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Abstract

Nearly a quarter of a century old, the concept of hegemonic masculinity as developed by R. W. Connell remains both influential and contested among gender scholars. In this essay, we use our research on coed cheerleading in the United States as a springboard to explore the bounds and limits of hegemonic masculinity as both cultural script and analytic construct. Cheerleading constitutes a public stage for ‘doing gender’ in ways that highlight normative, taken-for-granted notions of gender difference; consequently, we use cheerleading as a vehicle for asking under what circumstances and to what degree heterosexuality remains central to the enactment of hegemonic masculinity, which reflects a larger question about the flexibility of the concept and its openness to contestation and change. Building on the work of Connell and others, we stress the need for relational analyses of gender when studying both masculinities and femininities, as well as the importance of linking individual-level data to broader structures of gendered power and inequality.