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Masculinity, Fun, and Social Change

Reflections on The Men and the Boys

C.J. Pascoe

Abstract

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.

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Briony Hannell

Abstract

While fandom is a dominant girlhood trope, few accounts examine faith in the context of girls’ fandom. Addressing this gap, using a feminist poststructural analysis, I draw on interviews and participant observation to locate fan communities as a space in which Muslim girls can enact citizenship. Combining youth cultural studies, girlhood studies, and fan studies, I explore how Muslim fangirls of the Norwegian teen web-drama Skam (2015–2017) draw on their desire for recognition and their creativity as cultural producers to engage in participatory storytelling that challenges popular representations of Muslim girls. This process enables the production of communities rooted in shared interests, experiences, and identities. I suggest that fandom should be recognized for its capacity to generate new meanings of citizenship for minority youth.

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Michael J. Richardson

Abstract

I have carried Connell's work with me as I have embarked on a career within human geography with specialist interest in gender and generation. Although my empirical lens has shifted and expanded in different ways and at different times, those same theoretical underpinnings have remained in place. I found myself returning to Connell's work on The Men and The Boys in my most recent academic work, namely through a “young dads and lads” project. Particularly noteworthy are the ways in which these young men move (and are moved by others) in between “boyhood,” “manhood,” and back again. Connell's work helps me understand how processes of childhood socialization gendered these boys, and how as young men they are gendered still through processes of fatherhood. I am left questioning what is left behind when boys become men. I also am left needing to thank Raewyn for my lectureship—perhaps these reflections will go some way toward doing so.

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Myths of Age and Sexual Maturity

Defining Girlhood in India: A Transnational History of Sexuality Maturity Laws

Iris Chui Ping Kam

Ashwini Tambe. 2019. Defining Girlhood in India: A Transnational History of Sexuality Maturity Laws. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

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New Subjectivities: Maasai Schoolgirlhood as Light and (Girl Effects) Logic

When the Light Is Fire: Maasai Schoolgirls in Contemporary Kenya

Megan Connor

Heather D. Switzer. 2018. When the Light Is Fire: Maasai Schoolgirls in Contemporary Kenya. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

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Tiffany Rhoades Isselhardt

Where are the girls who made history? What evidence have they left behind? Are there places and spaces that bear witness to their memory?

Girl Museum was founded in 2009 to address these questions, among many others. Established by art historian Ashley E. Remer, whose work revealed that most, if not all, museums never explicitly discuss or center girls and girlhood, Girl Museum was envisioned as a virtual space dedicated to researching, analyzing, and interpreting girl culture across time and space. Over its first ten years, we produced a wide range of art in historical and cultural exhibitions that explored conceptions of girlhood and the direct experiences of girls in the past and present. Led by an Advisory Board of scholars and entirely reliant on volunteers and donations, we grew from a small website into a complex virtual museum of exhibitions, projects, and programs that welcomes an average 50,000 visitors per year from around the world.

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Still Just Hegemonic After All These Years?

“Worst Thing S/He Thinks About Me” Predicts Attitudinal Risk Factors for High School Healthy Relationships Program

Jessica J. Eckstein and Erika Sabovik

Abstract

Men and boys are commonly viewed as perpetrators and/or facilitators of relational violence, but this biological essentializing oversimplifies “masculinity” as “bad.” Connell illustrated the complex roles of bodies, structural order maintenance, and “pupils as agents, school as setting” (Connell 2000: 161) in shaping masculinity processes. Our study examined these factors by examining how peer perceptions of gendered identity threats relate to beliefs negatively affecting power relations. Students (N = 87; n = 36 males, 51 females) from four classes at two high schools in Connecticut provided pre- and post-test data for a Sexual Violence Prevention Program. Results show unhealthy attitudes related to peer perceptions as a basis for violence scenarios. We discuss primary-prevention curricular implications by addressing masculinities as social relationships involved in adolescents facilitating healthy relational practices.

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Timothy Laurie, Catherine Driscoll, Liam Grealy, Shawna Tang, and Grace Sharkey

Abstract

This critical commentary considers the significance of Connell's The Men and the Boys in the development of an affirmative feminist boys studies. In particular, the article asks: How can research on boys contribute to feminist research on childhood and youth, without either establishing a false equivalency with girls studies, or overstating the singularity of “the boy” across diverse cultural and historical contexts? Connell's four-tiered account of social relations—political, economic, emotional, and symbolic—provides an important corrective to reductionist approaches to both feminism and boyhood, and this article draws on The Men and the Boys to think through contrasting sites of identity formation around boys: online cultures of “incels” (involuntary celibates); transmasculinities and the biological diversity of the category “man”; and the social power excercised within an elite Australian boys school. The article concludes by identifying contemporary challenges emerging from the heuristic model offered in The Men and the Boys.

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The Unrealized Potential of Body-Reflexive Practices

Intimations of a New Materialism

Steve Garlick

Abstract

Raewyn Connell's work foregrounds bodies in a way that challenges the social-constructionist orientation that has dominated much of the critical research on masculinities. Yet, her concept of “body-reflexive practices” is one of the least explored aspects of her work. In this commentary, I argue that body-reflexive practices, as the concept is developed in The Men and the Boys, points in the direction of a potentially productive convergence between masculinity studies and new materialist theories. In its engagement with the nature of bodies underlying the cultural construction of gender, Connell's work maintains a relevance that has been largely unappreciated. This is especially the case for boys and young men as they develop masculinities in negotiation with their corporeal capacities.

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Claudia Mitchell

This Special Issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal represents another milestone in the history of the journal, coming, as it does, out of the second international conference of the International Girls’ Studies Association (IGSA) that was hosted by Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, in 2019. As the guest editors, Angeletta Gourdine, Mary Celeste Kearney, and Shauna Pomerantz highlight in their introduction, the conference itself and the Special Issue set in motion the type of dialogue and conversation that is crucial to challenging and changing the world of inequities and disparities experienced by girls. For a relatively new area of study that has roots in feminism and social change, critical dialogue about inclusion and exclusion and about ongoing reflexivity and questioning must surely be at the heart of girls studies. The guest editors capture this admirably when they replace the question “What is girlhood studies?” with the provocative and generative question, “What can girlhood studies be?” The articles and book reviews in this Special Issue tackle what girls studies could be in so many different ways, ranging from broadening and deepening notions of intersectionality and interdisciplinarity to ensuring a place for the article, “Where are all the Girls and Indigenous People at IGSA@ND?” co-authored by the girls who belong to the Young Indigenous Women's Utopia group. Such an account offers a meta-analysis of the field of girlhood studies, but so did the call for the Special Issue as a whole. It is commendable that this team of co-editors assembled and curated a series of articles that reveal the very essence of the problematic that girlhood studies seeks to address.