Gender as Hegemonic Power in the Third Reich

by Sydney Linholm

Kuhne’s article approaches the topic of masculinity amongst soldiers in the Third Reich and investigates the challenges that different men faced that resulted from the ambiguity surrounding the ideals of manliness and the subsequent clinging to a definition of manliness as being aggressive, strong, and able to exercise control over himself and others. The article also talks about Walter Hauck (“Bloody Walter”) and how he was the embodiment of the ideal man in the Third Reich because of his ability to, as the author puts it, adopt feminine roles without undermining his manliness.

The idea that each ideal of masculinity across varying cultures and religions are in a constant struggle for broader social approval and power is an interesting one. What I found especially interesting was the article’s contextualization of this phenomenon as being a struggle for hegemony. This is interesting because my understandings of hegemony have always been related to the overwhelming soft and material power of a state, however when discussing the idea of ideological power under the Nazi regime it does make sense given the rigid enforcement of gender norms that was seen during this time.

Gender norms are extremely prevalent in our society, and have been in many other societies including during that of the Third Reich. They fall under the definition of soft power because of their ideological connotations, and because they hold so much influence over society in that if they’re not adhered to, that automatically makes you less worthy. The hegemonic power that gender norms held in the Third Reich were the same: men had to be aggressive and brave and strong, and could not do things such as pushing a baby stroller without being categorized as weak or feminine (back them, a synonym to weak). Women were seen frail, modest, and quiet and their primary task was to care for their children and home. These gender norms possess such hegemony because of the ideological (soft) power that they exercised under the Nazi regime, and part of the power that the Nazi regime held was enforcing these norms onto its soldiers.

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