Hegemonic Masculinity in Rubgy

Hegemonic masculinity is a term that describes a dominant model of masculinity. It represents domination over other people, especially through physical displays. It is exemplified by groups that receive special cultural power such as in sport. During a recent match, the Australian rugby team, the Junior Kangaroos, disrespected the New Zealand Team, the Junior Kiwis by advancing towards them with linked arms as the Kiwis performed the haka. This is a dance performed by Maori men as an expression of cultural identity. The New Zealand Rugby League president Howie Tamati explained that the haka is “not a situation where you’re looking to fight,” which is how the Aussie team treated it. The International Rugby Board rules state that the opposing team must stand at least 10 metres from the halfway line while the haka is performed.

This video is worth watching as an example of hegemonic masculinity and its connection to broader patterns of nationalism and cultural violence. On the one hand, all these players are representative of hegemonic masculinity for their respective cultures. Being athletes, these young men make a decent living, and are revered, based on their bodily prowess.

On the other hand, the Australian team, who is familiar with the haka, indulged in aggression and cultural insensitivity. Watch the two men at the centre of this video to see an exchange of restrained aggression on the Aussie side. Strangely, both teams have players of Maori descent (as well as Pacific Islander and other backgrounds), so it is difficult to fathom why the decision to advance was made other than to antagonise cultural pride.

History of the Haka

The haka’s cultural history may be seen to be mainstream given it is used in sporting and cultural events, but the history of its adoption is not so neat. While Maori players exemplify hegemonic masculinity through their athleticism, their race and cultural history complicate things. As such, the haka itself is not a straightforward example of hegemonic masculinity.

Maori people were subject to colonial violence and their culture was decimated by the Pākehā (White) culture. This involved death, rape, forced conversion to Christianity, and other extreme interventions to get rid of Maori culture.

The Pākehā conceived Maori people as “savages,” including their physical practices – their bodies, their customs, and their activities, such as sport. Over the course of New Zealand’s settler history, sport and enlisting Maori men into the military became the only “acceptable” incorporation of Maori people and led to more exploitation. Even then, using Maori men in sport was a way to control and profiteer from their cultural labour.

New Zealand eventually made reparations over this cultural violence and their legislation today is in many ways more generous than Australia’s laws regarding our Indigenous cultures. One of the outcomes is that the haka has been embraced as a sporting symbol. It is, however, not an example of hegemonic masculinity as White culture is still the dominant culture, and Maori people are still subject to extreme racism and socio-economic disadvantages. In New Zealand, White masculinity is dominant, and the associated customs such as sport are hegemonic, not the haka per se.

Learn More

Quote and info: http://buff.ly/1sN6gsW

Hegemonic masculinity by Raewyn Connell 

Hegemonic masculinity in Australian sport  

6 thoughts on “Hegemonic Masculinity in Rubgy


  1. I’ve been watching Hakas on TV for more than 30 years. It’s always been called a war dance. I don’t know any Australian sports fans that would see it as anything else than an attempt at intimidation prior to the game starting. A valid one, because of its cultural heritage, but certainly not an invitation to come back after the game to look at some excellent weaving. The best response from Australian teams has always been to just stare back and pretend they are not intimidated. So the actions of the young Australian team were not the best, probably wrong, but it would be crazy to suggest that they’ve suddenly indulged in un-called for aggression to the surprise of everyone watching. Probably a small point not central to your argument, but I think you would need to identify the Kiwi Rugby Teams’ appropriation of the Maori dance as more male hegemony, less cultural celebration, making the response of the Australians less aberrant.

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  2. Hi Joey Brockert Thanks for your comment. The “survival instinct” as you call it, otherwise known as the fight or flight response, is elicited in times of surprise or stress, such as when people feel threatened from an unforeseen event. It does not apply here as the Australian players know what to expect from the haka. The aggression these players displayed on the field was pre-coordinated, demonstrated in the fact that they linked arms and advanced together.


    Athletes don’t need to resort to “trash talking” or violence to play sport, even when they’re from opposing teams. Watch this gif to the end for an example of hegemonic and non-hegemonic masculinity in sport. 🙂 http://goo.gl/KXIpgg

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  3. Hi James Strong I have noted that both sports teams represent hegemonic masculinity because they embody the physical dimension of hegemonic masculinity (being incredibly fit and strong).


    The haka’s cultural history is not as you imagine it. Maori people were subject to colonial violence and their culture was decimated by the Pākehā (White) culture. This involved death, rape, forced conversion to Christianity, and other extreme interventions to get rid of Maori culture.


    The Pākehā conceived Maori people as “savages,” including their physical practices – their bodies, their customs, and their activities, such as sport. Over the course of New Zealand’s settler history, sport and enlisting Maori men into the military became the only “acceptable” incorporation of Maori people and led to more exploitation. Even then, using Maori men in sport was a way to control and profiteer from their cultural labour.


    New Zealand eventually made reparations over this cultural violence and their legislation today is in many ways more generous than Australia’s laws regarding our Indigenous cultures. One of the outcomes is that the haka has been embraced as a sporting symbol. It is, however, not an example of hegemonic masculinity as White culture is still the dominant culture, and Maori people are still subject to extreme racism and socio-economic disadvantages. In New Zealand, White masculinity is dominant, and the associated customs such as sport are hegemonic, not the haka per se. Here’s a paper that explains some of this history with respect to sport (http://goo.gl/kDQlVU).

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  4. Hi EscoBeatZzZ It’s not about individual taste – as to whether one person finds this incident offensive or not, it’s about the broader cultural meaning. There is too much cultural disrespect, racism and violence in sport in Australia (and elsewhere). In this context, the Australian players’ advance during the haka fits in with broader problems of hegemonic masculinity. This is a term describing dominant patterns that are idealised for men,  especially relating to physical prowess and power, and how this reproduces patterns inequality, exclusion and violence. 


    The direct show of aggression by the Aussies is an overt example of hegemonic masculinity, because this form of masculinity equates certain skills and behaviours as being the prime examples of what it means to be a man. Validating aggression, and the diminishing of Other cultures, are part of hegemonic masculinity.


    I’ve added a couple of links to my post that explain hegemonic masculinity further (see under Learn More).

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