Raewyn Connell's theorizing in The Men and the Boys shaped my analysis of young men's engagements with masculinity, and my thinking about gender inequality more generally. The claims about relationships between global inequalities and gender relations in that text shifted my focus away from types of boys—gay boys, straight boys, nerdy boys, popular boys—to a focus on gender relations among boys themselves, processes by which boys both robbed others of precious indicators of masculinity and attempted to claim said indicators for themselves. This shift highlights the centrality of interaction, practice, and institutions to gender inequality among American teenagers. The essay concludes by discussing how Connell's focus on global inequalities provided a foundation from which to argue that many of the same gendered dynamics we see among American teenagers—what I came to call masculinity contests—are also deeply woven into political discourses and practices.
CJ Pascoe is a sociologist at the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on young people, education, and gender and sexual inequality. She is the author of the award-winning book, Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School and the coeditor of Exploring Masculinities: Identity, Inequality, Continuity and Change. E-mail: email@example.com