculinity and sexism in their classrooms, according to Feminist and anti-heterosexist approaches. The chapters in Part One of this book investigate the grip that hegemonic masculinity, misogyny, and sexism has in the classroom. By examining traditional pedagogical practices and curricula, as well as providing strategies, activities, and conceptual models, educators will learn how to transform their classrooms into inclusive incubators for student learning.

In Chapter One, “She Really Got You: Transcending Hegemonic Masculinity at a College for Men,” Crystal Benedicks and Adriel M. Trott feature practical critical pedagogical engagement stemming from their experiences teaching at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest whose student body is comprised entirely of men. As a result of the unique student body at Trott’s and Benedicks’s institution, they are well-poised to explore the ways that hegemonic masculinity affects, and often limits, men students’ learning. In their chapter, Trott and Benedicks articulate pedagogical strategies that they have developed to help erode toxic masculinity and offer more nuanced and constructive possibilities for men to be and, thus, to learn. They approach this project at three different institutional levels. At the classroom level, they developed strategic pedagogies to circumvent the obstacles that toxic masculinity poses to student learning. These include careful attention to how competition manifests in the classroom, strategies to emphasize listening, ways of building trust in the classroom, and ways of fostering productive “failure.” At the faculty level, they developed a yearlong series of workshops beginning with a half-day all-faculty forum to articulate the problem of toxic masculinity in the classroom and to pool resources across disciplines and from various positionalities. At the programmatic level, they developed a gender studies minor (one of the only in the country populated entirely by men students) to help students think critically about masculinity. This chapter addresses the goals ←4 | 5→of this anthology, to “transform traditional discussions of gender to highlight how employing different pedagogical strategies, styles, and curriculum can change the oppressive and harmful impact of toxic masculinity.”

In Chapter Two, “We Are How We Teach: Black Feminist Pedagogy as a Move Towards the Legibility and Liberation of All,” Jenn M. Jackson and Hilary N. Tackie argue that it is not only masculinity that sits at the foundation of the academy, but masculinity defined as white, cis, able-bodied, middle-class, and heterosexual. Thus, as Black queer womyn, they consistently oppose the normative form of Western intellectual tradition. The methods and texts of traditional classrooms do not include Black queer womyn as they were never expected to possess them. The adherence to a queer Black Feminist pedagogy often does not come from training alone. Instead, it comes from academic experiences of exclusion, silencing, and intellectual and emotional violence. When bringing such an approach into the university classroom, Tackie and Jackson anticipate productive discomfort for many, but especially for white men, as Black queer womyn push for practices that actualize their legibility, recognition, and liberation. Tackie and Jackson discuss the development and realities of (queer) Black Feminist pedagogical practice through a synthesis of Black Feminist philosophers such as Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Patricia Hill Collins, in conversation with their own experiences, as well as Black radical tradition, and movement logics. Fundamentally, these logics and praxes allow for new forms of hegemonic resistance for students and educators while decentering exclusive masculinist traditions of academic knowledge production.

In Chapter Three, “I’ll Huff, and I’ll Puff: Becoming Masculine in Fables,” Jessica Ruth Austin discusses Fables, which was a comic book series featuring modern-day versions of fable and fairy-tale characters. Austin’s analysis suggests that the representation of masculinity in Fables is pro-Feminist, which is essential since the comic book genre and fandom has often been accused of producing hegemonic and toxic masculine characters. By using scholarly work from the fan studies discipline, Austin addresses violence in the narrative and how these stories can be framed as fighting against toxic masculinity. This chapter provides a Feminist pedagogy based on the “unruly woman” framework created by Kathleen Rowe (1995) to argue that there is also an “unruly man” in popular culture. Like the “unruly woman,” who uses mimesis to become overly feminine and thus subvert and twist patriarchal views of femininity to reclaim characters as Feminist, the “unruly man” described in this chapter does too. This chapter examines the masculinity portrayed in Fables, which shows that a male does not have to follow violent masculinity “to be a man” but also that violent actions taken are not always due to hegemonic masculinity but can be a product of mimesis. Readers will ←5 | 6→come to understand how Fables can be read as a Feminist text since it uses traditionally described as “subordinate” masculinities to characterize important male characters. This chapter provides a theoretical framework to provide academics and students a way to discuss popular culture texts and subvert the meanings of hegemonic masculinity that may appear in them. This pedagogical strategy can be used in academia to allow scholars to reclaim previously proclaimed hegemonically masculine characters and disrupt these narratives. Educators can adapt this framework to enact social commentary within comic books to empower female and queer perspectives within the genre.

In Chapter Four, “Feminist Mythmaking: Reclaiming the Myth,” Purnur Ozbirinci argues that myths are the narrative patterns that provide individuals with the necessary experience, language, words, or stories that shape their lives and identities, and unite a group of people. Thus, mythmakers have the power to adjust, manipulate, and change societies. However, for centuries some people were withheld from creating their myths and truths. More powerful groups, who could access the “word,” imposed their myths upon these “others.” One of these “othered” groups consists of women. For centuries, their identities, and the social roles required of them have been established by experts of the “word.” Today, women have discovered that their existence depends on their power to use the word. They will exist when their experiences find a name; when their myths are retold and accepted to link them to the contemporary social order. Paulo Freire (2005) proposes the oppressed take steps to achieve liberation. The first step for those who have been deprived of their power is to accept and to reveal their oppression, and then to commit to changing this oppressive system. The second stage requires the “expulsion of the myths created and developed in the old order” (Freire, 2005, p. 37). Following this pedagogy, women must continuously unveil the sexism in myths while creating and retelling their myths to progress into the future. Revisionist drama serves as a primary tool for producing and transmitting women’s “word,” their myth, their experiences, and voices. Ozbirinci uses drama/theatre to uncover the journey of the women playwright, turning into a mythmaker, in the pursuit of reclaiming the power to use the “word.” This chapter’s analysis provides examples from the rewritten versions of the myth of Oedipus, Antigone, Medea, and Philomela and Procne. The comparative analysis of such retellings coming from the perspectives of the historically suppressed figures decentralizes the power retained from the privilege to use the “word.” Therefore, exploring revisionism, rewriting, and mythmaking in the college classroom offers educators and students tools to challenge the status quo through praxis. The goal of such pedagogy in the academy must be to achieve cultural plurality in the classroom, to urge the students to “self-actualize” (hooks, 1994, p. 15), and to ←6 | 7→realize their power and responsibility in ending dehumanization to liberate the oppressed as well as the oppressor.

In Chapter Five, “Implicit Attitudes and Explicit Harms: Combating Biases that Hinder Inclusivity,” Russell W. Waltz concludes Part One by arguing that implicit attitudes work in tandem with hegemonic masculinity to pose a serious challenge to educators in the higher education classroom. When such biases are present, creating and maintaining an inclusive learning environment is difficult. Students who exhibit implicit biases, such as confirmation bias, disconfirmation bias, or outgroup homogeneity bias, while also harboring heteronormative views, struggle to participate in an inclusive classroom. The traditional pedagogical approach to counteracting these biases typically involves presenting students with critical thinking instruction grounded in informal logic. When this traditional approach to identifying and eradicating implicit biases fails, it is because such biases are affective rather than rational prejudices. Waltz explores pedagogical strategies that could enable students to reflect on implicit attitudes and hegemonic masculinity. Waltz hopes that when educators adopt an affective, rather than a rational approach to teaching course content, students will overcome their implicit attitudes that often thwarts educators’ efforts to create an inclusive classroom.


VI, 218
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. VI, 218 pp.

Biographical notes

Amber E. George (Volume editor) Russell W. Waltz (Volume editor)

Amber E. George, Ph.D., serves as Instructor of Philosophy and Cultural Diversity at Galen College. George has co-edited several books including Education for Total Liberation: Critical Animal Pedagogy and Teaching Against Speciesism (2019) and The Image of Disability: Essays on Media Representations (2018). She is the current editor-in-chief of the Journal for Critical Animal Studies. Russell W. Waltz, Ph.D., Ed.D., serves as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Galen College where he teaches courses in philosophy, critical thinking, and cultural diversity. He is the former editor-in-chief of Auslegung: A Journal of Philosophy. Waltz's interdisciplinary research focuses on examining the effects of implicit biases on critical thinking development and democratic discourse.


Title: Critical Pedagogical Strategies to Transcend Hegemonic Masculinity
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