Thomas Kuhne argues that masculinity under the Third Reich was not a simple binary rejection of femininity (men are not women) because conforming to the accepted standard of hard (hegemonic) masculinity opened up a space for the performance of alternative (protean) masculinities. For example, one SS officer “could afford to display seemingly unmanly affection . . . precisely because his male identity was beyond any doubt” (394). In essence, if soldiers adequately performed their masculinity, ‘feminine’ traits and behaviours (like emotion and affection) could be integrated into their identity as (real) men. The existence of the standard allowed for variation. This hegemonic-protean model can also be applied to femininity, as demonstrated by the article by Lopez and Sanchez. They describe how, during the Spanish Civil War, a previously underestimated number of pro-fascist women participated in significant fifth column activities that required them to violate their own conceptions of appropriate behaviour for women. They could do this because they were fighting in order to be properly feminine, to live traditional Catholic lives within the domestic sphere. Thus, the return to hegemonic femininity justified its temporary protean deviation.
Kuhne further argues that gender conformity can be, and can be perceived to be, an outward manifestation of an inward complicity with the principle of solidarity. He states that “what eventually counted, when it came to asserting manliness, was the ability to support the social dynamic of the group” (418). The soldier’s manliness was measured by the extent to which he sublimated his individuality to the collective. The article by Laurie Marhoefer illustrates the reverse of this formulation. She shows how, while gender non-conformity in the Nazi state was not by itself fatal for women, failure to conform to hegemonic representations of femininity (in dress, for example) did open up a space of suspect ambiguity that could be (disastrously) clarified with reference to other factors such as race or politics. Good gender behaviour was rewarded with space for maneuver, while bad gender behaviour could result in the tightening of the noose.