33 SES 06 B, Gender Identity, Boys and Education
According to Connell (1995, 2005), hegemonic masculinity refers to a certain form of masculinity that occupies a privileged and powerful position in relation to women and in relation to other forms of masculinity. Thus, gender hegemony operates not only through the subordination of women but through the marginalization of other masculinities that do not conform the perfect hegemonic. However, few men are able to fulfill this ideal of masculinity, although most of them act as accomplices. This relationship of complicity with the hegemonic power derives in a "patriarchal dividend" that ensures the collective power of men over women. However, since its initial formulation, the notion of hegemonic masculinity has received various criticisms (see Demetriou, 2001; Wetherell & Edley, 1999; Whitehead, 1999), among them the scarce development of women’s role at the theoretical level in its configuration (Schippers, 2007; Messerschmidt, 2012). Another strong criticism of the concept is based on its difficulty to be applied in practice and, therefore, in a context of specific power. Thus, several authors describe the notion of hegemonic masculinity as ambiguous (Hearn, 2004; Beasley, 2008) and of little use when it comes to accounting for the details that occur in local environments. From this initial idea, adjustments have been made to the concept of hegemonic masculinity with the intention to explain the complexities in their configuration in contemporary societies (Johansson & Ottemo, 2013). On the other hand, other researchers (see for example Bartholomaeus, 2013) have questioned the usefulness of the concept in school contexts.
The study of hegemonic masculinity within the classroom has resulted in many occasions in the use of typologies (Swain, 2006). From our point of view this fact prevents us from accounting the real complexity of the process. Thus, while we agree that hegemonic masculinity within the classroom is mobilized around a series of sociocultural constructions such as physical violence, strength, aggressiveness, control and competitiveness, our study places its emphasis on ambivalence in the construction of hegemonic masculinity based on a set of positioning that blurs gender boundaries while reinforces them (Messner, 1993; Bridge & Pascoe, 2014). In this direction, recent research shows that infants and adolescents make use of a mixture of hegemonic and subversive forms of masculinity (Godinho & Garas, 2012) through, for example, a careful balance between hardness and sensitivity in the expression of their emotions (Randell et al, 2016). It seems that we are facing new forms of masculinity that need to be theorized. Based on these premises, the present research studies the way in which five-year-old children negotiate different masculinity discourses in a problematic relationship with a feminist story for children (see also Bartholomaeus, 2016; Kostas, 2016; Anggard, 2005). We will also study the way in which the heterosexual gender matrix is reinforced or resisted (Butler, 1990) and the discourses of romantic heterosexuality from the feminist narrative.
Our research has been based on Davies’ study (1994) conducted in Australia. The post-structuralist theoretical framework and Connell's theory of masculinities (1995, 2005) have also been used. All the analyzed data come from an ethnography carried out in a school in the Principality of Asturias (Spain), in a medium-high socio-economical and cultural context. The research has been divided into two phases: in the first one, 100 hours of participant observation were carried out in a classroom with 12 children and 13 girls of five years old. In the second phase of the research (the focus of this paper) three group interviews with 18 students (3 boys and 3 girls in each interview) have been conducted. The main purpose was to carry out a "debate" about the feminist story "The princess dressed in a paper bag". The interviews lasted approximately 40 minutes, were audio recorded and transcribed. The story of "The princess dressed in a paper bag" (Munsich & Martchenko, 1989) tells the story of Ronaldo and Elisabeth, a prince and a princess who are planning to get married. However, a dragon bursts onto the scene capturing Ronaldo and burning the princess’ castle. This fact generates an unexpected twist in the story as Elisabeth has to assume the role of heroin and she undertakes an adventure to free her fiancé from the dragon. However, the dragon has burned all her personal items so she has to rescue Ronaldo dressed in a paper bag. When Ronaldo sees Elisabeth in that way, he gets angry and asks her to come back dressed like a real princess. Seeing Ronaldo’ s reaction, Elisabeth insults him and goes away forever. This narrative presents a story in which the female character solves a problem on her one, without the need of the figure of a prince who comes to her rescue. Elisabeth’s character is presented as non-unitary (Davies, 1994) and contradictory: she assumes at the beginning the role of a polite princess who wishes to marry her beloved and, at the end she shows a transgressive role.
Among the main strategies in the configuration of hegemonic masculinity in school, we find remarkable the way in which some children make use of "strategic borrowing" (Bridges & Pascoe, 2014) of "soft" forms of masculinity that help them reinforce male’s hegemony, achieving the "complicity" of some girls. Thus, some children seemed to distance themselves from the hegemonic power through speeches of kindness and respect, but at the same time they contributed to the collective discourse of passivity, defenselessness and the politics of feminine beauty, reinforcing the hegemonic heterosexual matrix. On the other hand, although most studies tend to place women as passive consumers of the resources used by men (Talbot & Quayle, 2010) in our research we have found that many of the girls took momentary control of the group interviews to defend Elisabeth’s position as a free agent, whereas at the same time they claimed a specific plot of romantic heterosexuality (Anggard, 2005; Kostas, 2016). The first results of the research indicate that it is not feasible to study hegemonic masculinity based on the hegemonic-subordinate dichotomy within the classroom, since there are diverse forms of masculinity susceptible to constant challenges. Therefore, from our point of view, although Connell's hegemonic masculinity concept continues to be useful within the school, however, it requires adjustments that may help us to theorize the performative character (Butler, 1990) acquired by masculine hegemony in contemporary societies. In order to theorize the configuration of hegemonic masculinity within the school context according to these new strategies and power formulas, a conceptual link between "hegemonic masculinity" (Connell, 1995, 2005) and "hybrid masculiniy" (Demetrious, 2001; Bridges & Pascoe, 2014) has been stablished.
Änggård, E. (2005). Barbie princesses and dinosaur dragons: narration as a way of doing gender. Gender and Education, 17(5), 539-553. Bartholomaeus, C. (2016). ‘Girls can like boy toys’: junior primary school children's understandings of feminist picture books. Gender and Education, 28(7), 935-950. Bartholomaeus, C. (2013). Colluding with or challenging hegemonic masculinity? Examining primary school boys' plural gender practices. Australian Feminist Studies, 28(77), 279-293. Beasley, C. (2008). Rethinking hegemonic masculinity in a globalizing world. Men and masculinities, 11(1), 86-103. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge Bridges, T., & Pascoe, C. J. (2014). Hybrid masculinities: New directions in the sociology of men and masculinities. Sociology Compass, 8(3), 246-258. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities: Knowledge, power and social change. University of. Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), 829-859. Davies, B. (1994). Sapos y culebras: y Cuentos feministas: los niños de preescolar y el género (Vol. 16). Universitat de València. Demetriou, D. Z. (2001). Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity: A critique. Theory and society, 30(3), 337-361. Godinho, S., & Garas, D. (2012). (Re) Configuring masculinities in an ethno-centric Australian community school: complexity and contradictions. Gender and Education, 24(1), 83-99. Hearn, J. (2004). From hegemonic masculinity to the hegemony of men. Feminist theory, 5(1), 49-72. Johansson, T., & Ottemo, A. (2015). Ruptures in hegemonic masculinity: The dialectic between ideology and utopia. Journal of Gender Studies, 24(2), 192-206. Kostas, M. (2016). Snow White in Hellenic primary classrooms: children’s responses to non-traditional gender discourses. Gender and Education, 1-19. Messner, M. A. (1993). “Changing men” and feminist politics in the United States. Theory and society, 22(5), 723-737. Messerschmidt, J. W. (2012). Engendering gendered knowledge: Assessing the academic appropriation of hegemonic masculinity. Men and Masculinities, 15(1), 56-76. Munsch, R., & Martchenko, M. (1989). The Paper Bag Princess. Estados Unidos: annickpress Randell, E., Jerdén, L., Öhman, A., Starrin, B., & Flacking, R. (2016). Tough, sensitive and sincere: how adolescent boys manage masculinities and emotions. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 21(4), 486-498. Schippers, M. (2007). Recovering the feminine other: Masculinity, femininity, and gender hegemony. Theory and society, 36(1), 85-102. Swain, J. (2006). Reflections on patterns of masculinity in school settings. Men and masculinities, 8(3), 331-349. Wetherell, M., & Edley, N. (1999). Negotiating hegemonic masculinity: Imaginary positions and psycho-discursive practices. Feminism & psychology, 9(3), 335-356. Whitehead, S. (1999). Hegemonic masculinity revised. Gender, work and organization, 6 (1), 58-62.
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