Interrogating the Configured and Configuring of Masculinities in PE
Michael Atkinson and Michael Kehler
There has been a dramatic rise in public, and particularly the media, attention directed at concerns regarding childhood obesity, and body shape/contents/images more broadly. Yet amidst the torrential call for increased attention on so-called “body epidemics” amongst youth in Canada and elsewhere, links between youth masculinities and bodily health (or simply, appearance) are largely unquestioned. Whilst there is a well-established literature on the relationship between, for example, body image and marginalized femininities, qualitative studies regarding boys and their body images (and how they are influenced within school settings) remain few and far between. In this paper, we offer insight into the dangerous and unsettled spaces of high school locker-rooms and other “gym zones” as contexts in which particular boys face ritual (and indeed, systematic) bullying and humiliation because their bodies (and their male selves) simply do not “measure up.” We draw on education, masculinities, health, and the sociology of bodies literature to examine how masculinity is policed by boys within gym settings as part of formal/informal institutional regimes of biopedagogy. Here, Foucault’s (1967) notion of heterotopia is drawn heavily upon in order to contextualize physical education class as a negotiated and resisted liminal zone for young boys on the fringes of accepted masculinities in school spaces.
Beyond the Boy Crisis and into Superhero Fiction
Michael Kehler and Jacob Cassidy
Drawing on qualitative data of secondary school students, we examine how gender is implicated in a specific provincial literacy directive to employ comics and superhero fiction to engage boys. Grounded in a multiliteracies and masculinities framework, we interrogate the intersection of gender and literacy practices in a secondary school English classroom. The research in this article offers a counternarrative to a prevailing discourse grounded in essentialist notions of all boys as struggling readers and instead illustrates the rich potential between students’ lifeworld connections and comics as engaging and critical literacy texts beyond the “boy book” approach adopted in many literacy classrooms. We further argue that a sharper focus on critical literacy pedagogy, which incorporates comics and superhero fiction, reveals an invisibility of gender differences among adolescent reading practices rather than the visibility that has prompted and maintained gendered reform strategies to “help the boys” increase achievement levels in literacy classrooms.