Communities as contested spaces are conceived as either warm, feel-good locations admired by politicians regardless of political hue, or conflict-ridden territories that defy rationality. For example, men in societies of armed conflict dominate women through patriarchal relations of control that suppress women’s autonomous action alongside controlling entire populations. Gender relations configure the categories of men and women in relationships revolving within a patriarchal binary dyad of superiority and inferiority. These relations are enacted within community spaces that favour men over women by propagating a deficit model of gendered relations to define patriarchal gendered spaces and suggest that women lack the attributes ascribed to men. Some of the spaces that perform gender (Butler, 1990) are defined as men-only or women-only. Women are not passive in performing gender. They exercise agency in multidimensional, fluid communities that undergo processes of affirmation, resistance and change as relations (re)form through complex negotiations involving diverse intersecting social divisions including age, ability, sexual orientation, class and ethnicity (Crenshaw, 2012). Through performance, patriarchal gender relations can be affirmed even as women resist the hierarchies of oppression that feature in their lives (Butler, 1990).
Gendered relations in Britain assume a white, middle-class heteronormativity that privileges white middle-class men who subscribe to a hegemonic or ‘straight’ masculinity accompanied by a subjugated femininity and non-hegemonic masculinities. Men who are different – for example black men, gay men, disabled men – are configured as having subjugated masculinities (Connell, 1995). But they rank above women within wider social groupings (Whitehead, 2002). This arrangement between men and women is assumed to be natural, immutable and unlikely to be challenged by the majority population.
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