The concept of hegemonic masculinity has been used in gender studies since the early-1980s to explain men’s power over women. Stressing the legitimating power of consent (rather than crude physical or political power to ensure submission), it has been used to explain men’s health behaviours and the use of violence. Gender activists and others seeking to change men’s relations with women have mobilised the concept of hegemonic masculinity in interventions, but the links between gender theory and activism have often not been explored. The translation of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ into interventions is little examined. We show how, in South Africa and Sweden, the concept has been used to inform theoretically-based gender interventions and to ensure that men are brought into broader social efforts to build gender equity. We discuss the practical translational challenges of using gender theory broadly, and hegemonic masculinity in particular, in a Swedish case study, of the intervention Machofabriken [The Macho Factory], and illustrate how the concept is brought to life in this activist work with men. The concept has considerable practical application in developing a sustainable praxis of theoretically grounded interventions that are more likely to have enduring effect, but evaluating broader societal change in hegemonic masculinity remains an enduring challenge.