“Isn't That a Girl Problem?”

Boys, Bodies, and the Discourse of Denial

in Boyhood Studies
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Abstract

Revisions to Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculums across Canada have prompted a conservative response denouncing the explicit and robust language used to address sexualities and young bodies. In this paper, we question the (in)visibility of male bodies and a prevailing discourse of denial, while situating the discussion alongside an evolving Canadian curriculum. Drawing on a national study, we examine narratives of adolescent boys to demonstrate how they make sense of locker-room interactions and bodily negotiations among their male peers. We introduce a discourse of denial to illustrate the ways in which adolescent male bodies and body image issues specifically have been misunderstood as a “girl problem” in schools. We argue that a limiting narrative of male bodies ignores the marginalization of boys facing shaming and homophobia in schools. We conclude by calling for a (re)consideration of male bodily practices while proposing changes that would more fully acknowledge adolescent male bodies in schools.

Contributor Notes

Michael Kehler is a Research Professor of Masculinities Studies in Education at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. His research addresses: masculinities, boys’ literacy practices, body image, Health and Physical Education, homophobia, men and boys as advocates for change, #MeToo, and disrupting heteronormative masculinity in schools. His research can be found in books, including Boys’ Bodies: Speaking the Unspoken (Peter Lang) and The Problem with Boys’ Education: Beyond the Backlash (Routledge), and in journals including Boyhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal; International Journal of Men's Health; and Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies. He has also published chapters appearing in Men's Lives (10th edition) (Oxford University Press); The Sociology of Education in Canada: Contemporary Debates and Perspectives (Open University Press); and Child's Play: Sport in Kids’ Worlds (Rutgers University Press). Michael.kehler@ucalgary.ca; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1637-7040

Chris Borduas is currently a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Learning at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Chris's current research addresses the intersection of gender and education in masculinity studies specifically, with an emphasis on men as allies and activists, physical and health education, and bullying and homophobia in team sport. As Chris has conducted his studies in masculinities and education, he has continued to question normative masculinities and the disruption of power and privilege in the development of men as change agents. Christopher.borduas@ucalgary.ca; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0325-2997

Boyhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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