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Open Access Publications from the University of California

What Would Jesus Do? Negotiating Hegemonic Masculinity in Religious Organizations

  • Author(s): Molina, Carolina
  • Advisor(s): Valdez, Zulema
  • et al.

This study investigates how men’s only church programs rearticulate notions of hegemonic masculinity. Specifically, this study examines two male-only programs, one English-speaking and one Spanish-speaking, within a non-denominational Christian organization in California’s Central Valley. Using qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews and participant observation, this study shows that masculinities are constructed by aligning notions of hegemonic masculinity with religious beliefs to produce religious masculinity. Religious masculinity emerges as a form of masculinity that rejects traditional expectations of manhood that contradict religious doctrine. Yet, findings show that male-only programs tend to reinforce hegemonic masculinity in the process of constructing religious masculinity; for example, by exhibiting masculine displays through the use of physical strength, competition and familial leadership. These masculine displays allow for members to negotiate their masculinity even as they maintain their dominant place in the gendered hierarchy. Though religious masculinity may emphasize masculine behaviors that are supported by religious doctrine, ultimately the behaviors and practices that comprise religious masculinity are not markedly different from those typified by hegemonic masculinity. Religious masculinity is also embedded within the larger organizational structure of the church that has institutionalized male dominance by naturalizing male leadership in both the public and private spheres. Though there are explicit attempts to challenge hegemonic masculinity in this setting, religious masculinity serves to maintain hegemonic masculinity by reproducing and cultivating male dominance.

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