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In Western society, it is a social
norm to extend the dichotomy of biological sex and morphology to culturally
constructed gender roles. Males are expected to present a masculine persona of
strength and competitiveness where females are to present the feminine persona
of weakness and passiveness. Gender stereotypes provide the ability to
distinguish male from female, which is fundamental for any social interaction
(Sully, 2012). These stereotypes suggest that gender is something one is as
opposed to something one does. However, the gender roles attributed to sexual
identity are the result of repetitious cultural performances which can be
performed as conscious or unconscious acts (McGarry 2017). Deborah Cameron’s
informants performed the male heterosexual gender role through language by
meeting the standards of hegemonic masculinity.


One of the fundamental aspects of
Western hegemonic masculinity is an authoritative presence which is evident through
the competitive and hierarchical nature of the informants’ dialogue. Despite
the topic of discussion being the inadequacies of homosexuals, the underlying
goal was to dominate the exchange by winning a verbal duel through superior
insults. The struggle for dominance is also visible as there is a greater value
in interrupting for attention rather than respecting rights of speech (Cameron
2017: 97). The influence of this competitive use of language originates with
being raised with the cultural undertones of hegemonic masculinity where boys
are taught to be confident in order to gain status. To juxtapose, feminine
dialogue relies heavily on cooperation and establishing connections between
individuals in order to gain popularity. The lack of cooperation in male
heterosexuality is a competitive performance through confrontational language,
whether the informants are aware or not.

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On the other hand, there is a subtle
sense of cooperation between the informants as a repercussion of their
competitive nature is the authentication of their identity’s by elevating
themselves above homosexuals. However, the use of the term homosexual in the
context of the informants has little to do with sexual preference. In fact,
anyone who fails to meet the standard criteria of masculinity is categorized as
homosexual. Not only does this include physical factors, such as a wearing
feminine clothing, but also behavior, such as speaking to females who are
culturally viewed as unattractive (Cameron 2017: 94). These factors illustrate
an insufficient masculine appearance and to sympathize with such individuals
risks one owns masculinity. Therefore, the informants are performing
heterosexual masculinity by verbally denouncing others who are not masculine.


Furthermore, there are customary
social pressures that influence the language and acceptable topics for
heterosexual males. The criteria for the accepted norm depends on the genders
and sexes present and the degree of connection between those involved. In the
context of the informants, they are a friend group of heterosexual males which
makes gossip an acceptable topic. Gossip in Western culture is viewed as
feminine behavior that men should avoid, however, in this case, there are no
females for which the men must differentiate themselves from. The presence of a
woman makes certain topics unavailable but at the same time, it also validates
other topics (Cameron 2017: 98). For that reason, it is more acceptable for a
man to display his emotions when he is alone with a woman as opposed to alone
with a man. This is because in the former case, there are no other men present
for which males must prove their dominance. In this way, male heterosexuality
is a performance as there is no universal way to display masculinity, instead,
one must perform in a specific way to specific audiences.

Most heterosexual males are unaware
of how influential hegemonic masculinity is in determining the language of
their everyday performances, assuming they are aware that it is a performance.
On the broader aspect, it applies to the acceptable language used for specific
audiences and circumstances. It also separates those who meet the standards of
masculine heterosexuality with so-called ‘homosexuals’ who don’t through
collaborative criticism and gossip. Finally, it encourages competitive dialogue
between groups of heterosexual males in order to secure authority and dominance
over the conversation. Altogether, these factors of Western hegemonic
masculinity show that a large portion of the decision making and meaning behind
male heterosexual language is rooted in the fact that they are performing a
prewritten script that is their heterosexual gender identity.


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