Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity proposes to explain how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women, and other gender identities, which are perceived as "feminine" in a given society.
As a sociological concept, the nature of hegemonic masculinity derives from the theory of cultural hegemony, by Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, which analyses the power relations among the social classes of a society.
The core concepts of power and difference were found in the gay liberation movement which had not only sought to analyse the oppression of men but also oppression by men.
This idea of a hierarchy of masculinities has since persisted and strongly influenced the reformulation of the concept.
Hegemonic masculinity is neither normative in the numerical sense, as only a small minority of men may enact it, nor in an actual sense, as the cultural ideal of masculinity is often a fantasy figure, such as John Wayne or John Rambo.
Hegemonic masculinity may not even be the commonest pattern in the everyday lives of men.In contemporary American and European culture, [hegemonic masculinity] serves as the standard upon which the "real man" is defined. W.] Connell, contemporary hegemonic masculinity is built on two legs, domination of women and a hierarchy of intermale dominance.It is also shaped to a significant extent by the stigmatization of homosexuality.Hegemonic masculinity draws some of its historical roots from both the fields of social psychology and sociology which contributed to the literature about the male sex role that had begun to recognize the social nature of masculinity and the possibilities of change in men's conduct.This literature preceded the Women's Liberation Movement and feminist theories of patriarchy which also played a strong role in shaping the concept of hegemonic masculinity.Gay masculinity was the most conspicuous subordinated masculinity during this period of time, but not the only one.Heterosexual men and boys with effeminate characteristics ran the risk of being scorned as well.Thus, fully achieving hegemonic masculinity becomes an unattainable ideal.Complicity to the aforementioned masculine characteristics was another key feature of the original framework of hegemonic masculinity.Hegemonic masculinity is the stereotypic notion of masculinity that shapes the socialization and aspirations of young males.Today’s hegemonic masculinity in the United States of America and Europe includes a high degree of ruthless competition, an inability to express emotions other than anger, an unwillingness to admit weakness or dependency, devaluation of women and all feminine attributes in men, homophobia, and so forth.