The Other of Gender: Masculinity [1]

The notion of gender enables us to investigate not only the encounters of the ones considered women with roles assigned to womanhood but also the experience of the ones assumed to be men with manhood, as well as the interactions between masculinities and femininities in a matrix of power relations. Gender is also an analytical tool that uncovers the ways in which the binary gender system and many forms of its interpretations and reproductions shape practices and discourses of not only individuals, but also of institutions. Even though there has been gender-related research earlier, since 1960s, the notion of gender has started to be systematically used by scholars to challenge the narrowness of the content and the methods through which main assumptions of various fields of knowledge, such a psychology, sociology, legal studies have come about, serving as a productive toolbox with which we can uncover traditionally ignored dynamics in our path to justice.

Given the potential of the concept ‘gender’, sidelining the studies of masculinity and keeping it at a secondary axis compared to the ‘women’s rights’ discourse constitutes a lack in terms of practice of feminist struggles as well. Even though identity politics are significant for representation and visibility, they can come short of explaining the formation processes of identities as well as the distinct, relational and nuanced ways in which identities are experienced. Using Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity ^[2]^, this article aims at unpacking the patters of hegemonic masculinity in the northern part of Cyprus [3].

What is Hegemonic Masculinity?

Connell refers to Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony as he develops the concept of hegemonic masculinity [4]. Through the concept of cultural hegemony, Gramsci explains the dynamic in which the ruling classes aim to establish domination over the member of the ruled societies through managing their beliefs, perceptions and values to maintain existing hierarchies and unequal power relations, creating the impression that socially and economically constructed, unjust conditions are simply unavoidable. This way, the ruling classes intends to ensure their hegemonic positions in the societies.

Connell relates this observation on social classes to the relationships between gendered individuals, and the groups that they are categorized in, as they are also forced into hierarchical constellations through similar processes. According to Connell, there are three determinants of hegemonic masculinities that are further shaped by space and time. These determinants are patriarchy, relations of production and cathexis. According to Connell, broadly, men’s domination over women have been secured through the interactions of these factors. Notions of patriarchy and gendered relations of production might be more familiar to many, however, I would like to further emphasize the role of cathexis, as our local political discussions usually separate emotions from so-called rational thought, and do not associate the former with politics [5]. Formerly coined by Freud in the field of psychoanalysis, cathexis refers to subjects’ emotional associations and investments. In terms of generation and maintenance of hegemonic masculinities, this can relate to conditioning of desire, pleasure and affectivity in accordance with the norms promoted by the codes of cultural hegemony.

Even though hegemonic masculinity is an ideal, making its complete embodiment hard and rare, many men benefit from it as this ideal not only provides a framework for naturalized hierarchies in personal relationships, but also shapes the practices and normative discourses around institutions such as family, workplace, and the state. The technology of hegemonic masculinity not only defines normative and deviant femininities but also creates a line of subordinate masculinities associated with men whose practices and experiences fall beyond the dictates of hegemonic masculinity. Through categorization and numerous methods of shaming and differential inclusion of femininities and subordinate masculinities, hegemonic masculinity defines a social, political and economic playing field in which its superiority is secured and interests are served.

Hegemonic Masculinity in northern Cyprus


Violence and militarism is one of the major building blocks of hegemonic masculinity in the northern part of Cyprus. In this geography where the ones who are perceived as ‘men’ are forced to attend mandatory military service and annual military mobilization practices, military personnel teach at schools, history is diminished to war and military history, the so-called parliament passes a bloated budget, without any discussion, for the military and claims that there is no budget to support refugees, a chilling percentage of the land belongs to the military, the streets are shut down many times a year to celebrate military victories, militarism feels like water, like air. I grew up watching soldiers on duty holding killing machines whenever I looked outside of the window. Many men who have been belittled, put in hierarchies and subject to different forms of violence during their forced service learn how to treat the ones they perceive as inferiors through this experience among others. Not to break the intergenerational chain of violent masculinity, many young boys are presented with military uniforms and toy guns from early ages. One of the most common words of affection and appreciation for young boys is ‘pasham’, which refers to a high ranking political and military status that was active during the Ottoman era.

Violence is associated with masculinity. This does not mean that women do not get violent. However, hegemonic cultural signs normalize violence when perpetuated by men, therefore, allow violence to be a naturalized tool in men’s repertoire of power. In terms of cathexis, love for a nation and love for a woman, the will to own and to rule are intertwined. Our friends who have been forced to go through military training tell us that in the army, your rifle is your wife. In the context of relations of production, it becomes grueling for women who are subject to violence to leave their situation safely as they experience further marginalization in terms of exploitation of their labor through the nature of their jobs that pay less and demand more, such as emotional labor.

What happens to men who do not embody the impositions of hegemonic masculinity? In the masculinities literature, men with non-heterosexual orientations are positioned as performing subordinate masculinities, and this is true in our local context as well. While, for example, heteronormative rituals such as weddings occupy the public space of northern Cyprus, homophobic arguments such as ‘they can do whatever they want in their homes, but not in front of my eyes and children’ beg the question of belonging; where do other desires belong? Who guards the boundaries of belonging?

Similarly, another example of subordinate masculinities in our context can be the case of conscientious objectors. The ones who refuse to take part in the forced military service and/or rituals due to anti-sexist and anti-militarist concerns face being excluded from the social club of hegemonic masculinity, they are written out of history, and they are blamed for being ‘anti-social’ in military courts. A similar analysis on hunting, consumption of meat and masculinities has been made elsewhere [6].


Ulviye Mithat, who lived and wrote various articles about women’s status and rights in the northern part of Cyprus in the beginning of the 20th century describes the domination of men in politics as a habit left from ‘the times of war.’ She goes on to explain that the structure in which men would gather to make military decisions was later reflected on decision-making processes on all matters [7]. In the northern part of Cyprus, both within the context of representative democracy and public events or meetings during which ‘experts’ are listened to, men disproportionately dominate. Hegemonic masculinity requires a general lack of interest or habit to engage in domestic and caring labor, which are associated with femininity. Within this context, the concept of time becomes political. Political practices and discourses are mostly masculinized as time for politics becomes a resource available primarily for cis-men, and, their undeserved privileges are maintained through networks of brotherhood consolidated over time, although never without facing resistance. Within this construct, role of women is seen as mere enablers. Another concept that is politicized by hegemonic masculinity is space. The fact that politics has usually been discussed in traditionally masculine spaces such as coffeehouses and taverns constitute another way in which performance of hegemonic masculinity is practiced in politics.

As mentioned before, masculinities and femininities do not constitute stable and fully practiced guidelines. Rather, hegemonic and normative gendered ideals are constantly challenged, yet appropriation of discourses for justice usually precedes, and often even prevents, actual change in norms, mentalities and practices. Therefore, even though an increasing number of women and non-binary individuals have succeeded in infiltrating gendered spaces of politics in the northern part of Cyprus, these still are spaces of resistance for many who are not willing to adhere to the hegemonic habits they encounter.


Hegemonic masculinity imagines a subject that is heterosexual, and constant need of release, in which sexuality is closely associated with power rather than desire. Within this constellation, a broad range of women including trafficked sex workers, lovers and wives are positioned as the ones who do not have interests or desires of their own, but as the suppressants of someone else’s needs. Themes of sexual violence is central to homo-social communication, but is not limited to these spheres. They curse through fantasies of rape, and verbalize their anger by threatening to fuck someone without their consent. Such verbalizations seem to momentarily restore their faith in their otherwise fragile masculinity, which has been threatened for one reason or another. Like victors of war who are portrayed as sodomizing their enemies, hegemonic masculinity can turn a simple daily encounter into a war scene through language. As a man, are you in love with someone else considered a man? Don’t you make rape jokes with your bros? Have you not been to a night club yet? Then your masculinity, your hegemony can also be subject to interrogation, as you pose a threat to the brotherhood.


Challenging hegemonic masculinity requires a considerable amount of time, energy, solidarity and a will to create alternative discourses and practices. It does require unlearning and relearning, but this might not be sufficient as such; just as the ruling class will resist to give up its unearned privileges with its hegemonic tools through humiliation, violence, and production of so-called scientific and neutral knowledge about the Self and the Other(s), elites of the gender hierarchies will continue to do the same.
Gender roles, and norms about masculinities and femininities make temporary or ongoing deals with most of us, even killing some of us, to keep the business going as usual. As we demand legal changes to meet our most urgent needs, such as right to life and protection from violence, we cannot ignore the systematic gender hierarchies and their building blocks that require cultural resistance, innovative ways of protesting, and joyful ways of relating. Eagleton’s comment on the definition culture [8] is useful to evoke here: “Culture is a matter of self-overcoming as much as self-realization.”

References [1] An earlier, Turkish version of this article first appeared in the 349th issue of Gaile on 28.12.2015, and is available online through: [2] Connell, R. (1995) Masculinities, University of California Press. [3] It is worthy to note that Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity has been criticized for equating gendered performances of men with masculinities and women with femininities in a way that does not reflect gendered affiliations and performances of many, which is also limits the arguments of this article. Queer Studies scholars such as Jack Halberstam further complicated discussions of masculinities by elaborating on issues such as female masculinity See Halberstam, J. (1998) Female Masculinity, Duke University Press. [4] Bates, T. R. (1975). Gramsci and the Theory of Hegemony. Journal of the History of Ideas, 36(2), 351–366. [5] For a discussion of importance of affect in politics see Ahmed, S. (2004) Cultural Politics of Emotion, Routledge, New York. [6] Paralik, B. (2015) Avın ve Et Tüketiminin Normalleştirdiği Üstün Erkeklik, Gaile, 305. Access: (accessed on 22.12.2015). [7] Azgın, F. (1998) Ulviye Mithat ile Feminist Buluşma Nicosia: Meral Tekin Birinci Vakfı ve Kıbrıs Türk Üniversiteli Kadınlar Derneği. [8] Eagleton, T. (2000) The Idea of Culture. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.