Andrew Smiler, Ph.D.

America's leading expert on the masculine self

Living the image

Andrew Smiler

The goal of this study was to look at connections between several “masculinities” or “social identities”, such as “jock,” “tough,” and “nerd”, and how they connect to various components of masculinity, such as homophobia, sexism, competitiveness, etc.  (Nerds may be seen as un-masculinie or not-masculine, but we expect nerds to be male and including the “opposite” is an important part of research.)

Why?  There are two different approaches to the study of men and masculinity that have become prominent.  One is the “masculinities” literature, which mostly draws from “qualitative” (e.g.,  interview-based) research.  This research talks about the different ways that guys do masculinity.  The other approach focuses on masculinity ideology, which relies on “quantitative” (e.g., survey based) research.  Here, folks measure how strongly people adhere to different components of masculinity (competitiveness, sexism, etc.).  I wanted to know how these different approaches related to each other.  To do this, I argued that masculinities and social identities refer to the same things.

Who?  The survey included 688 adults age 18-83; there were almost identical numbers of women and men.

What?  Results indicated that the masculinities connected to masculinity ideology.  Of the ten masculinities included, each was related to only some elements of masculinity ideology.  For example, men who self-described as “jocks” tended to be more competitive, homophobic, sexist, and male “toughs” tended to be more dominant, more stoic, less emotionally expressive, more self-reliant, and more accepting of violence.  Men and women didn’t identify in the same ways and the connections between masculinities/identities and ideology were different for woman than men.  For example, women who identified as jocks tended to be more competitive and more risk-taking.

So what?  In some ways, this was a “proof of concept” article.  The introduction provides a lot of detail on jocks and others from the masculinities, social identity, and stereotype literatures; no one had done this before.  The analyses showed that masculinities could be quantified and again, that hadn’t been done before.  This provides a mechanism for combining the masculinities and masculinity ideology literature, something I think the field needs.

The study also showed that even though men and women might both claim one of these masculinities or identities, they do it differently.  Being a jock or being a nerd means something different for women than it does for men.


Smiler, A. P. (2006).  Living the Image: A quantitative approach to delineating masculinities.  Sex Roles, 55, 621-632. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-006-9118-8