VOL 3 NO 1 JUNE 1996

Welcome to the IASOM Newsletter. For those who do not know us, IASOM stands for The International Association for Studies of Men. IASOM works for the development of research on men and masculinities in a gender equality perspective.

The IASOM Newsletter and our network activities depend on grassroot, interdisciplinary efforts. This newsletter reaches researchers, therapists and others concerned with men and equality in more than thirty countries around the world.

We invite women and men researchers, scholars, therapists, community activists and others who share this concern to join the association. Please fill in and return the last page of the newsletter.

We appreciate further distribution of this newsletter to others who may be interested, and new names and addresses to our contact list.

The IASOM platform, published in earlier issues of this newsletter, states that IASOM’s goal is to develop studies of men internationally, based on four principles - pro-feminism, anti-racism, against discrimination of sexual minorities, and for the enhancement of men’s lives.

Approaching comparative studies

The networks for studies of men in the Nordic countries have recently received Nordic Council (NorFa) funding for developing contacts and competence. In a seminar in Norway in September, plans for further research and perspective development will be discussed.

Comparative studies of men are increasingly demanded for theoretical, empirical and practical reasons. Can masculinity forms be compared cross-culturally? How do we define and identify the processes that create more egalitarian relations between men and women – and the barriers against them?

Comparative, international projects often require more work, and their success depend on researchers’ willingness to share their ideas and develop common perspectives. If successful, they help create more nuanced, relevant and important research.

In order to prepare for international projects, plans and ideas should be communicated as early as possible, preferably before the research agenda is fully determined.  In the on-going discussions about comparative research on men in the Nordic countries, there is an agreement that interdisciplinary cooperation is important, working towards combinations of cultural, social, psychological and other perspectives. It has been suggested that two ‘target areas’ are of main importance: men in work life and their possibilities for developing egalitarian relations to women there, and men in family and private life.

Possibly, a Nordic project will be based on a common ‘module’ with a quantitative and a qualitative part. These plans are still to be decided on, and the possibilities for further international research cooperation are important for how a Nordic project will be designed.

We invite members and contacts to share research news and notes and contribute to discussions through the newsletter. We welcome diversity and discussion of what an egalitarian perspective should mean, the relation of men’s and women’s studies, and similar.

Please write in English, and mail your contribution on a diskette or with an e-mail if possible, or by paper mail to the address below. We plan one more issue this year, with deadline 1st of November.

The Nordic IASOM co-ordination group


Jalmert, Lars
Pedagogiska Inst Sth. Univ.
Frescati Hagvag 24
S-10691 Stockholm
Tel +46 8 16 39 75

Knut Oftung
The Gender Equality Council
PB 8036 Dep.
0030 Oslo
Fax +47 22 24 95 21
Tel +47 22 24 25 71

Rusfort, Rudi
Fredriksberg alle 8 st
1820 Frb. C

Developing IASOM connections

We are investigating possibilities for using the Internet, and at the moment you can reach the Newsletter most quickly at the editor’s e-mail address

Suggestions regarding Internet use or other network communications are welcome.

New addresses:

Des Buchorn
Australian Men’s Network
POB 125
St. Peters 2044

R. W. Connell
Faculty of Education
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006 - Australia

Michael Messner
Dept of Sociology, University of Southern California
Los Angeles CA90089 - USA

Harry Brod
University of Delaware, Dept of Philosophy, Newark,
Delaware 19716-2567, USA

From the editor

With  70 members and 200 contacts around the world, the IASOM initiative helps researchers, therapists and others interested in the situation of men get into contact, share ideas and experiences, and develop research. Our main ‘plus’ at the moment is as a network, and we plan to extend this function through the Internet. The IASOM initiative has also had some regional impact, perhaps mainly in the Nordic countries.

We have not been able to arrange an international conference, and we are not, organisationally speaking, a full ‘association’. We lack official financing, yet this is in some ways an advantage, since many members primarily see IASOM as an independent researchers’ organisation, based on a common ethical and gender-political platform. This approach may require a membership fee, although we have been able to avoid that so far.

As a loose network, the IASOM democratic principles are only partially in effect. Most things including what appears in the newsletter depend on members’ voluntary and free time activity. So, for example, we have had to ask Spanish-writing contributors to translate their papers and news into English, since we do not have resources for that. We also prefer contributions in electronic form. In practice our lack of resources means some ‘localism’.

The IASOM platform states that the organisation leadership and Newsletter editing should circulate between countries, and we will try to honour that principle within the next year or so. If you have suggestions on this matter, write a note.  

The editor apologises for a delayed newsletter, due to my thesis work and two months in bed with a back problem. A personal thank you to Victor Seidler, Michael Kimmel, Jeff Hearn and others who heard about this and gave support. Now things are improving, and the newsletter is back on the track.


Jeff Hearn

Current Trends and Challenges for Research

In October last year I changed jobs and universities after twenty-one  years.  As such, this is probably a good time to re-evaluate trends  and challenges in research.  Indeed looking back, it is often possible to discern patterns of change of which we were not aware at  the time.

Over the last twenty-one years, and especially since 1978, my  research has been mainly directed towards developing critical studies  on Men and Masculinities.  Since the late 1980s, the main focus has been on men’s violence to known women; in particular this has  involved interviewing men about their violence and studying the responses of criminal justice and other agencies to that violence.  

I  have also worked since the late 1970s with colleagues on a range of  related issues around gender and sexuality in organisations and  management.  Increasingly, I can recognise the coming together of my  work on men and my work on organisations.

So what are the trends and challenges - both in the field of Critical  Studies on Men and Masculinities and in my own work?

Trends in the field

While I am of course delighted by the huge growth of interest and  research on men and masculinities, I still think much of this is  insufficiently critical of men’s power and position, both collectively and individually.  There is still an avoidance of both  men’s structural power and the detailed examination of what  particular men actually do.

Another aspect of the growing literature that I have become  increasingly concerned about is the taken-for-granted use of the concept of ‘masculinity’ or now ‘masculinities’.  These concepts are  now so often used in variable, vague and falsely causal way that we need to rethink our use of them much more carefully.  If we mean  men’s practices or men’s identity or men’s behaviour, we should say  so.

A third trend that is more positive is the increasing interconnection  of theory, research, practice and policy.  This linking is now much  more important in, say, work with boys and young men in schools or the evaluation of programmes for men who have been violent to women.   Changing men has to occur in all areas of academic research and in  all spheres of life.

Trends in my work

As noted, the major trend in my research is towards a convergence  between work on men and work on organisations.  This is seen in  analyses of men in organisations in patriarchies (Men in the Public  Eye), in a new co-edited book on men and management (Men as Managers,  Managers as Men), and research on violence in and around  organisations.  So a first trend is towards some kind of  synthesising.

One consequence of this, and it is a rather paradoxical one, is that  I have become increasingly interested in less reductive explanations  and theorising - in particular, in engaging with the overlap and interrelation between materialist and discursive approaches.

Another trend is my increasing concern with international and  comparative research.  One of the important features of this is that  it is not appropriate to prejudge the exact form that gender dynamics and gender power takers in different societies and cultures.  And  linked to all of these is a trend towards trying to deal with the  intersection of gender and other oppressions and social divisions, in  the charting of multiple oppressions.

Taken together, the overall trend is towards the deconstruction, even  the abolition, of the category of men.

Challenges in the field

The major challenge in the general field of Critical Studies on Men  and Masculinities is to be, to remain or to become political:  to  recognise the ways in which our research contributes to changing or  not changing men.  There is also at the same time a need to embrace  ambivalence.  For example, on the one hand, there is the need to  engage with and change existing disciplines, such as history or  economics; on the other, it is necessary to build something that is  quite new and yet does not try to takeover gender or Women’s Studies.   This involves being sensitive to academic, research and disciplinary  traditions and boundaries, both old and new.

A further challenge is that we have got to be very thorough in our  work, and yet both more modest in our claims and more adventurous in  the kind of studies attempted.  We have got to be courageous enough to do difficult research, for example, on sexuality and violence,  even if we are fearful.

Challenges in my work

There are many challenges I have to face in my work.  The first one  is doing it.  Doing research and writing is not easy; despite the  pleasure, it carries a cost.  Another challenge, or perhaps question, is whether to spread my time and effort broadly across various  collaborative researches or to work in more depth and detail on my  own.  This links with the need to bring the autobiographical in.  While I have written quite a lot that is autobiographical over the  years, to keep doing this, especially on more difficult and more  sensitive topics is a challenge.

I think a particularly promising avenue is to examine the  gender/sexual subtext of past episodes and experiences with a view to  understanding their influence on the development of new knowledge.   Collaborative exploration, such as collective memory work, can be  useful here.

A further and related challenge is how to move away from ‘obvious’  explanations implied by the heterosexual norm and towards those that recognise more fully the homosocial/gay continua of men and young  men.

Jeff Hearn

University of Manchester

US: 200 newsletters world-wide

The Studies of Men Collection now has some 200 newsletters from men’s groups, research, community etc. initiatives world-wide, Ed Barton informs us. There are still a lot of potential readers out there, though, 14 million men per newsletter, to be exact. Contact Ed Barton by e-mail: – and help keep the collection updated.

Brazil: encouragements

“Thank you for the IASOM newsletter. It is a very important work you are doing there. If possible, I would like to receive the next volumes” writes Gloria Nogueira from Brazil. Many newsletter readers have shown their interest and support for the IASOM initiative through cards, letters, and other communications. We want to thank you all. IASOM depends on our common activities.

UK: A look at men’s groups

“My name is Sara Breinlinger and I am a social psychologist at Birkbeck College, University of London. My research interests are in gender and social movements and I am currently embarking on a research project looking at men’s groups in Great Britain.

My research project will involve questionnaires and/or interviews with members of different men’s groups (including pro-feminist groups, men’s rights groups, and groups organising around health and domestic issues). These will focus on men’s reasons for becoming involved with men’s groups, the personal benefits of their participation and more broadly their attitude towards feminism and social change.

I would be very keen to make contact with other people doing research in this area and would be happy to discuss in more detail my research project," Sara Breinlinger writes in a letter.

In Norway, the ‘Men’s life patterns’ study (Holter, Øystein Gullvåg & Aarseth, Helene 1994: Mäns livssammanhang. Overs. Ingrid Ingemark, Bonniers Utbildning, Stockholm, Sweden) is relevant, since it deals with men who participate more than normal in the home (although not as organised pro-feminists). We have not yet managed to get it translated into English, though. You might also want to take a look at Martin Acker’s paper in this newsletter.

I hope readers who share Sara’s interest will contact her by e-mail:
or fax: + 44 171 631 6312.

Enclosed with the letter is a leaflet for The Social Psychology of Collective Action, by Caroline Kelly and Sara Breinlinger (1995). “The book considers why individuals do or don’t get involved in collective action”, discussing different social psychological perspectives. You can order a paperback edition from Taylor and Francis Ltd., Rankine Road, Basingstoke, Hants., RG248PR UK. – Øystein

Sweden: networking and research

Several conferences, a network newsletter and other activities mark a step forward for Swedish research on men. The newsletter can be had from the editor Tommy Ringart, by e-mail: (in one line) or by fax +46 8 644 03 06.

Former Yugoslavia: war atrocities confirm feminist views

The war in the former Yugoslavia was a war against women and a war against gender equality. This has increasingly become evident from the uncovering of war crimes during the last months, confirming the analyses of feminists in the 1980s. The war was not just about nationalism or ethnic hatred, it was also characterised by specifically patriarchal violence, with sexual atrocities as a main part of the terror. The devaluation of women is a common trend also in the background of the war. The following papers give relevant background information for understanding the gender aspects of the war.

Flere, Sergej 1991: Explaining Ethnic Antagonism in Yugoslavia. European Sociological Review 7, 3, 183-193

Jancar, Barbara 1988: Neofeminism in Yugoslavia: A Closer Look. Women and Politics 8, 1, 1-30

Jogan, Maca 1989: Patriarchy, Misogyny and Religion. Anthropos 20, 5-6, 417-428

Papic, Zarana 1994: Nationalism, Patriarchy and War in Ex-Yugoslavia. Women’s History Review 3, 1, 115-7

Siber, Ivan  1991: Review of Research on the “Authoritarian Personality” in Yugoslav Society. Politics and the Individual 1, 1, 21-28  

Simic, Andrei 1983: Machismo and Cryptomatriarchy: Power, Affect, and Authority in the Contemporary Yugoslav Family.  Ethos 11, 1-2, 66-86

Are men better business leaders?

The Norwegian journal Economic Report has recently (9-96) published a report which, they claim, shows that men are better business leaders than women, since profitability is weaker in female-led than male-led companies. This holds good also across a two-field economic branch division (industry; hotel and restaurant). Yet the Report has nothing to say on other possible interpretations of this association. There could be a causal chain the other way (from lower profit and higher-risk capitals to somewhat less discrimination against women leaders), or third, common factors behind both phenomena. Possibly, the statistics mainly show the force of discriminatory mechanisms that still hinder women and work against them as economic leaders. The business situation in the Nordic countries with only 5-10 percent women leaders is clearly different from the political and cultural scene, where women have perhaps 20-30 percent of the positions of leadership.

Helping men change

Helping Men Change: The Role of the Female Therapist is the title of a book by Beth M. Erickson (Sage 1993) which I have found interesting. In a low-key tone, Erickson relates her considerable experiences with individual, pair and group therapy, including men’s groups. I have not had the time to read all of this, but I like what I see – no sensationalism, quite a lot of wisdom. Erickson, who holds a Ph.D.. from Minnesota U., takes men’s fear of engulfment in relations to women and their competition and aggression in relation to other men as a main problem area and discusses ways to deal with it. Recommended. – Øystein

Nordic e-mail list

‘Between men and masculinities’ is the name of a new study network arranged by The Nordic Summer University. The network has created an e-mail server that distributes contributions (in Scandinavian languages). If you send the command ‘sub maskulin-l’ to the address, you are included on the mailing list.

Mapping patriarchy

Recently, there have been some highly interesting developments in the EU regarding comparative gender studies. A network for research on gender inequality in the European regions (the ESF Network) is planning a ‘map of European patriarchy’ based on gender-related statistics and other material. The ESF network can be contacted through Birgit Pfau-Effinger or Simon Duncan (see below).

Birgit Pfau-Effinger writes that the network’s next workshop  will take place at Joensuu, Finland in September, 19-23. The topic is gender relations and the state in a cross-national perspective. Birgit is the organiser of the group on ‘Theoretical Perspectives’. In its last issue, the ESF newsletter brings abstracts of the discussion in their last workshop (in Barcelona).

Simon Duncan writes that researchers who want to participate in the ESF network activities can do so in several ways, by contributing to the workshops, through  giving a paper or being a discussant. Papers should address ‘the patterns  and processes of gender inequality in the comparative context of  European states, regions or localities’, and contributors will have travel and accommodation costs met by ESF.  Duncan also writes that a theoretical publication is being planned.

ESF Network addresses:

Birgit Pfau-Effinger,  Universitaet Bremen, Fachbereich Sozialwissen- schaften / ZWE Arbeit und Region. Postfach 330440 28334 Bremen, Germany. Phone 0421-218 3279/90 and 0351-2811690 Fax 0421-218 2680 and 0351-2811690

Simon Duncan, Dept Applied Social Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK. Tel 01274 385233, fax 01274 385690. E-mail

EU: Equal opportunities action programme

The European Union’s action programme for equal opportunities (1996-2000) has the following main goals:

– promote equal opportunities in all policies and activities

– mobilise for equal opportunities in social and economic life

– promote equal opportunities in a changing economy, esp. regarding education and the labour market

– reconcile working and family life for men and women

– promote gender balance in decision-making

– make conditions more conducive to exercising equal rights

A main common goal is “the exchange, development and transfer of information and experience on good practice”.

Although the programme mainly focuses on practical developments, research is also encouraged in the areas mentioned. International and NGO contacts are emphasised (women’s organisations are mentioned). Research projects will only be covered by up to 60 percent, the rest must be secured from national or other sources.

Applications for research funding should be addressed to:

The European Commission, DG V – Equal Opportunities Unit. Rue de la Loi 200. B – 1049 Brussels. Tel.: +322 295 71 59; Fax: +322 296 35 62.

Note that research or other proposals must be sent before the 15th of July. If you have trouble keeping that deadline, or if you want their application form, you should get in contact with the Unit.

Studies of men are important aspect for developing gender equality, and we ask IASOM members and Newsletter readers in Europe to consider research and funding possibilities in view of the EU initiatives.

Martin Acker

“The Good Guys ”

I - Introduction

This study is an initial effort to describe emerging non sexist men along a few selected dimensions. There has been much rhetoric about sexism. Admonitions and exhortations have levelled at men in general, urging men to recognise and eschew sexism. One would assume, or at least hope, that the admonishers and exhorters are men who have achieved some level of non-sexism. Accepting that assumption, it seemed reasonable and important to learn something about those men. The initial objective of this study was to develop a profile of some of those men, or at least to make some progress towards such a development. An additional aspiration (if not a full blown expectation!) was to gain some insight into the process in which these men were involved in their pursuit of non-sexism. This study, with no position to validate, no hypotheses to support, just a question with some subsidiary questions. The question: how do these men experience and understand their relative non-sexism. I will admit that there was perhaps an underlying motive, beyond sheer curiosity. Accepting that the men I interviewed, who agreed that they were emerging as non-sexist, were in fact emerging as non-sexist, it seemed to me important to understand that process, or those processes. If one of the objectives of the profeminist men’s’ movement is the eventual eradication of sexism, then, it would clearly be imperative that there be an understanding of some of the processes that have apparently been successful in that endeavour. There was however, as I mentioned above, no preconceived notion about the nature of those processes. This work, therefore is essentially descriptive with the possibility that it might have heuristic value.

In understanding this study I have made several assumptions. The first is that, in general, men socialized in and acculturated to our culture, inevitably have attitudes, perceptions, expectations, which can be properly described as “sexist”. Second, that it is quite possible for men, with conscious effort, to make progress in transcending sexism. Thus, I assumed, that men who are experiencing that transition are involved in a process of transition. The purpose of this work then, is to begin that study. To repeat, the major purpose of this work is to be able to raise questions which could be the basis for more definitive studies of men’s paths to non-sexism.

II - Methodology

The subjects for this study came from a purposeful population of men who either identified themselves with the pro-feminist, anti-sexist men’s’ movement, or where identified by others as being relatively non-sexist. Eight of the men were involved in either the American Mens Studies Association or the National Organization of Men Against Sexism, or, some cases, both. Most were academics; half of whom were psychologists or counsellors. The not involved in either organization were men who were nominated by their female, feminist, partners. Clearly, not a random sample, nor was that the intention. The interviews lasted from 30 minutes to one hour, all were taped and then transcribed. The interview protocols were preserved on audio tapes, computer disks and also on hard copy. The interviews were conducted in private settings, most during the annual meetings of both associations. Three were conducted in the homes of the respondent.

The instrument was a non-structured interview which focused on several areas of interest. All the areas of interest were covered in each interview, however not necessarily with the identically worded questions. The stimulus items or questions varied with the tenor and flow of each interview, allowing each respondent to develop his responses in ways that were appropriate for his style. The content areas pursued were those which, it was assumed, would provide information allowing for the preliminary development of a profile and would suggest some dimensions of the process. Thus, men were asked to recall specific behaviours that to them evidenced their non-sexism; they were asked to reflect on the benefits and costs of exhibiting non-sexism; to recall factors in their lives which stimulated the movement towards non-sexism, and those in the present which support their continuation in that direction, as well as those which obstruct their continued growth. The “data” would consist of the coded segments of the interviews, the coding system to be developed post hoc. Upon reading the protocols it became apparent that the interviews were focused on the issue of the personalness of the phenomenon of sexism. It became apparent to me that this was an area in which I was highly interested. It was not all clear to me why that was an important focus; however, it was clear that it was of considerable interest and importance to me. The ad hoc coding system then grew out of that interest. I anticipated that the analysis of the data would suggest the importance of the focus on personalness. Anticipating the discussion of the results, I can acknowledge that the importance has not yet been demonstrated, though I persist on my belied that it is! In effect, to put it in the vernacular, I wanted to understand how much of a “gut” issue sexism was to these men. It seemed advisable to explore for a range of perceptions about the issue and thus the inclusion of non-personal categories, such as conceptual, theoretical or ideological issue.

From the men’s responses to the inquiries about documentation, sections were extracted that seemed to most directly describe actual interpersonal behaviour, or inclinations to behaviour, personal philosophy, or theoretical formulations. These were then classified according to the following four point scale:

1. Personal/intimate - an interaction or an experience that has a clear gender related element and an affective element, an affective impact on the respondent

2. Personal - a situation, experience, interaction, etc., in which the respondent was actually involved and which had some clear gender related aspect.

3. General - a discussion about relationship with or about women, in which the respondent talks about or reports his attitude, thinking, etc. about women in general, about sexism, and/or generalizes about gender perceptions, etc in

4. Abstract/theoretical - respondent presents in theoretical or ideological terms, references to self are in those terms, in terms of his thinking, ideas about gender difference origins, or the origins and “purpose” of maintaining support for gender differences (economic, psychological etc.)

The responses were not classified as totalities but rather by discrete and separable lines of thought or specific illustrations. Thus each response could be multiply coded. This accounts for the differences among the total of the responses to the different items in the interview.

At the outset of each interview, the man was asked if it was accurate to say of him that he is moving towards becoming non-sexist. The interview then proceeded if the man agreed that that was indeed an accurate description. Most of the issues to be explored were raised in each interaction, more as a conversation between colleagues than a formal inquiry. Thus, each respondent was encouraged to pursue the issues in his own way, and the probes used varied as appropriate to the tenor of the interaction.

The interview started with a fraternal challenge. Each man was asked to describe what he believed constitutes evidence of his movement towards non-sexism. In other words, to document by his behaviour, that he is in fact on the journey. The thrust of this challenge was to illuminate the what kind of phenomenon, sexism was to the respondents, the “good guys”. Is their non-sexism an expression of an ideological or political or philosophical commitment, or an expression of something more intrinsically personal or some combination of both.

Each man accepted the challenge; in each instance the initial reaction was hesitation and bemusement. It was clear that the challenge was a new one. As described above, the responses were classified according to the level of personalness it communicated.

III - “Data”

The stimulus item was presented without reference to gender. Most men responded in relation to women. Two of the men, however, included interactions with other men as part of their responses.

Analysis of the responses to the challenge for documentation in the 11 interviews, yielded 26 responses. While many of the responses were extended, in several instances, the response consisted of introduction, elaboration, and some circumlocution. Every man interviewed expressed genuine interest in the focus and purpose of the questions. All of them acknowledged the complexity of the issue in general, and the complexity of the issue for them. Upon much reflection, most of the men said that they had never thought in terms of evidence of non-sexism and found the notion challenging. For each of the men, those expressions seemed to constitute a “warm-up”.

Of the 26 responses five, were personal, and involved some behaviour or interaction which had some emotional impact. For example: one of the men reported that he was involved in a birthday celebration for a male friend. Someone in the group announced that he had made arrangements at a local night club. Upon arriving at the club, it was clear that it was “strip joint”. The respondent told his companions that he would not participate, that it was demeaning to do so. The group agreed. This behaviour seemed clearly to be risky with the potential for negative emotional consequences. In another instance, the man described a medical examination he had undergone with his young woman physician. This examination included a rectal probe which he realized he was experiencing as an uncomfortable procedure, rather than a fanaticized sexual encounter. His realization that this was different that his past reactions, came after the fact and to him, was strong evidence of change from his past sexual objectification of women. Six responses were personal/general, and of the remaining, 8 or 30 % were general/non-behavioral, and 5 conceptual or ideological.

While nothing definitive can be asserted from numbers this small, derived from the methodology employed, there are interesting suggestions. The responses of five men were classified as being personal, that is, described personal behaviour, direct interaction with another person with some emotional of affective content and impact. Three men had no responses which were classified as general non behavioral; and five of the men gave responses which were clearly abstract or theoretical. So, it might be said that to some extent, the issue of sexism is a personal issue to each of the men in the study but an intimate personal phenomenon to only four of the men. An interesting question to explore is; what difference, if any, does the personalness or non-personalness of the issue of sexism make in regard to a man’s commitment to non-sexism.

The men were asked to consider what benefits they derived from being or becoming non-sexist. In other words, “what’s in it for you?”. Again, extracted (or is it abstracted) from the responses were elements that spoke to the benefits men believed that they derived from their emerging non sexism. The response elements were then classified using the previously described classification format, as ranging from personal and intimate, to political, philosophical and ideological.

The total number of codable on this issue was 21. For four of the men the benefits were quite personal, and for three of the others, the rewards had some personal implications (examples her). In three cases the issue did not arise in the interview and none of their other responses could be coded for this item. Only two of the men discussed the rewards of their emerging non-sexism in general, non-personal terms. One of the men started his response by saying that he might have expected that nonsexism would somehow facilitate his “getting more sex”, but actually it did not and on reflection felt that it was good that id did not, since it made possible, he said, richer and fuller relationships with women. One of the men said that he believed that his attitude also made relationships with men more positive, but was not able to elaborate on that part. Another man said that he was often told by his wife that her women friends complimented at having a husband who anticipated so equally in all the household, land, child caring activities. The implication of the question in this area was that presenting a non-sexist orientation might be well be self serving. However, none of the responses suggested such motivation, directly or by inference.

What was not explored was the possibility that the least some of the men may have projected outcomes and then adopted the “appropriated” stances to achieve those outcomes; a frankly manipulative strategy. None of the responses even began suggest that this was a possibility. Even the suggestion of such motivation would be manifestly contradictory to “real” non-sexism so it might be well be worth exploring further for this possibility.

Having raised the question of benefits, it seem appropriate to query into the perceptions of obstacles to development and maintenance of non-sexism. The greatest number of responses were made in this area, 38. Eight men made 14 responses which were classified as personal. That is, they described obstacles which had a personal and an affective impact on them. In most cases the obstacles had something to do with their non-sexism as somehow impairing their relationships with other men. Several of the men candidly referred to the loss of power, the relinquishing of power in general and vis-à-vis women in particular. One of the men said that some of the power supposedly lost was illusionary, but that some was real. One of the men responded in part with and aphorism: The three hardest things in the world are steel, diamonds and self-awareness; this in reference to his belief that his change was an inevitable consequence of his growing self awareness and that changing in such basic ways was among those hardest of things. While five of the men who gave the personal responses also described non personal obstacles, only two of the men gave only non-personal responses. Developing and maintaining non-sexist life styles, for these men, is a very personal and at least at times, a difficult, perhaps even occasionally painful endeavor.

The question: what does it cost you to maintain your emerging non-sexism; was the category which elicited the fewest responses. It may well be that these men did not experience any cost, or at least, were not aware of experiencing any cost. It is of course also possible that the question was redundant, a rephrasing of the question about obstacles. It is also possible that casting the issue in terms of the concept of “cost” introduced an element of “political incorrectness” that inhibited responses. Given that the men interviewed represented the “good guys” in terms of sexism, even the minimal possibility that responses may have been inhibited, makes this an area deserving of further pursuit. There may be some other reasons for the paucity of responses. In this area, none of the men acknowledged any direct personal cost. Five of the men referred to some personal impact but only in general ways. It is interesting that this was the one category in which the abstract, conceptual responses was greater than in any of the others.

The question concerning the stimuli to the process of emerging non-sexism was raised to generate some understanding about factors that may have precipitated the awareness of the phenomenon of sexism, and began the efforts to counter the socialization. Part of the rationale was that information from the responses in this area might provide insight into ways to approach men in general. It is not at all clear that objective was even minimally approximated. However, the responses are of some interest in terms of the focus on the issue of personalness.

This item elicited 29 responses. Six of the men said that the origins of their awareness of sexism and the beginning of their emergence, were very personal and emotionally important. In addition, two reported personal experiences, which however did not have emotional impact. Thus eight of the eleven men credited some level of personal experience for the awareness and their emergence. Only one man’s response was totally non-personal, and one of the men made no codadable response.

Relationship with mother was referred to by most of the men as a major source of understanding and movement. Interestingly, however, many of the men characterized that relationship as either distressing or in some instances, destructive. One man, typical of several others said that his Mother was always angry, frustrated and disappointed, as a consequence of which he grew up feeling guilty, originally about her suffering and then about the suffering of women in general.

As an effect of this history, he suggested, he felt obligated to do something about the condition of women, hence, his involvement in the pro-feminist men’s movement, and its concomitant, the emergency of his non-sexism. That the experience of sexism is so personal a phenomenon, or was to these men, suggests an important insight, the importance of which deserves further investigation.

The men were asked to consider the factors in their present lives that support the continuation of their emergence. Twenty six responses were made by ten of the eleven men. The non-respondent will be discussed at a later time. Curiously, the preponderance of responses to this issue were non-personal. 19 of the 26 responses were a combination of general/non-personal and conceptual-ideological. Having been stimulated to become aware of sexism by rather personal experiences, and deriving personal benefits from their emerged state, the men report that maintaining the state of relative non-sexism they achieved is supported essentially, by factors in their lives which are not directly personal. The responses of five of the men referred to personal factors; all but one of those men also credited non-personal factors as supports. Obviously, no individual, human experience is non-personal, however, in the responses to this item, the men focused on fairness and correctness as concepts rather than as personal characteristics; it was the “right” way to be. Does this introduce a contradictory or paradoxical element, or is their a consistency which is not immediately apparent?

The relationship between sexuality and sexism was introduced as the last area of exploration. It was anticipated that this might be a “loaded” area, and, that raising it earlier could possibly have a distorting effect on the rest of the interviews. The questions formulated to pursue this area varied from a direct general question about the relationship, e.g.: “what, in your opinion, is the relationship between sexuality and sexism” to vignettes describing exposure to erotically stimulating interactions, situations or materials. It was reasoned that men’s’ attitudes towards sexuality, their feelings about arousal and arousal patterns, and their experiences with and about their sexual behaviour had some bearing upon their perceptions of themselves as progressing towards non-sexism.

Thirty codable responses were made to the questions in this area. Many of these responses reflected some ambivalence of the respondent. Sexual arousal was accepted as “natural” and by some men as desirable, both to men who experienced it and women who stimulated it. Several of the men, having expressed such acceptance, went on to assert that they would likely try to avoid situations where arousal might occur. There was general agreement that acting on arousal, in the traditional male manner “hitting” on women, leering, suggestive remarks etc.) was certainly a manifestation of sexism. Four of the men seemed to feel that it was necessary to be on continuous guard against their propensity to behave, sexually, in a sexist mode. This was inference drawn from rather minimal clues, partly verbal, partly a sense of hesitation and discomfort. This suggested that there may be a feeling, if not a belief, that there is a rather basic contradiction between being non-sexist and sexual feelings and energy. In fact, three of the men expressed their confusion about the reconciliation of sexual feelings and the non-sexism, personally for each of them and for men in general. In two cases, the responses were totally non personal; .. eg. “sexual arousal is biological, but one must be careful that its expression (by men) not be demeaning or oppressive”. As an example of comments which were directly personal, in response to the question: “Do you ever find yourself turned on by the sight of women that you might see, say walking on the street?” (chuckle) “most of the time I enjoy it!” “Does that raise questions in your mind about your non-sexism?” “Not at all, there is absolutely no contradiction, it is at least partly sensual, and even a little esthetic; it feels good!”

IV - Discussion

In summary then, when grouped into two categories, personal and general, the responses were equally divided between the two. Every man made at least one personal reference; five men had personal responses in five of the six areas, two men in four areas and four in three or fewer areas. It would seem that sexism-non sexism is a significantly personal issue for the men studied. It would of course be of interest to associate the difference in response to some differences among the respondents. However, very little demographic information was obtained and in any event, the number of men studied is of course, much too small to make those comparisons really meaningful.

It is obvious that neither a profile of profiles of self declared (relatively) non-sexist men nor a description of the process of the journey to non-sexism, has emerged from this preliminary investigation. The value of this research may well be in the fact that it was undertaken. If the suggestion of the legitimacy of self study has been raised in a way that makes it an approach worth considering, then this study will have had an important impact. Such a consequence would be serendipity.

It has long been my belief that the study of myself, and the study of ourselves is not only legitimate, but mandatory. I have asserted that, we, humans, are more alike than we are different (with all due respect to Leona Tyler). That belief, clearly, was one of the underlying conceptual, and I might say, ideological, basis for my undertaking this project. This notion has ordinarily not met with great enthusiasm or support from many of my colleagues, and, certainly not from those of them engaged in supervising doctoral dissertation research. It was with a great sense of support and justification that I encountered the following.

Henry Geiger, in the introduction to Maslow’s “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature” tells us: “It seems necessary to say that the core of what Maslow found out about psychology he found out from himself. It is evident from his writing that he studied himself - was able, as we say, to be ”objective" about himself. “We must remember, ‘he said in one place, ‘that knowledge of one’s own deep nature is also simoultaneously knowledge of human nature in general.” (p.xvi).


A.H. Maslow (1971): The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: The Viking Press


I- The “population”

Age range: early 40’s to early 70’s


Nurse, secondary school teacher, “futurist”, academic/psychologist (3); academic/humanities (3) academic/administrator, social science;

II- Underlying guiding considerations of the research:

Organize responses along a hierarchy from personal/intimate to abstract/ideological,

for all areas— selected representative segments of the responses as “data” and arrange the responses into the categories- perhaps arrange response segments according to some similarity among them, and then develop post hoc categories, but along the pesonal/ideological dimensions.

For areas that relate to changes: organize responses along internal/external dimensions; pro-active-defensive dimensions, consider scaling from “very+ to very-” from “it fell right to me” to “it was the right to do” to “it was dangerous, (or something like that) not to do it”, from essentially intrinsic to essentially extrinsic.

Derive from all of this a range of definitions of sexism - what does that word seem to mean to these men; are the benefits intrinsic, only extrinsic, are they “doing” this for someone; is there a demonstration element in the behaviour; is it important, does it appear to be important that their is noticed specially or in general a critical underlying question to be explored is: Is non-sexism of intrinsic value to men or is it an expression of subservience to women or patronizing of women or self serving for men in relation to women, is it in service to men’s pursuit of women, part of tactics or strategy of men’s effort to control women? Do men struggle to become non-sexist because being non-sexist has value for them for their well being, their positive sense of themselves, do they do it for themselves without expectation that it will bring external rewards for them, that is, that it will influence women to act in way that are beneficial or useful to men - in response to internal stimuli rather than external pressure. Within these questions, somewhere is the germ of a very significant issue, a central issue and significant set of questions.

III The instrument

The questions posed to the respondents were developed from the following guide. As mentioned in the text, the questions were not uniform either in construction or in sequence.

- how do you know you are emerging towards non-sexism

what about you tells you that, your actions, your thoughts, your inclinations etc.

- what factors in our life are associated with the awareness of the fact of sexism, that there was such a thing a phenomenon

- what factors in your life suggested that you were sexist and that a change in that attitude, that posture, was appropriate

- what (and with what, of course, who) was instrumental in your accepting the belief that moving towards non sexism was a positive move for you

- what, who supported the initiation of that movement for you

- what continues to support it

- what benefits do you get for your emergence towards non sexism

- what costs are there for you, emotionally, substantively (work, social emotional, affectional, etc.)

- what is the relationship, for you, between your emerging non-sexism and your experiencing sexual arousal, eg. as a response to specific and non specific erotic stimuli (center folds, attractive body appearance etc.)

Martin Acker PhD
Professor Emeritus
Counseling Psychology
University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.
c 1994

Øystein Gullvåg Holter

Authoritarianism and masculinity


Over the last ten years, there has been a re-emergence of racist and neo-nazi groups in Europe, leading some social researchers to refocus on an almost forgotten concept, ‘the authoritarian personality’, a notion developed by German social scientists in the years before WW2 in order to explain how the nazis could get into power.

The fact that masculinity entails dominance is no news in current gender studies. Yet is there also a more specific authoritarian pattern, or an authoritarian element of the masculinity hierarchy? What is the relationship between the mid-century ‘authoritarian personality’ concept, and contemporary masculinities theory? This paper explores some possibilities for interpreting authoritarianism research in a gender and masculinity perspective.

I first review some empirical assessments of the authoritarian personality research tradition and outline some main areas of research and debate. Secondly I discuss whether the authoritarian personality characterises specific forms of masculinity or should instead be seen as a pattern that cuts across different masculinity forms. Finally, I turn to some recent research in order to highlight main points, focusing on the role of women for moderating or mediating power relationships between men.

The history

As the clouds of reaction gathered over central Europe in the 1930s, a group of concerned researchers at the Frankfurt institute for social research tried to combine their skills in explaining the one overriding cause of fear: the emerging nazi power, backed up by the broader tendency towards fascism and nationalist reaction. This group, with Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse and others, tried to bring together the main thoughts of the Germal liberal and radical traditions, including Marx, Freud, Weber and contemporaries like Reich (1930), in order to interprete and help forestall the reactionary popular development.

In the view of Rene König (1957:112), the authoritarianism of the German family system in the late 19th. century could be explained by the category of ‘patriarchalism by counterthrust‘. With the defeat of the German bourgeoisie in 1848 and the “squashing of liberal movements”, “paternal authority, having failed to impose itself in determining public affairs, withdrew into the intimacy of the family”. We have evidence that authoritarianism was indeed transplanted through the family system. Nazi leaders (like Himmler) were themselves often products of brutalising family circumstances and sadistic elements in pedagogic philosophy and culture (Walton, R 1994; Dortmund, E. 1978)

The period between the wars can be seen as the first high point of modern, industrialised patriarchy, developing on Fordist mass production lines in Japan, Soviet, Germany, Italy, and the western European countries as well as in the US. In the west especially it also developed a new consumer-based liberalism, including a ‘new deal’ for the unemployed.  The old ‘world of the fathers’, the pre-WW1 order, had broken down, and the new men emerging in power in its wake also generally increased women’s rights. Yet from the end of the 1920s women’s organisations were dissolved or weakened in many parts of the world, and with the recession in the early 1930s, working women and feminists were increasingly made into targets. This paved the way for a very masculinised and increasingly militaristic trend especially in central Europe, where German men seem to have become especially embittered by a feeling that ‘the fathers’ faults’ were now unjustly partitioned as a burden for one ‘son’ or country alone. The war debt laid on Germany became a cultural shame object, and the ‘mythic core’ of fascism and nazism was precisely the cleansing of all such shame and impurity (Griffin, R 1995).

Thus the authoritarian personality described by the Frankfurt researchers can be interpreted as a partially new historical pattern, based on a new form of patriarchal capital formation. Call it ‘masculinate’, since more than anything it worshipped masculinism as synonymous with production and industrial logic as a ‘phallic’ logic. The anti-feminist turning of patriarchal power in the 1930s is a global tendency. After the crisis, the leading countries scrambled to their feet by various forms of nationalistic accumulation including a class compromise. In Germany, this compromise was shattered in ‘crystal night’ where the nazi working class faction was squashed. In the democracies, it created a more interventionist state economics and a more socially democratised state.

The family

The authoritarian personality concept was conceived on the basis of a ‘surrogate homosocial’ trend, with father absence and other problems of the dissolving old-style patriarchal order. In Horkheimer’s view, a real-life loss created a need for surrogates and the possibility of exploitation of idealised father images; this helped explain why demagogues like Hitler and Goebbels could capture people’s energies and imaginations. A lack of real contact with one’s father, together with authoritarianism and reification tendencies in socialisation created the social psychological foundation for the reactionary and anti-democratic political tendencies.

The Frankfurt theorists did not quite conceive of gender in the way of current masculinity studies, as a partly horizontal, partly vertical relation between contemporary men and women. For them, instead, gender was more of an issue of age, between persons of different generations, mainly men, fathers and sons. Although women’s early importance for children was accepted, women were often seen as objects, not as active, relations-creative subjects within family interaction.

The role of mothers and father were mainly conceived in a Freudian framework, and in Reich’s texts especially the repression of sexuality was a main matter. The Frankfurt theorists gave the concept their own slant. They studied ‘traits’ more than family interaction, and thought in terms of genderless persons even when describing men’s development and masculine views. The authoritarian personality was seen as a type of person with specific traits in nine specific areas or ‘subsyndromes’: conventionalism, authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, antiintraception, superstition and stereotype, power and toughness, destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and sexual repression. Although the ‘patriarchal family’ was a main starting point of the studies, the questionnaires were aimed at a measurement of attitudes and personal traits, rather than a mapping of family relations. Family dynamics were often assumed on the basis of Freudian theory, with an attempt to differentiate by class. The emphasis was on relations between men, fathers and sons especially, with male-female relations in a more peripheral position.

The research

A preliminary study on family and authority was published in Paris in 1936 (Horkheimer 1987), while the main study appeared in the US in 1950 (Adorno 1950). From the start, the authoritarianism research effort was noteworthy for its collective character, with interdisciplinary research teams, extensive international collaboration and many follow-up projects in the years after the war. With the emigration of prominent members of the Frankfurter school to the US, the emphasis on empirical investigation increased. In the 1950s the studies dwindled due to lack of funding (Meloen, J 1991).

Did the research succeed? Did it establish the existence of an authoritarian personality? Although the tradition must be evaluated as one of the most meaningful attempts to combine theoretical and empirical efforts in social science in our century, problems of operationalisation and empirical validation and a lack of a well-defined middle ground have often been noted (Baars and Scheepers 1993; Samelson & Sanford 1986). The concept of a unified and static ‘personality’ and the consequent ‘personification’ of authoritarianism may be misleading, yet it does make sense to consider authoritarian traits as relatively stable clusters of people’s identity, created partly through the family of origin and other socialisation experiences, and partly by later experiences in life.

Evaluations of authoritarianism research from a feminist point of view are still surprisingly rare. Although authoritarianism has been associated with male gender and with a gender identity emphasising a masculine order, the relationship between gender identity and authority has remained a grey area. Some association between androgyny and lower authoritarianism for example in marriage has been found (Rim, Y 1980). Similarly, an association between ‘type A’ behaviour and authoritarianism has been found, linked “through the need to exercise personal control over the environment (a dominance factor)” yet the two “are not the same conceptually” (Byrne 1989).

Authoritarianism as a trend has been subject to more far-ranging studies than the authoritarian personality in the stricter sense. Surveys tend to confirm the importance of traditional factors, including an association between a low proportion of women in paid work and a larger degree of traditional authoritarian familism (Gundelach, P 1994; Montero, Morlino & Garcia Pardo 1993). Ethnocentrism is strongly predicted by authoritarianism, according to some studies (Scheepers, Felling and Peters 1990).

In work place studies, it is generally recognised that work environment and organisational changes have led away from overt authoritarianism, yet new forms of authority are also established. For example, company culture as a control mechanism was the theme of an ethnographic study of Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, with the conclusion that “employees subconsciously conduct themselves in line with organisational goals and no longer need authoritarian control”, yet this behaviour is in line with “values in Japanese culture - the subordination of the individual to the group, and the importance of harmony, duty, and loyalty” (Nussbau, G 1994). The idea that authoritarianism stifles economic growth is disputed (Alamdari, K 1994; Gastil, J 1994). In political and human rights terms, authoritarian societies like authoritarian organisations are more prone to turn on their own members, through a combination of external aggression and internal victimisation processes (Rummel, R 1994). At the same time, researchers have warned that European conceptions of authoritarianism have been ethnocentric in many areas, including historical research. “While the investigation of European absolutism has been marked by thorough research and careful attention to details, the examination of Oriental despotism has not gone beyond the repetition of a body of overdrawn clichés (Naderi, N 1994). Similar biases have been criticised in education and culture.

The ‘personality’ is not culturally invariant or static across situations. Authoritarian personalities are cultural as well as personal constructs, and in authoritarian cultures the authoritarian personality may be less overt and more psychologically well-functioning. This has been studied especially in two contexts, apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 80s and more recently the former Yugoslavia (Flere, S 1991; Siber, I 1991). In both cases, current societal and cultural factors play a main role, while the evidence for an authoritarian family structure has been disputed especially in the South Africa case (Stones 1994; Heaven, P 1982). Although some attempts have been made to map left-wing authoritarianism (Lichter et. al. 1982; Gutmann 1979), the main association is to right-wing politics.

A main critique against the more specific field of authoritarian personality studies has been their “inability to link psychological dispositions with social structures” (Ferrarotti, F 1994). Yet many studies claim precisely that, and interconnections between social background factors and family and psychological aspects do appear in much research. For example, Hopf (1993) based on an interview study with young German men finds that authoritarianism and right-wing extremism is connected, and related to “certain patterns of dealing with parent-targeted aggression”. These patterns involve a preoccupation with aggression towards parents, and also a “passive preoccupation with a conflict between idealisation of and aggression towards the parents.

Authoritarian parenting remains connected to emphasis on the child’s control of emotions, according to a Dutch study (Janssens, J 1994). Authoritarianism appears in other contexts as negative ego strengthening. In a study of caregivers’ attributions about children’s misbehaviour in child-care centres (Scott Little & Holloway 1994) it was found that “caregivers who were relatively authoritarian in their childrearing ideology, had received less training in early childhood education, had fewer years of schooling, and were more likely to attribute hypothetical misbehaviour - particularly norm violations - to factors internal to the child. Caregivers emphasising internal attributions were particularly likely to propose control strategies characterized by power assertion, disapproval, and sternness rather than redirecting or ignoring the misbehaviour.” Authoritarianism may mean that one recognises the other person, in psychological terms, if only negatively; while market-associated control more often is associated with ignoring the subjectivity of the other (Holter & Aarseth 1993).

Some sociologists and psychologists have argued that the authoritarian personality concept is outmoded today; it mainly characterises an ‘old-fashioned’ type of person. John Ray has argued that “the F scale used to operationalize the theory is a very poor measure of what it purports to measure: right-wing authoritarianism”, yet he also admits that the scale “does have many correlates”; it “does appear to be measuring something (though it is not clear what)” (Ray, J 1990; further Pflaum 1964; Kline and Cooper 1984). Others object that even if psychologists may find methodological difficulties, historians “have no difficulty in finding authoritarianism on both the Left and the Right”, and that the original Freudian assumptions make more sense when combined with cognitive paradigms like those based on Bandura’s work (Lewis, T 1990). In a historiometric study, McCann & Stewin (1990) created a threat index by asking 196 US history professors to indicate the degree to which they considered each of the years from 1920 to 1986 threatening from social, economic, and political perspectives. The resulting threat index correlated significantly with 11 objective indices of threat, including suicide, unemployment, marriage rates and stock rates. “Several studies involving threat and authoritarian personality dynamics were replicated and in some instances extended using the index as the operational definition of environmental threat.” Other US studies support this interpretation. For example, a study based on 4,100 US youths (age 14-18) evaluating their parents showed that those who characterised their parents as authoritarian had poorer self-conceptions than other youngsters, while displaying some more obedience and conformity to adult standards (Lamborn 1991).

In a review of German research from the 1980s, Hopf (1991) found that “the psychoanalytic theory of the authoritarian personality, while relevant, is not sufficient to fully explain the evolution of right-wing political ideas among adolescents.” Adolescence traits like a lessened degree of social integration, problems in developing a personal identity, and isolation also played an important role. “Family background and school performance are also significant; in particular, low educational levels correlate highly with right-wing orientation and authoritarian convictions”. Psychodynamic and cognitive processes must be seen in combination, and some studies find more evidence for anxiety than for a frustration-aggression pattern as main psychological basis (Altemeyer, B 1988; Sollner, A 1984).

Theory issues

The form and degree of asymmetrical control vary in social relations. This control exists in many forms, and for now I just call it ‘power’. Authoritarianism, then, is one form of power, partly a long-term trend, and partly a more specific and changing historical pattern through our century. It may be associated with masculinity, yet it remains conceptually different. Different forms of masculinity are associated with different forms of power, and also to some extent with different degrees of power, both in the area of relations between men, in relations between women and men, and in self-relations.

This approach to the authoritarian personality starts from the reciprocity context of power and authoritarianism, in order to avoid the tendency that authority becomes a notion of pure psychosocial ‘Herrschaft’ (or Foucault’s ‘discipline’), isolated from practical relations and their socioeconomic aspects.

As a pattern, the authoritarian personality has not disappeared, yet some of its dynamics have probably changed. Market liberalism and fundamentalist authoritarianism operates in tandem in some contexts, and so the opposition between the ‘other-directedness’ of the liberal personality and the ‘inner-directedness’ of the authoritarian personality may be less absolute than often supposed (Wrong & Riesman 1992). Two main strands appear in various psychological approaches to the authoritarian personality: an element of control, brutality or oppression, and an element of indifference, lack of empathy and respect, and alienation. These are transmitted over the generations through family dynamics where the father-son-relation is of major importance, while the mother’s influence is less well mapped. The Freudian ‘family story’ of unconscious energies associated with sexuality and anxiety is only one component of authoritarianism, yet it remains important for understanding authoritarianism as internalised power.

Further, the family of origin is not the only important influence. As recent victimisation studies in particular have shown, ‘social fabrics’ may have large personal consequences in other arenas also. A main feminist issue is the study of how men actually relate to themselves and others through the public and private sphere, combining work and family life. The importance of women and women’s activities have not been sufficiently recognised.

From a patriarchy theory point of view, the Frankfurt researchers worked along a male-male axis of patriarchy, underestimating the importance of the male-female axis. Ironically, this is the opposite of a typical situation in current gender studies, where the same-sex-hierarchy is often ignored. This tendency contributed to a ‘pure power’ concept of authoritarianism, and a corresponding neglect of the informal economy that accompanies power processes, i.e. a lack of focus on how power is managed, ‘householded’, or economised (Holter, Ø 1996a). Further problems appear at this point: the core psychodynamic notions were conceived in a framework where men were aggrandised as subjects, women diminished, and the hostility of men, especially between father and son competing for the woman/mother as a common property, was often assumed rather than investigated. Contemporary research points to both parents being important for a child in all phases of development, and to the child as a much more complex and developed human subject than conceived three generations ago. Parental attachments are complex and seldom just a case of model learning (Stierlin, H 1974).

The combination of power, alienation and masculinity emerges as a main area where research is needed. We may think in terms of power and alienation experiences that eventually are managed by men in terms of masculinity. The management involves ‘personal householding’, as well as more specific political, economic etc. relations to others. Masculinities theory has made considerable advances taking these clusters as ‘cultural facts’ and investigating their borders and constitutions (Connell, R 1995; Kimmel, M 1996).

Methodologically, a life course perspective may help make create a more relational sense of authoritarianism. This means a widening of the focus on family socialisation to include other important experiences like the childhood and youth environment, work place socialisation, friendships, and family and private life history. It corresponds to the biographical framework in the wide sense, opening for multiple influence and path analyses. In interviews and field work, a life course perspective is usually easily and intuitively grasped by the interview subjects as a meaning framework, and therefore beneficial for free association.

Further, the life course method may be extended by distinguishing between the full context of a person’s life course, and the parts of this context that are ‘thematised’, made topical (Holter & Aarseth 1994). In Giddens terms, the ‘reflective selfmonitoring is only partial. Many patterns are not perceived or only peripherally perceived, while others are continually reworked as ‘life stories’ and emblematic themes. Various forms of interactional analyses may be employed at this point, including a focus of ‘scripts’, ideology, rationality, empathy, awareness of others and oneself, and so on. The idea that the life course and connections are only partially perceived is especially relevant in studies of men where one recurring problem is ‘the lack of words’ and the existence of experiences and emotions that men find it difficult to give voice to. A learning perspective is also relevant here, as an alternative to ‘social inheritance’. In many circumstances, we may suspect that greater possibilities for personal growth and learning make the ‘inheritance’ mechanisms less effective.

In sum, a feminist perspective means putting authoritarianism back into one of its two main contexts, that of male-female relations, without overlooking other (male-male, non-gendered, etc.) aspects. Authoritarianism is not a social disease or a deviancy, but part of the factual reciprocity of everyday life, where women analytically are as central as men. The authoritarian personality concept should be seen as a pattern of family and work life relations, and the empirical imbalance between men and women is one main trait for mapping of authoritarianism. In this area as in others, an underevaluation of the role of women has contributed to an underestimation of the relational and reciprocity elements of the main category used (‘authoritarian personality’).

Some new results

On this background, we would expect that:

1. Authoritarianism in practice, as measured by oppression of women, is not identical to specific forms of masculinity, although more associated with some masculinity forms than others,

2. Men’s relationship to authoritarianism has two main family background elements, (b) the relationship to the father and other men, and (c) the relationship to the mother and other women.

3. The generational transfer of authoritarian traits from fathers to sons varies with the sons’ relations to the mother and other women.

A representative survey on men in Norway in 1988 (N=614) followed these considerations, with variables charting men’s development from childhood memories to attitudes about the future. The survey included 115 questions which created a data matrix with c. 150 variables (cf. Holter, Ø 1989a). Of the questions, a first group (13) concerned the family of origin and childhood and youth experiences, the next (10) work place conditions, the third (12) current union or marriage, the fourth (7) on other current relations, health, friendship, etc., and a fifth (30) on care- and gender-related attitudes. Finally there were socioeconomic status and other background questions regarding the man as well as his eventual partner or wife, and the man’s political preferences. In all, the study was life course oriented, covering a fairly wide set of dimensions in men’s lives.

Although the survey did not allow a mapping of authoritarian practice, it did involved items that may be taken as pointers to such practices, including a willingness to condone men’s private life violence against women, not to take women’s no to sex for a no, and others. In general, multivariate analyses of the survey confirmed the picture given by other research: negative attitudes and practices against women is a trend across masculinities and male subcultures, although overrepresented in some of these. Discrimination is more associated with ‘traditional’ and masculine identity than with a ‘modern’ or more androgynous identity. These links may be rather weak, however, since many kinds of discrimination studies show that all kinds of men may be involved (for example in buying prostitutes: Prieur & Taksdal 1989). Wife battering or sexual abuse of children is not confined to one type of men, even if authoritarianism combined with devaluation of women is overrepresented among aggressors.  

A third of the Norwegian men said their father had been the one who decided at home. Only 13 percent characterised their father as strict. Most of the strict fathers were also characterised as decision-makers.  Qualitative research described below show that such numbers are too low, due to the wish not to criticise one’s parents in a survey interview (‘thou shalt think well of thy father and mother...’) and similar.

The men with the decision-making father type were normally distributed according to age, income and education. They had experienced violence in the home somewhat more often than other men, and had perhaps been slightly less often victimised by other children. They were slightly more often politically conservative (including the Labour party) yet in other respects they did not seem to differ much from men at large.

The men who viewed their fathers as strict was a more select group. Once more, age, education and income played no role. However, the view of the father as strict was related to current gender-related beliefs, especially that ‘hard values’ hinder full gender equality and that men need to learn to be more emotionally open. The men with strict fathers were more often depressed and perhaps slightly more aggressive than normal, and they had missed their father in childhood more often than usual. Like the first group they had experienced more violence in the childhood home, and also somewhat more often divorce. The main trait that made this group differ from the rest, however, was chance-taking – having had a strict father was the best predictor of chance-taking among men in the study. A critical disobedient reaction to the strictness may perhaps be the background factor accounting for their chance-taking.

The men who had experienced violence in the childhood home – one of four men – had also often experienced being a victim of mobbing among children or youth. They were more often divorced than normal, the Labour party was overrepresented, and the household income was somewhat lower than normal, although the number of income earners living in the household was somewhat larger. Also, they more often had wives with traditional working-class jobs, although the men’s own job distribution (and income) was normal. Other than these traits, violence did not predict much in terms of later life variation.

An index for father’s authoritarianism was constructed on a pragmatic basis, adding the variables ‘I had a strict father’, ‘my father decided at home’, and experience of violence at home. An index for the man’s own authoritarianism was created adding the items ‘participated in mobbing in childhood’, ‘I am more aggressive than I like’, ‘my job restricts my partner’ and ‘I usually get the last word in the relationship’ plus the attitude items ‘men hinder full equality’ and ‘women seldom dominate their men’.

The analysis showed a moderate but considerable generational transfer of authoritarian traits from fathers to sons, as is shown in table 1.

Next, an index of generational impact of father’s authoritarianism was developed in an attempt to identify traits that influenced its strength. The results showed that the generational transfer of authoritarian traits varied with many other traits including relations to women, yet the correlations were generally of low size and low if permissible significance. Three factors seemed to strengthen the transfer: conflict with women (at least in the current relationship, having considered divorce (,18**), etc.), violence or aggression in the childhood home, and political conservatism. The men with higher generational transfer score were somewhat more often participants in mobbing in childhood than others, and later they reported on more competitive work environments. Yet on the whole, the measure of generational transfer varies so little with other traits of the study that it suggests that the transfer either is a fairly independent as a system on its own, or mainly influenced by traits not covered in the study.

Absent ideal fathers and neo-conservative sons

However, more concrete links between socialisation experiences and later political and gender-related attitudes appeared. One result was especially noteworthy: the political sympathies of the men who had experienced divorce in childhood (altogether 9 percent of the 614 men of the study) differed markedly from the normal. More than half the men who had experienced parental divorce gave their support to one specific party which only attracted support from 15 percent of men in general.

This party was the ‘new right’ Progress Party (PP), which had emerged in the 1980s as a main opponent to the traditional social democratic and welfare state ideals of Norway. The PP shared many of the international neo-conservative traits of that period, including right-wing populism, anti-immigrant views and anti-feminist attitudes. The impact of parental divorce on PP support is shown in table 2.

The strength of this connection is surprising. Among the men who supported the PP, one of four had experienced divorce in childhood, as against the normal one of ten. (cf. Holter, Menn, 62). Further analyses of this political-socialisation association showed that it was strongest among younger men, and possibly among less well educated men.

In general, the survey showed that many men who had experienced divorce had either mainly taken the side of the mother or the side of the father. The PP supporters were in the later group. These men’s descriptions, though brief in the survey, corresponded to the idealisation of the absent father image hypothesised by Horkheimer and others in the 1930s. Unlike other men who had experienced parental divorce, the PP supporters seldom criticised their father, thought he was too strict, or that he dominated at home. Instead, men in this group identified more often with the father than with the mother than normal among the parental divorce men, and they also more often missed their father. They seemed more feminine than usual, although the measures used in the survey were indirect at this point.

Generally, the Progress Party supporters were markedly more negative to women, to equal status demands, and to immigrants than the rest of the men in the study – among men in general, and among those with parental divorce. We also found a slight association between parents’ divorce and own divorce in the study, yet it may be noted that it was not clearly statistically significant and less strong that the authoritarian connection. The negative attitudes to women held by many PP supporters and a third or so of the men in general were in turn connected to the ‘sex-violence syndrome’ mapped in the study, of which more is said below.

The idea that a sympathy for the PP was indeed linked to father absence and negative impact of women’s socialisation is supported by many cultural traits of the period, especially the anti-collectivist, anti-’mothering’-state attitude of the PP. It is also warranted on a psychological level by the many post-divorce socialisation reports on the theme of the mother who is hostile to her ex-husband, with the boy as a receptor of some of this hostility.

Authoritarianism and the role of women

A qualitative follow-up study based on in-depth, free association life story interviews gave some further indications on the gender context of authoritarianism (Holter & Aarseth 1993).

A first part of the study focused on the ‘low end’ group of men with violence problems, confirming the feminine identity among one type of men in this group. Although ‘femininity’ is imprecise, many of the men did appear as ‘too kind, too caring’ until they hit. Jealousy was a main immediate motive for their violence against women.

In a second part of the study, the ‘high end’ group of men participating more than usual in child care at home were interviewed. The study showed the spectrum of mastering techniques used by men in their parental relationships, involving the father especially, often with the mother in the background, relations that usually became accentuated as these men themselves became fathers. These young, care-giving fathers were mainly of three types, ‘combinatory careerists’, ‘alternativists’ and ‘incidentals’. The first category wanted to master child care as much as they mastered their job; the second was mainly motivated by feminism and other alternativism, while the third group was more incidentally involved, often due to the woman’s influence. In all categories we found a tendency that the men used their mothers and wives as advisors regarding their father. The men often described their mothers as the ‘communications central’ of the family, while personal communication with the father was more difficult, Both the dual careerists and the alternativists were mainly middle class men, combining ‘feminine’ expressivity and ‘masculine’ achievement orientation and so would probably have scored highly on androgyny on the BEM measure.

Broadly, this study confirmed the survey concerning authoritarianism, showing how egalitarian relations to women and masculine identity are linked, with women as male role moderators. The idea that women cannot be role models for men is misleading in view of this material: roles are seldom simply copied from models, gender modelling is in general to a great degree indirect, meaning that women indirectly symbolise what men should be like, and vice versa men what women should be like.

In the qualitative study, the women’s moderation seemed to have been beneficial for the men in some respects, yet it could also mean an over-adaption to feminine ideals, a guidance substituting for one’s own experience, a use of women’s words instead of one’s own, and similar. ‘Respect for the person, the child’ appeared as a main issue, regarding the mother as well as the father, an aspect that was not covered in the survey. On the other hand, indifference and control emerged as main problems, and the critique of the older generation of fathers came much more clearly to the forefront in the interviews.

The men who participated in care and housework at home on more than a temporary basis were characterised by having found their own reasons for doing so, including an ability to rework their partners or mothers personal life portraits and make up their own mind. While women generally were influential in these family contexts, although still often secondary in career terms, the devalued and troubled status of women was noticeable in the life stories of the men with violence problems. A more or less traumatic ‘transfer line’ of oppression appeared, from the father (or, before that, his job, relations to his own parents, personal problems, and so on), to his wife, and to the children, which could be seen in some cases.

While some of these traits are applicable to a Scandinavian cultural setting especially, most seem generally relevant. The qualitative study confirmed the negative impact of father distance, especially when combined with power and dominance behaviour. Also, indifference and alienation emerged as a partially independent factor that could be especially damaging for the relations between sons and fathers. Men’s relationship style was generally more distanciated, and one component in the anxiety of male-male relations seemed connected to an underlying threat of annihilation, not as a personal matter, but related to masculinity as such. A later (1994) survey has confirmed the split of opinion view regarding ‘men in general’ (negative) and men known men by the subject (more positive).

Mainly, however, the Norwegian studies leave us with a number of questions. According to the Norwegian opinion survey expert Henri Valen, experience of divorce in childhood has not been used as an item in the conventional political attitude research in this country. I have not been able to find much of direct relevance on the international level either. As a whole the picture is ambiguous. One likely path leads from low self-confidence to anxiety about the world and to a defence through authoritarianism.

A negative view of immigrants in the study was especially common among Progress Party supporters, and as noted these men were also overrepresented among those with negative views of women. They also scored somewhat higher on other authoritarianism items, but here the distinction was less clear. As a whole the study showed that racism, through connected to authoritarianism and also to sexism, is also an independent factor, related to victimisation and other traits.

Research on the effects of parental divorce has shown that many conflicts are similar regardless of the child’s age, yet the timing of the divorce may be associated with the outcome of loyalty conflicts (Swartzman-Schatman & Schinke 1993). Several studies have found greater health risks and health complaints among adults who have experienced parental divorce, as well as lower levels of parental support. Findings are often hard to interprete in this area, however, since the effects of a one-parent household upbringing (more poverty, social stigma in some contexts, etc.) are mixed up with the effects of the divorce itself.

In a reanalysis of the 1988 survey, I developed two measures of women’s roles in the men’s lives, an index of gender equality in childhood based on ‘had girls as friends in childhood’ and ‘my mother was employed’, and a similar index for adult life based on wife or partner’s education and contribution to the household income, gender-egalitarian relations at the man’s work place, and the attitude item ‘household work and wage work should be divided equally between men and women’.

The results did indicate that egalitarian relations to women may moderate the generational impact of authoritarianism. The overall correlation between the father’s authoritarianism and the man’s own authoritarianism was ,19, (sign. ,001). This is a moderate-force ‘social inheritance’ relation, according to the rest of the evidence of this survey. Yet among the men who had experienced egalitarian relations to women, the relationship was no longer clearly significant. Although there is a tendency towards ‘inheritance’ also in this group, the analysis indicates that it was less distinct, with more varied outcomes, as could be expected. On the other hand, the generational transfer of authoritarianism mechanism was very evident among the men who did not benefit from egalitarian relations to women. Here the relationship was fairly strong (,33 sign. ,0025). The experience of egalitarian relations to women seemed an important factor for reducing the generational impact of authoritarianism, making the men more able to choose.

The importance of the equality dimension in the mother’s and father’s relationship for the son’s life as an adult appeared as one consistent dimension. The men whose mothers were employed more often had friends among girls (,17**), and in adult life they more often participated in household work (preparing the meals ,24**) and had partners who earned a higher proportion of the household income (,17**).   

Its impact on the father-son relation, however, was more difficult to ascertain. Further analyses did not reveal a clear gap between men with and without egalitarian relations to women regarding authoritarianism transfer, although a greater variation in the first group was indicated. In some analyses, the relation to the other sex in childhood seemed more important than the relation in adult life, yet once more the difference remained diffuse. In general, attempts to map generational authoritarianism transfer indicated a fairly independent factor. It was weakly associated with having experienced violence in the childhood home and being more aggressive later, with conflict in the current marriage, with political conservatism, and with urbanisation. It was not especially related to the man’s perception that he had been most attached to the father in childhood.

Authoritarianism and sexual abuse

The authoritarianism measures used above did not include the indirect components of the authoritarian personality concept (conventionalism, antiintraception, superstition and stereotype, destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and concern with sex). The traits used are mainly related to the authoritarian aggression and power factors of the original F scale.

The 1988 survey showed a connection between negative sex-related attitudes towards women (measured by the item ‘women who say no, really mean yes’) and a willingness to condone men’s violence against women (,27**). Two thirds of the men who condoned men’s violence also held the negative sex attitude. We called this ‘the sex-violence syndrome’. The violence item was weakly connected to being divorced (,13**), not having small children (–,13**), higher age (,12**), seeing care work as best fit for women (,14**), and having been a victim of mobbing in childhood (,12**).  These men also scored slightly lower than others on friendship items in childhood and later. In some analyses, the lack of childhood friends of the other sex emerges as a main factor in this area, although the link is not very strong (,12**).

The men who held the negative sex attitude were more traditional in several ways (probably partly due to the way the item was formulated). They were older than normal, had less education and were less involved in household work. They were also more likely to agree that women are best fit for care work, and more likely to have partners agreeing with them on this issue. They were clearly more negative to immigrants (,22**) and somewhat more politically conservative than other men, and their wives or partners were less often employed full-time. Among both groups, the proportion of divorced men was slightly higher than normal (,13**).

The results from the 1988 survey and, to some extent, those from the 1993 follow-up are based on men’s self-reports, which may not be a too reliable guide to authoritarianism. How does authoritarian and dominant behaviour appear from the point of view of others, especially its victims?

In a 1985 representative Norwegian survey on experience of sexual abuse in childhood (based on adult’s self-reports), 17 percent reported such experiences. The following is based on a reanalysis of the material (N=1031, cf. Sætre, Holter & Jebsen 1986). 18 percent of the victims had experienced an authoritarian (‘domineering’) type of molester. Physical contact abuse by molesters who were men or older boys and not family members were overrepresented in this group, as was violence in relation to the abuse followed by shock and negative feelings on the part of the victim. The abuse was often surrounded by threats, including the threat of calling the police (,23**). Oral sex was more frequent than usual (,21**). The molester was seldom friendly, yet not especially angry. Calculative threats (including threats of calling the police – a threat with rather Goebbels-like associations) and dominance were often involved.

The survey included a detailed list of psychological and other health items, and on these, the victims of authoritarian molesters scored significantly higher than other victims on several types of health problems, especially low self-esteem (,27**) frequent suicide thoughts (,26**) and anxiety (,24**). They also scored higher on alcohol or drug problems and somewhat higher on depression. Although this had not led them to report the incident to a doctor more often than other victims, they had more often found a need to confide in friends (,21**) , and also slightly more often sought psychological help.

In this case as in the victim group at large, later psychological and health problems were more connected to the social character of the abuse than to its physical character or to the relationship distance to the abuser, although the latter factors were also important. There are reasons to believe that the pseudo-involvement of the self and the molester’s psychic terror by making the victim into a ‘participant’ are of major importance for later problems. This is the case with rape also, where one Norwegian study found that seven of ten women felt guilty (see Holter, Ø 1989a:177). In this context, the calculative threat element of authoritarian abuse is noteworthy, along with problems of low self-esteem in its victims that point to the problem of the authoritarian personality itself. It is this ‘calculative authoritarianism’ which is especially connected to the victims’ feelings of having participated, to their anxiety, and to their feelings of not being able to trust even oneself. Although the 1985 study only offers glimpses of one form of authoritarian behaviour with large negative personal consequences for its victims, it indicates that authoritarianism may be more situational and calculated in practice than what appears in attitude measurements.

Sexual abuse research also shows how authoritarian traits are recreated among the victims of authoritarian relations. Lisa Larson (1993) argues that “the feeling of betrayal is a major cause of behavioral and emotional disturbances in incest victims”. It “can lead to a pervasive identification with the aggressor and disturbances in object relations development. Identification with the aggressor is understood not as a defence against a specific affect, but as a complex compromise formation that defends against anxiety, while also providing libidinal, aggressive, and superego gratifications. Identifications preserve affects that have become pleasurable and self-defining.” Larson argues for a treatment that can help victims recognise and relinquish “the sadomasochist pleasure derived from these identifications”.

Early attachments

In the Men in Norway 1988 survey, childhood attachment to the mother and the father seemed to play some role for practices and attitudes among men later in life. This was especially analysed among the men who had experienced parental divorce. Dividing these men by attachment to father or mother showed some consistent and some unclear traits that altogether confirmed the importance of the division.

Those attached to the father seemed to have had more friends than men in general (among girls as well as boys), while those attached to the mother had less friends. They also more often experienced a victimising work environment, they were less interested in living with the children after an eventual divorce, and more often thought the partner emotionally the stronger one, while the mother-attached men differed in the opposite direction. The father-attached more often than normal thought that their partner would react positively if they had taken a care job, and that care occupations give good career possibilities. They were less concerned that men should be more emotionally open, while the mother-attached were more concerned.

The father-attached men were less critical towards a traditional breadwinner family arrangement than the mother-attached men. They were less prone to give as answer to why gender equality has not been realised, ‘because women still have the main responsibility for the home and the family’ (–,36**). They were probably also less positive to a proposal that young parents should work reduced hours (–,29*; the trend among the mother-attached men was the opposite, ,33*).

The father-attached men also more often realised this ideal, and were more often factual breadwinners (living in one-income households ,38**). They had somewhat higher income, higher socioeconomic status (,26*) and were more politically conservative (,37*), yet probably less children (–,30*). The father-attached men less often than normal agreed to the statement that ‘few women manage to dominate their men’. – In many other gender equality attitude questions, the view of immigrants, support to the Progress Party etc. the two groups did not differ.

A dimension of ‘perceived feminine dominance of a traditional, family-based kind’ appears as a possible rationale for the patterns described above. Perhaps it may be called a ‘masculinate personality’ (cf. John Ray, above; it may have some traditional patriarchy aspects, and some more executive authoritarian aspects). The men more often work in work places with a masculine and competitive work culture with a larger ‘breadwinner’ woman-at-home background element, are less close to women and have partners who would like more closeness, including a more care-related work for their husband. These men are less critical to women having responsibility for the home and family than other men, yet they more often report being emotionally dominated by her.

A main issue for further studies thus emerge:  the ‘attachment’ dimension remains partly hazy, due to the manifold meanings of ‘being mostly attached to’ in childhood. How do guilt, respect, shame and pride enter the picture? Parental relations are wide and manifold learning relations, and in the 1993 qualitative study, we received indications that ‘presence’ in childhood was more important than ‘attitude’. When parents are present and willing to experience time together with their children, the children are able to learn from real interaction.

This was observed, although not methodologically incorporated, in the Adorno 1950 study. “It is quite convincingly evident (..) that the fathers of these (non-authoritarian) men possessed, as well as displayed, a good deal of affection for their sons. In general, the fathers of the unprejudiced men seem to have spent a great deal of time playing and ‘doing things’ with their sons”, Else Frenkel-Brunswik argued (in Adorno 1950:361). ‘Absence’, ‘indifference’ and ‘control’ are contrary dimensions that need separate investigation. In view of the public drama sometimes made out of father absence one should not overemphasise the father’s importance – or the beneficiality of his presence. Yet the larger realist argument remains, namely that children who have experienced mutual respectful interaction with adults and their parents in particular are better off than those without it. This should be seen in light of the historical fact that the 20th century father role has in many ways been extremely remote, leading to an institution in crisis. The reorientation of fatherhood is a main background question of the authoritarian personality debate.


The authoritarian personality was seen as “a coherent pattern”, a “mentality creating ”the potential fascist", and as “aspects of the individual’s situation” that “affect his ideological receptivity” (Adorno 1950:1,9). Together these traits created a “disease” with anti-semitism as a main symptom (op.cit.v). The tendency to view authoritarianism more as isolated traits than as a characteristic of relations was connected to another flaw in the original framework, a lack of focus on women (which was sometimes admitted: op.cit.365).

I have discussed three recent Norwegian studies that indicate the continued relevance of authoritarianism in personal relations. The two studies of men show the continued generational transfer of authoritarian traits in the family sphere (from fathers to sons), and the study of sexual abuse victims highlight the calculative aspect of contemporary authoritarianism as well as its link to anxiety. The studies of men do not sufficiently distinguish between different forms of relations to the mother, and this may be the main reason why the expected moderation role of the mother does not clearly appear, even if the results do indicate that the men who had authoritarian fathers but good childhood relations to their mothers and other women were a more variable lot than the rest of the men with authoritarian fathers, and somewhat less prone to follow in their fathers’ tracks.

The studies confirm the importance of the mother-/father-attachment dimension that was emphasised by Frenkel-Brunswik especially: “there appears to be a tendency toward father-domination, or just domination, in the families of the high-scoring (i.e. authoritarian), and towards mother-orientation, in contradistinction to mother-’domination’ in the families of the low-scoring men. This finding, if substantiated (..) would have far-reaching sociological and psychological implications” (op.cit.370). Scandinavian studies generally have emphasised the rising importance of mother attachment (esp. Margot Bengtsson’s studies in Sweden), yet the parental divorce data presented above point to a boomerang effect of a mother-only childhood. ‘Attachments’ are difficult to measure and differs with family culture and ‘habitus’ as well as with psychological variables. Yet the childhood divorce experience and an attachment to the absent father were clearly linked to prejudiced views and, probably, practices, later in life. The connection to the 1980s neo-conservatism is striking.

In sum, therefore, masculinity and gender studies confirm the importance of the ‘coherent pattern’ of authoritarianism that mid-century researchers established, although many issues remain unclear and have at best been touched upon in the present text. Like factual discrimination and dominance towards women, authoritarianism as a praxis runs across masculinity forms and cannot be identified with one ‘type of man’. Yet authoritarianism is overrepresented in specific parts of the gender system typology, and as a component of men’s and women’s behaviour, it is associated with the gender positions of the two and their masculine and feminine identity. The relationship between gender hierarchy, family and ‘life world’ relations and authoritarianism thereby emerge as an important topic for new studies.

See further: additional note on Norwegian authoritarianism research - IASOM Newsletter vol 4 no 1 (1997)


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