This article considers the so-called war on boys through a critical examination of the way boys and young men have been represented in what might be termed the male role model discourse in policy and media debates in the UK. Critical engagement with academic literatures that explore the male role model response to what has become known as the problem of boys, predominantly in education and in welfare settings, reveals that contemporary policy solutions continue to be premised on outdated theoretical foundations that reflect simplistic understandings of gender and gender relations. In this article we advocate policy solutions that acknowledge the complexity and diversity of boys’ and young men’s experiences and that do not simplistically reduce their problems to the notion of a crisis in masculinity.
Anna Tarrant, Gareth Terry, Michael R.M. Ward, Sandy Ruxton, Martin Robb and Brigid Featherstone
Youth Masculinity and Postfeminism in Contemporary Hollywood, an Analysis of Superbad
Victoria Cann and Erica Horton
This article explores the representation of youth masculinity in contemporary Hollywood comedy. By focusing on the intersection of gender and generation, it emphasizes the importance of relationality in a consideration of representations of boyhood. Using Superbad as a case study, this article reveals the nuanced ways in which the crisis of masculinity is represented in popular culture in a postfeminist context. Foregrounding issues of homosociality in coming-of-age narratives, it emphasizes the tensions between generational expectations and performances of gender. Themes of loss and nostalgia are explored through analysis of the juxtaposition of adult and adolescent male characters in Superbad, providing insight into and understanding of the complexities of boyhood. Superbad is contextualized in relation to teen comedy more broadly, highlighting the important cultural space that contemporary Hollywood comedies play in (re)constructing discourses of masculinity.
Linguistic Anthropological Notes
Diederik F. Janssen
This article proposes a linguistic anthropological approach to the notion BOY, drawing attention to diverse research methods including etymology, onomasiology, corpus analysis, semantics, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and comparative ethnolinguistics. As a popular and flexible lexical device, BOY may function as an operator on the received nature of manhood (by rendering it contingent on the discourse and narrative of development), but also as a possible aid in its ever-imminent bankruptcy by disengaging its stylistics from essentialist understandings of both gender and life phase. BOY, thus, lies at the heart of discussions about masculinity as it relates to performativity, language, and discourse, but, in important ways, it also exceeds and contests the confinements of gender/masculinity research.
Disability, Gender, and Discourse in The Men
This article considers the representation of gendered disability in The Men (Fred Zinnemann, 1950), Marlon Brando’s first film. A groundbreaking yet deeply ambiguous text, the film explores notions of normative and non-normative physicality through the lens of masculinity, sexuality, and their implications for human status. In the light of key works by disability scholars and of Judith Butler’s discussion of the cultural construction of the body, this article examines the multiple and subversive meanings made available by the film, and the extent to which The Men allows for a different bodily identity based on dissent.
Gust A. Yep, Sage E. Russo and Ryan M. Lescure
Offering a captivating exploration of seven-year-old Ludovic Fabre’s struggle against cultural expectations of normative boyhood masculinity, Alain Berliner’s blockbuster Ma Vie en Rose exposes the ways in which current sex and gender systems operate in cinematic representations of nonconforming gender identities. Using transing as our theoretical framework to investigate how gender is assembled and reassembled in and across other social categories such as age, we engage in a close reading of the film with a focus on Ludovic’s gender performance. Our analysis reveals three distinct but interrelated discourses—construction, correction, and narration—as the protagonist and Ludovic’s family and larger social circle attempt to work with, through, and against transgression of normative boyhood masculinity. We conclude by exploring the implications of transing boyhood gender performances.
The Faucher-d'Alexis Affair of 1884
In April 1884, a scandal erupted among colonial officials stationed in the French Central African colony of Gabon. Alexis d'Alexis, a customs officer, and Faucher, a member of Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza's third expedition into the Gabonese interior, accused one another of abuses against Africans. D'Alexis declared that Faucher had tortured a Senegalese sailor, and Faucher accused D'Alexis of engaging in sexual relationships with six African boys and men on the island. Although the charges never went beyond the colonial administration's internal correspondence, the allegations of aberrant conduct and the inquiry that resulted offer a fascinating glimpse of understandings of masculinity, internal friction, and the monitoring of intimate behavior within the French colonial administration in the Scramble for Africa. This case points to the fractured nature of state regulation of sexuality in the French empire, as well as the ways different officials defined and deployed constructions of abnormal masculinity as weapons in disputes.
Fainting, Homosociality, and Elite Male Culture in Middle English Romance
Rachel E. Moss
In Middle English romances, public and semi-public displays of emotion are used by elite men to strengthen and promote hegemonic masculinity. This article examines how male fainting, as an act witnessed and sometimes replicated by an audience of men, serves to reinforce homosocial bonds, and to highlight the heroic qualities that make these characters capable of such deep, public sorrow. Late medieval patriarchy is dependent upon the homosocial bonding of elite men, and as such lionizes not only friendship between individual men, but also their collective unity as a body bound by social, political, and emotional ties. Fainting, as a performative act, provides a physical representation of both this collective identity and of specific virtues associated with male nobility.
Cycling, Gender, and Class in Postsocialist China
Hilda Rømer Christensen
This article focuses on new types of cycling in postsocialist China, especially mountain and sports biking, and on the particular entanglements of gender and class brought with them. The shift in mobility and biking from the Mao era to the postsocialist China is analyzed in the contexts of cultural-analytical notions of global assemblages and gendered interpellations. Based on Chinese newspaper materials and fieldwork in Beijing and Shanghai, the article examines the social and gendered implications of the new biking cultures. These new biking practices mainly interpellate new middle-class men and masculinities as part of an exclusive leisure culture. If the “Kingdom of the Bicycles” is going to rise again, there is a need for a broader scope that addresses access for all, including women and families, as smart bikers, as well as biking as a daily mode of transportation.
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.
The Challenge of Constructing and Communicating Acceptable Boyhood
This paper describes a digital interactive book targeted at 10-14 year old boys which aims to educate about how the voice develops during puberty. The contents are based on a conventional print book for adults. The D-book has an advocacy as well as educative role—it attempts to argue in a “boy friendly” language that singing is part of a rounded and fulsome boyhood. It has had to consider carefully how this might be communicated to a potentially skeptical young audience. “Boy friendly” literature has been condemned by the critics of right wing recuperative masculinity politics. The paper therefore critiques the picture of boyhood that has been conveyed and discusses the justifications for the compromises that have been reached.