Hypermasculinity in the Workplace
by Estevan Hernandez
Hypermasculinity is practically present and enforced in all facets of the workplace. Men are encouraged to be bolder and to “stand their ground” amongst co-workers of other genders to maintain their place in a constructed social hierarchy, and when they are perceived as weak they begin to scale down from that social hierarchy that was created to make them feel in power. Yes, there are traditional jobs that have been perceived as socially “masculine” like car repair, mining, construction, politically inclined jobs, etc, but this is not what we are talking about in this discussion. We are pointing towards your day-to-day job: whether that be office work, fast food, retail, and many other 8:00 to 4:00’s.
First of all, before going any further, we must point out that there is already economic unfairness between men and women in the workplace. Women make less than men on the dollar already, and it is important to note that this is also depending on their race. Black and Brown women make the least on the dollar in comparison to white men. On top of pay inequality and racial intersections, we must take note that a certain mentality is already instilled into women and men when entering the workforce. One of you is worthy of higher pay (men) and one of you isn’t (women). Also, one of you is more likely to get pay raises and benefits (men) and one of you isn’t (women). These societal standards that have been constructed to feed the desire of man to control aren't just standards, but almost like rules.
Not only does this system of hypermasculinity damage women/fems financially and gives them less opportunities to advance and excel in the workplace, but it also damages them psychologically, causing them to accept the mentality that they are less and belong where they are. Even when they try to fight for their right to advancement, they sometimes aren’t taken seriously or get in trouble. This is why many stay silent. Hypermasculinity in the workplace is a psychological tool that is used in order to make men feel like they deserve to be on top and in control of their surroundings-and it is used to enforce that ideology. Hypermasculinity, as well as blunt sexism in the workplace, go hand in hand to continue oppressing women workers as well as to continue the cycle of making men think they need to be on top and deserve more demanding or weighty positions out of the blue.
A feminine person in the workplace is often seen as incapable of completing a job that requires direction, therefore men are given the jobs and tasks that require leading a group of people. Many times when these men don’t comply or aren’t as demanding as they are taught to be, they get “the talk”. I recently had a conversation with a fem, non binary person who has to lie and say that they are a “man” and are continued to be treated like so in the workplace. They told me that a supervisor once sat them down to have a very “serious talk.” The supervisor had said that the worker was not doing the best that they knew they could do when it came to making other workers listen to them, respect them more, and that their leadership skills in general had not grown. The thing is, that this job did not require leading other co-workers, but merely taking orders from those above you and treating the customers with kindness. The supervisors hidden femme-phobia was coming out. They had seen something in the co-worker that they didn’t like, and the worker claims that this was merely their femininity and the supervisor exhorting hypermasculinity onto them.
Not only was this discussion offensive, but very exploitative as well. “You need to be more macho. You need some more machismo in you,” the supervisor whispered to the worker. “How will the women workers listen to you if you are acting just like them?” This was the most blunt observation of a supervisor who wants to bring down the barriers of femininity in their “male” workers, or what they perceive femininity to be; quiet, submissive, and not so talented. While doing this, they strive to enhance and shape the masculinity of their other male workers. This happens often times in many jobs. Those with higher positions trust men more with positions of leadership and want to prep them up in that direction. This not only leaves the women/fems out, but puts them in a position where they cannot excel and grow in other positions where they could be payed better. Also, the silencing and demeaning methods against femininity do not allow workers to advance and learn other necessary skills to help them in future jobs where they would want to go to.
The imposition of hypermasculinity on the “male” workers can leave not only the men workers feeling insecure, pressured, or out of place, but can also harshly affect trans and queer workers who do not conform to masculinity but are imposed to collect and perform traits of masculinity in order to keep their positions and grow. The way that some supervisors treat many queer or trans workers can cause them to feel dysphoric, as they are placing onto them the traits and stereotypes of a gender that is not even theirs and that they feel uncomfortable with.
First of all, supervisors and people in higher positions in the workforce should not be treating women/fems differently than the men or deciding who needs to be more masculine or “tough” and who doesn’t. This is true especially when everyone is supposed to be doing the same exact job. Many supervisors want to continue to enforce a social hierarchy at work that is not necessary at all-they only do this because performative masculinity simply makes them feel safer and like there is more structure at work. This is completely false because the furthering of hypermasculinity and social hierarchies in the workplace causes stress, dysphoria, anxiety, sexism (unfairness in the payment and distribution of positions for the women workers), and even sexual violence
There are many more pitfalls when it comes to tackling the issues of hypermasculinity and the social hierarchies created at work-one is the direct effect that it has on the customers who are watching the workers. We as humans are observers. When we are born, we learn by observing what those around us are doing. This is also how we learn to accept and understand societal rules and roles-by a continuous observation. Even as we become older we never ever stop learning. We are always changing our ideas and opinions and creating new biases. As customers, when we stop by any place where a group of workers are performing different tasks around us, our eyes easily and quickly surf around and decipher what exactly is going on. If customers are seeing men giving order after order whilst the women workers are doing a job that does not require leadership, this creates a continuous mental note in the mind of the observer that men are sole leaders.
Also, customers are constantly watching co-workers interact, how they treat one another, and how they are treated by their managers. It is important that all bias, discrimination, and chains of hypermasculinity in the workforce are left behind so that we may create a more queer, trans, and fem inclusive environment where everyone is taught skills equally and can advance if they choose to do so and are physically and mentally able to do so. Another pitfall is sexual violence and intimidation. These things are ever so present in all workforces, especially when hypermasculinity is present and enforced as well. Women/fems are already targets from the get go, but when you create a larger hyper-masculine environment at work and make it apparent that men have the right to make choices and decide outcomes, many more sensitive issues can come up.
All in all, hypermasculinity must be ripped apart and shown for what is really is. Your machismo has no place here, there, or anywhere.
Estevan Hernandez is young freelance writer. Estevan is a Brazil native, however they currently reside in Southern California. Estevan aspires to be a seasoned writer and successful musician in the future. Their preferred pronouns are they/them and they enjoy alone time near the shore side.