Gender and Sexualities in Education
Table Of Contents
- About the Editors
- About the Book
- This eBook can be cited
- On Language
- Organization of Themes
- Section I. Gender, Sexualities, and the Cultural Politics of Education
- 1. Masculinities, Gender Non-Conformity, and the Significance of Queer and Transgender Perspectives in Education
- The Politics of Deconstructing Masculinities
- Reading Practices That Trouble the Sedimentation of Gender Normalization
- Further Reflections on Gender-nonconformity and Transgressing Masculinity
- The Question of Gender Justice and the Contribution of Transgender Theorists
- Conclusion: Imaginative Possibilities and Identifications
- 2. Impossible Women: Saints, Sinners, and the Gendered Mythology in a Catholic School
- Sex and the Church
- Squishes and pink jerseys
- Mythical women
- 3. Schooling the Gendered Politics of Masculine Scripts in Black Popular Culture
- Theorizing the Intersectional and Historical Context of Black Masculinities
- A Cultural Critique of Masculine Scripts in Black Popular Culture
- Contested Scripts for Rethinking Black Masculinities
- Education as a Script for Rethinking Black Masculinities in Urban Schools
- 4. Taking Homophobia’s Measure
- Scaling Homophobia
- Thinking Differently About Homophobia in Teaching and Research
- 5. The Heterotopic Washroom in School Space: Binary Gender Confirmed, or No Place of One’s Own?
- The School Washroom as Gendered Space
- The School Washroom as Ambiguous Space
- The School Washroom Examined Through Photographs
- A Space Divided: Classifying Bodies in Space
- Conclusion: Scholarly Significance of the Study
- 6. LGBT Families and Southern Schools: Thinking About People, Place, and Education
- Introduction: “A Little Bit Gay”—The Queer State of Families in the South
- “Place”-ing LGBT Curriculum Studies
- Webs of People, Schools, and Place
- Conclusion: Fully Visible
- 7. Defining Themselves: LGBQS Youth Online
- Theory and Background
- Research Questions
- The Language of Self-Identification
- Rejection of Categories
- Creative Use of Neologisms
- Self-Representations of LGBTQI Youth
- Others’ Representations of LGBTQI Youth
- Analysis and Discussion
- What do LGBTQI youth find on MySpace and Facebook? And how does that guide their understanding of who they are and are not?
- Narrative Analyses: What terms or forms of language are used to identify self and/or others among LGBTQI youth?
- Narrative Analysis: How do these forms of language reflect self and other representations of LGBTQI youth in the larger society?
- Summary and Conclusion
- 8. Becoming a Responsible Boy: Contesting Masculinity in Rural Zimbabwe
- Thinking About Boys: From Experience to Research
- Re-Presenting Boys in Public Discourse in Zimbabwe
- Globalization and Postcoloniality: A Changing Context for Gender Relations in Rural Zimbabwe
- Re-conceptualizing Masculinity in Rural Zimbabwe
- Responsibility: From the Life Stories of Two Boys
- Conclusion and Practical Implications
- 9. Masculinities on The O.C.: A Critical Analysis of Representations of Gender
- Gender and Television Comedy
- The O.C.and the Hierarchy of Masculinities
- The O.C. Rewrites Patriarchy
- 10. Survival, Protection, and Forgiveness: Examining Gendered Violence and Care in The Hunger Games Trilogy
- The Hunger Games Trilogy
- Survival, Care, and Protection: Gender, Heteronormativity, and the Construction of a Feminist Heroine
- Survival and Protection
- Love, Sex, and Survival: Navigating Intimate Relationships Within Contexts of Control, Sexual Violence, and Harassment
- Care and Forgiveness: Transforming Male Violence Through Love
- 11. Social Media Go Gaga: Mother’s Little Helper for Feeding Her Little Monsters
- Where Did the Production Begin and What Sustains It?
- Lady Gaga’s Early Life and Preparation for the Spectacle
- Social Media and Lady Gaga as the Spectacle
- 12. Spicing Up the Curriculum: The Uses and Pleasures of Erotica Noir in the Urban Classroom
- Of Panties and Pedagogy
- A Book by Its Cover
- Adult Content
- Mental Stimulation
- Queer Potentialities: Not a Normal Book
- No Shades of Grey
- Troubling Curriculum and Teen Sex
- Curricular Drag
- Conclusion: New Orientations
- Section II. Beyond the Anti-Bullying Curriculum
- 13. The Bully Curriculum: Gender, Sexualities, and the New Authoritarian Populism in Education
- The Limitations of Dominant Anti-Bullying Discourses
- Bullying and the Habitus of Schooling
- Bullying and Beyond: Resisting Authoritarian Populism
- 14. Failing Progress: Changes in School Climate for LGBT Youth Over Time
- Anti-LGBT Remarks Over Time
- Experiences of Harassment and Assault Over Time
- LGBT-Related Resources Over Time
- Anti-bullying and/or anti-harassment policies
- Supportive school personnel
- Curricular resources
- 15. Conceptualizing Safety From the Inside Out: Heteronormative Spaces and Their Effects on Students’ Sense of Self
- Democratic Theory and Purposes of Education: A Spotlight on Safety
- Heteronormative School Climates: Exposing the Relationship Between Neutral and Normal
- Neutrality as institutional constraint
- Cultural imperialism and the oppressive normal
- Internal Safety: Self-Determination, Autonomy, and Favorable Contexts of Choice
- Who students are: Self-determination and autonomy
- Where students are: Favorable social contexts
- A Critical Review of Dominant Conceptions of School Safety
- Federal and state-level policies
- Teacher Education and Professional Development
- Conclusion: Listening to Pleas for Internal Safety and Challenging Neutrality Through Action
- Teacher education
- 16. Heteronormative Harassment: Queer Bullying and Gender-Non-Conforming Students
- Possible Origins of Queer Bullying
- Gender Norms and Bullying
- Media as Mirror and Window to Queer Bullying
- The Distressing Realities About Queer-Related Bullying
- Microaggressions as Bullying
- Conclusion: Queer Bullying and School Environments
- 17. Safety in Unity: One School’s Story of Identity and Community
- Queer as Subject and Queer as Politic
- Queering Schooled Spaces
- The Importance of Story
- Safe Spaces: Academic and Emotional Support
- The Importance of Allies
- School as Family and School as Lifesaving
- 18. Tomboys, Sissies, and “That’s So Gay”: Exploring Gender and Sexuality Diversity in Early Childhood and Elementary Education
- Heteronormativity at School
- Heteronormative Case Examples
- Gender and Sexuality Diversity: An Inclusive Identity Framework
- Biological sex in ECEE
- Gender in ECEE
- Sexuality in ECEE.
- Developmentally Appropriate and Effective Practice
- Establishing an educational framework; dispelling fear
- Tools for addressing heteronormative bias
- Understanding gender expression
- Working with gender variance
- Working at the intersection of gender and sexuality
- Bullying and Maintaining Safety at School
- Playgrounds and prejudice
- Ready resources
- 19. Off the Script: A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom
- “Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes”
- “Because They Look Gay”
- Disrupting Gender
- “A Little Time for Kids to Get Used to It”: Teaching Strategies for Critical Dialogue
- A public rubric
- Grade 8
- Level 1
- Grade 8
- Level 2
- Grades 11 & 12
- Level 3
- Grades 11 & 12
- Level 4
- “Stop Trying to Force Me”: New Gendered Images
- Drama skits
- Writing prompts
- Conclusion: Embracing Dolls and Army Men
- Appendix A: The Gender Rubric
- 20. “Butterflies Starting a Tornado”: The Queer ‘Not Yet’ of New Zealand School-Based Queer Straight Alliance as a Utopic Site of Learning
- The Utopic Im/possibilities of Queer Straight Alliances
- “An Epidemic of Love”: Working Towards an Affective, Relational Queer Utopia
- Utopian Activist Aesthetics
- Risking Disappointments
- 21. A GSA’s Impact on Students’ Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Civic and Political Participation, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice
- Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs)
- The Roles of the GSAs
- A School’s GSA
- The GSA Members: The Participants in the Study
- Students’ Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Social Justice, and Toward Civic and Political Participation and Engagement
- Social justice
- Civic participation and engagement
- Political participation and engagement
- Did Participation in the GSA Raise Questions About Inequality, Oppression, Domination, and Alienation?
- Conclusion: Significance of the Findings and Discussion
- Civic engagement and identity
- Implications for Education: What Schools Can Do to Support LGBTQ Clubs
- 22. Troubling Silences and Taboo Texts: Constructing Safer and More Positive School Climates for Same-Sex-Attracted High School Students in Australia
- English in the Australian Curriculum
- The student experience: A study
- School Silences
- How do these silences sound?
- Impact for same-sex-attracted students
- Curricular Silences
- Textual Silences
- Conclusion: Recommendations for Educators
- 1. Get curriculum savvy and context aware.
- 2. Get educated and get comfortable.
- 3. Get in early and get in often.
- 23. A Philosophy of Sexual Reciprocity for Secular Public Schools of Toronto
- A Negative and Prohibitive Curriculum That Excludes
- Rainbows and triangles: A curriculum document for challenging homophobia and heterosexism in the K–6 classroom
- Understanding Heterosexist Discourses
- Student Bodies; Sexed and Sentimentalized
- The Threat of Queer Identity and Theory
- Towards an Active and Empowered Discourse of Sex
- Conclusion: Morals and Ethics as an Intervention for Reciprocity
- 24. (Im)perceptible Silences: Hearing LGBTQ Silences and Voices in School
- Theoretical Constructions of Silence
- A Glimpse at MacArthur High
- Situating Myself in the MacArthur High School GSA
- The Day of Silence and Strategies to Address Anti-LGBTQ Bias
- Increased vulnerability
- The strategy of voice: A day of loud
- Being heard: Silences and voices
- 25. The African Dance Program: “Where Is the Love?”
- In Search of Black Gay Male Students
- Historical Perspectives
- The Matriarch: Nanajua Mwingu
- Introducing Antoine and Kevin
- Growing up in a working-class home
- Being gay and gender nonconforming
- Being a special education student
- Participating in ADP
- Being Black
- Being gender-nonconforming
- Participating in ADP
- Chapter Summary
- 26. It’s Not How Regular Boys Are Supposed to Act: The Nonnormative Sexual Practices of Black Boys in All-Male Public Schools
- Children, Sexuality, and Black Masculinity
- Male youth and sexuality in schools
- Data and Methods
- Perry High School
- Dominant masculinity
- Queer Black boys
- Trades on the down low
- 27. Girls Minus Boys: Heteronormative Discourses of Protection in Single-Gender Schools
- Theoretical Complications of Gender in All-Girls Schools
- Popular Rationalizing and Locating “Absent Boys” Discourses
- Different knowledge, different destinies
- Promises of protection
- Girls as a Vulnerable Population: Past and Present
- Progressive Era panic
- New girls, same protection
- Gendered Hostility in Coeducation
- Unfair and/or inequitable learning environment
- Unsafe and/or sexual hostility
- Relations of Dominance and Compulsory Heteronormativity
- Regulating Desire, Reconsidering Sexual Tensions
- Conclusion: Rethinking “Safe” and Making Space for Desire
- School knowledge and curricular conditions
- Section III. Queering Teacher Preparation and Higher Education
- 28. Hatred Haunting Hallways: Teacher Education and the Badness of Homophobia(s)
- Introduction: On Badness
- The Problem of the Example
- The Problem of Looking at Others
- Conclusion: Our Examples, Ourselves
- 29. Is the Mere Mention Enough?: Representation Across Five Different Venues of Educator Preparation
- The Studies
- Approaches to content
- Expanding the curriculum
- Representations and topics
- 30. Challenging Gendered Practices Through Drama
- Gender Inequities
- Critical Literacy
- Drama Workshops
- Scenario Improvisation Activity
- Embodied Characterization Activity
- 31. Critical Interventions: Addressing the Reality of LGBTQ Sexual Violence in Higher Education
- A Heterosexist Discourse in Higher Education
- Sexual Violence in the US
- The Experience of Violence for LGBTQ College Students
- LGBTQ Students and Sexual Violence
- Countering the Discourse
- 32. Some of Us Are Brave: A Review of the Research on the Experience of Black LGBT Professors in Colleges and Universities in the United States
- Conceptual Framework
- Campus Climate
- Personal and institutional racism and heterosexism on campus
- Campus climate for LGBT people
- The role of discourse in campus climate for LGBT people
- Range of professional identities
- Conclusion: Implications for Research and Policy
- 33. 3 to 1: Four Women Navigating the Intersections of Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, and Heterosexism in Intercollegiate Sport
- A Model: The Intersection of Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, and Heterosexism
- Compulsory Heterosexuality in Sport
- Who We Are
- Jillian Roth
- Lea Robinson
- Camille O’Bryant
- Pat Griffin
- The Intersectionality of the “-isms”: The Issues Not Discussed
- Homophobic Families & Communities + Lack of Role Models and Research + White Allies = Silenced Issues Within Intercollegiate Sport
- Conclusion: The Path to Solutions
- LGBTQ leaders as change agents
- 34. Multiple Targeted Identities: Intersectionality and the Lived Experiences of Black Gay Males
- Literature on Black Gay Males
- Gender Assignment, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sexual Orientation
- Structural, Political, and Representational Intersectionality
- Application of Intersectionality
- Intersectionality and Black Men Who Identify as Gay
- Structural Intersectionality
- Political Intersectionality
- Representational Intersectionality
- Notes on Contributors
This volume is about the education of gender and sexualities, which is to say that it explores how gender and sexuality identities and differences become constructed through the process of education and schooling. Wittingly or not, educational institutions and educators play an important role in normalizing gender and sexuality differences by disciplining, regulating, and producing differences in ways that are intelligible within the dominant or hegemonic culture. To make gender and sexuality identities and differences intelligible through education is to understand them through the logic of separable binary oppositions (man–woman, straight–gay, White–person of color), and to valorize and privilege one normalized identity within each binary (man, straight, White) and simultaneously stigmatize and marginalize the “other” identity (woman, gay, person of color). Educational institutions have been set up to normalize the construction of gender and sexual identities in these ways, and this is both the overt and hidden curriculum of schooling. At the same time, the postmodern times in which we live are characterized by a proliferation of differences, so that the binary oppositional borders that have been maintained and policed through schooling, and that are central to maintaining highly inequitable power relations and rigid gender roles, are being challenged, resisted, and in other ways profoundly destabilized by young people today. The very language we use to talk about gender and sexuality identities is changing rapidly in the process. The label, LGBT (lesbian, gay male, bisexual, and transgender), was introduced in the 1990s to make sense of a broader range of gender and sexuality differences and self-identities, and over the past decade or so another sublabel has been added to the mix: Q, so that we now are talking (at least) about LGBTQ youth. Of course, this new acronym (LGBTQ) is still constructed within a binary that separates the “normal” heterosexual from all these abnormal “others.” As the term, queer, has entered the language of educators over the past decade, it also has served as a stand-alone term for a self that resists being made intelligible through binary gender and sexual identity categories. ← 1 | 2 → In Annamarie Jagose’s (1996) popular text, Queer Theory: An Introduction, she explained that the concept of homosexuality and, subsequently, heterosexuality is just over a century old (p. 17). Heterosexism, compulsory heterosexuality (Rich, 1978/1993), the heterosexual matrix (Butler, 1990), and gender polarization (Bem, 1993) are all different terms that seek to explain the discursive practices that present opposite-sex attraction and sexual behavior as the dominant and preferred social practices. The resulting prejudice against those who deviate from this social script has been carefully developed through the powerful institutional discourses of organized religion, medicine, sexology, psychiatry, and psychology (Bem, 1993, p. 81).
One of the problems with earlier, commonsense conceptions of gender and sexual identities (even some feminist theories, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s), was that they naturalized gender binaries, so that femininity and masculinity were talked about as unified, natural, and universal categories, with each identity constructed by negating its counterpart. Today, through the influence of cultural-studies perspectives, gender is increasingly understood as a social and historical construction, and (thanks to Judith Butler and others) as something we learn to perform, rather than as something we are naturally, even if we may experience gender as natural once we have performed it often enough. Another major problem with earlier feminist theories of gender was that they failed to appreciate the centrality of sexual identity in the construction of the “normal” male and (to a lesser extent) female. Compulsory heterosexuality, as Adrienne Rich, Michel Foucault, and Eve Sedgwick have argued, was what made people “real” men and women in modern, Western culture. The construction of the “normal” man and woman almost seemed to require the homosexual, to serve as an example of an “un-real” man or woman, maladjusted and disturbed and morally condemned. Historically, society has constructed homosexuality as an illness, a deviance, and a sin. This discourse was created through psychological research, religious ideologies, and the political and financial privileging of heterosexual and monogamous family structures by the state. The gay and lesbian rights movements that gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s have disrupted and challenged this discourse. Many authors have examined the social, historical, and political forces that worked together to construct the idea of the homosexual and then demonize it (Bem, 1993; Foucault, 1980; Jagose, 1996; Sears, 1998; Weeks, 1985).
Of course, as the homosexual has refused to play this role in recent decades, this also means that gender norms are being destabilized. To use the words of Judith Butler, the contemporary cultural landscape is one characterized by “gender trouble”; a troubling of binary gender categories; a growing recognition that the meanings of “man” and “woman,” and even of “straight” and “gay,” are socially constructed and performative rather than naturally given. This involves an awareness that gender and sexuality identities are open to reconstruction and different performances—that they are contested and can be subverted. Yet another problem with earlier theorizations of identity and difference was that they failed to provide an adequate account of human subjectivity as intersectional subjectivity, forged at the intersection of various axes of identity and in terms of unique life experiences.
As we have already noted, queer theorists have begun to offer an intersectional theory of identity formation that is feminist in its critique of gender domination, but that now ← 2 | 3 → recognizes that gender domination cannot be understood outside of, or removed from, a discussion of the othering of sexual difference. But it is not enough to stop at the intersection of gender and sexuality, as some queer theorists have. Race, class, dis/ability, and other markers of cultural difference have an influence on the construction of gender and sexuality identities. For example, young Black and Latino males are themselves the victims of institutional bullying and harassment in a hegemonic White culture. This long history of oppression has continued, and finds expression in the Rodney King case of the 1990s through the Trayvon Martin case of 2012. At the same time, Black and Latino males are encouraged by the culture industry to harass and dominate their women—their “hos” and “bitches”—along with queer Black men, as a means of reclaiming a lost masculinity. This all points to the complexity of gender and sexuality as identities constructed at the intersections of power relations. There is a growing recognition that democratic cultural politics can only be built at the intersection of identities and movements, not through attempting to pull together a number of separate and autonomous identity movements in a purely strategic alliance.
Such an approach to democratic cultural politics, as we have already indicated, helps us make sense of forms of bullying and harassment as educational and cultural phenomena designed to keep various class, race, gender, and sexuality “others” in their places at the margins, in a stigmatized and subordinated position. The current attention given to bullying and harassment in both the media and public education is focused on the bullying of gender non-conforming and LGBTQ youth, and is aimed at making schools “safe spaces” for difference and diversity, and requiring that educational institutions protect the rights of LGBTQ youth to a quality education free of harassment, intimidation, and physical abuse. One response, and no doubt the most common, has been for school and university officials to blame the individual who actually did the bullying, and hold individuals accountable and responsible for their actions—as they must be. But while individual redress is needed, the individualization of bullying often deflects attention away from the systemic nature of the problem, and results in bullying being treated as merely an individual problem, requiring individual solutions. In an individualistic culture, it is all too easy to blame individual students for something that is normalized and thus not really a deviant behavior within an institutional and cultural context that actively encourages bullying and harassment—as ways of policing heteronormative performances of gender. When there is a pervasive culture of bullying in educational institutions—again, at all levels, from the elementary school playground to the college campus—we displace and misplace the blame when we place it only on isolated, so-called “maladjusted” individuals.
Throughout the book, the reader will note a variety of terms and acronyms used regarding gender and sexuality. As editors, we have intentionally avoided an enforced consistency of language, since authors’ language choices are embedded in the experiences of their research participants, their social contexts, and their theoretical frameworks. This volume is grounded in poststructural and queer theoretical approaches which both work against hegemonic normalizing social forces, and language is one that is particularly powerful. In ← 3 | 4 → each chapter, authors were asked to make choices about language, and to explain their rationale explicitly in order to help the reader develop an understanding of and appreciation for the diversity and complexity of identities, terminologies, and experiences related to the topic of gender and sexuality in education. We have also chosen to follow the American Psychological Association’s (APA) guidelines for reducing bias in language, and specifically the recommended format for writing about racial and ethnic groups. The APA recognizes racial and ethnic groups as proper nouns that must be capitalized, such as Black, Latino, Native American, and White. If authors opt not to adhere to the recommended APA format, we have asked them to explain their rationale in a footnote.
Language is power. The ability to name and create concepts through discourse is a form of control and domination. Theorists Jacques Derrida (1986a, 1986b), Jacques Lacan (1957/1986), and Michel Foucault (1975, 1980, 1986a, 1986b) explored the power of words as signifiers to constitute subjects and their experiences as well as the structures in society that police and reinforce dominant ideologies through discursive practices. Critical theorist, Peter McLaren (1998), clarified how these forces work:
discourse and discursive practices influence how we live our lives as conscious thinking subjects. They shape our subjectivities (our ways of understanding in relation to the world) because it is only in language and through discourse that social reality can be given meaning. Not all discourses are given the same weight, as some will account for and justify the appropriateness of the status quo and others will provide a context for resisting social and institutional practices. (pp. 184–185)
These powerful social discourses are generated through various institutions, including schools. Educational structures wield extraordinary ideological power due to their role in teaching what the culture has deemed as important and valuable to future generations. Ministries of education, textbook publishers, and teachers determine what lessons are passed on to students and whose knowledge or “truth” is valued (Apple, 1990, 2000). Consequently, schools are important sites for contributing to the normalization of gendered and heterosexual behavior. This volume seeks to challenge and disrupt many of these norms and assumptions, and offer alternative ways of understanding and knowing about issues related to gender and sexuality in education.
Organization of Themes
How should educators who are committed to democratic and progressive values respond to this pervasive culture in schools and colleges? One response is to promote awareness of the systemic nature of the problem; its taken-for-granted and commonsense character. Beyond this, proactive efforts are needed to open up spaces in schools and universities for counter discourses and practices, ones that affirm respect for difference and challenge misogyny and homophobia, and that do so in ways that are consistent with democratic educational commitments toward advancing agendas of social justice, equity, and inclusive communities. Chapters in this collection represent both types of responses: promoting awareness of the commonsense beliefs associated with misogyny and heteronormativity, and reconstructing educational practice around inclusivity and social justice. ← 4 | 5 →
The volume brings together educational scholars and practitioners working across a wide range of educational settings to address the question of a democratic response to the bullying of gender and sexuality differences in education. For purposes of convenience, chapters have been arranged in three sections, although the issues that authors raise and the perspectives they bring to these issues cut across sections. Although many of the chapters address issues involving LGBTQ youth, most also address the construction of “straight” identity in relation to femininity and gayness. Since the cultural politics of hegemonic “straightness” needs to be unpacked in order to make educational institutions safe spaces for difference and diversity, scholarship on heterosexual identity construction is much needed in gender and sexualities studies as we envision it, much like Whiteness studies has emerged to supplement Critical Race Theory.
Section I, “Gender, Sexualities, and the Cultural Politics of Education,” sets the general framework for a more detailed analysis of issues in the two sections that follow. This involves an introduction to major theoretical perspectives in cultural studies that are employed throughout the volume, along with vocabulary related to the field. It is one of our beliefs (following Paulo Freire) that in order to create a new world, you must speak a new word. Much of the “high theory” associated with some strands of cultural-studies scholarship is unnecessary, and tends more to reinscribe the movement as one that is elite and academic. Nevertheless, some of the new cultural-studies language provides a new way of thinking about issues, a new way of formulating questions and possible responses. So to that extent, this book is designed to introduce educators to a possibly new language, but one that is presented in an accessible and useful, rather than merely esoteric manner.
Section II, “Beyond the Anti-Bullying Curriculum,” explores the gender and sexualities curriculum (both formal and hidden curriculum) within K–12 education, primarily, but not exclusively, in the US. Authors mix conceptual and theoretical discussions with an analysis of specific, situated practice.
Finally, in Section III, “Queering Teacher Preparation and Higher Education,” authors take up the daunting task of reconstructing the way teachers are educated, in both preservice and in-service settings, about gender and sexual diversities. This section also includes accounts of heteronormativity in the academy, as part of the “ethos” of everyday life for students and professors.
This volume offers readers a diverse array of perspectives and topics that we hope will contribute to and expand your understandings of the ways that gender and sexualities are present, understood, shaped by, and shaping schooling. Many of these chapters are on the cutting edge of theory, research, and practice; and can help offer ideas, strategies, and practices to expand the possibilities of what is learned and taught about gender and sexuality in our educational institutions.
Apple, M. (1990). Ideology and the curriculum. New York, NY: Routledge.
Apple, M. (2000). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a conservative age (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Bem, S. (1993). The lenses of gender: Transforming the debate on sexual inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ← 5 | 6 →
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.
Derrida, J. (1986a). La différance. In H. Adams & L. Searle (Eds.), Critical theory since 1965 (pp. 120–137). Tallahassee, FL: University Press of Florida.
Derrida, J. (1986b). Of grammatology. In H. Adams & L. Searle (Eds.), Critical theory since 1965 (pp. 94–119). Tallahassee, FL: University Press of Florida.
Foucault, M. (1975). Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison. Paris, France: Gallimard.
Foucault, M. (1980). The history of sexuality, Volume I: An introduction. New York, NY: Random House.
Foucault, M. (1986a). The discourse on language. In H. Adams & L. Searle (Eds.), Critical theory since 1965 (pp. 148–162). Tallahassee, FL: University Press of Florida.
Foucault, M. (1986b). What is an author? In H. Adams & L. Searle (Eds.), Critical theory since 1965 (pp. 138–148). Tallahassee, FL: University Press of Florida.
Jagose, A. (1996). Queer theory: An introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Lacan, J. (1986). The agency of the letter in the unconscious; Or reason since Freud. In H. Adams & L. Searle (Eds.), Critical theory since 1965 (pp. 738–756). Tallahassee, FL: University Press of Florida.
McLaren, P. (1998). Life in schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education. New York, NY: Longman.
Rich, A. (1993). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. In H. Abelove, D. Halperin, & M. A. Barale (Eds.), The lesbian and gay studies reader (pp. 227–254). New York, NY: Routledge.
Sears, J. T. (1998). A generational and theoretical analysis of culture and male (homo)sexuality. In W. F. Pinar (Ed.), Queer theory in education (pp. 73–105). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Weeks, J. (1985). Sexuality and its discontents. New York, NY: Routledge. ← 6 | 7 →
Gender, Sexualities, and the Cultural Politics of Education
← 7 | 8 → ← 8 | 9 →
Masculinities, Gender-Nonconformity, and the Significance of Queer and Transgender Perspectives in Education
In this chapter I investigate the contribution of queer and transgender literature for rethinking masculinities in education. Initially, I revisit early feminist poststructuralist literature by Bronwyn Davies (1989) to reflect on the significance of deploying texts and reading practices in the elementary school classroom to tease out their significance for destabilizing hegemonic norms that govern what is to count as a viable expression and embodiment of masculinity. This focus on deconstructing masculinity and gender transgressions serves as a basis for introducing important queer analytic frameworks that draw on Britzman (1998), who linked reading practices to the very structuring of certain forms of “intelligibility, identifications and modes of address” that are capable of interrogating the production of normalcy, and of attending to imagining alternative social imaginaries (p. 84). I also devote some attention to Butler’s (2001, 2004) scholarship on undoing gender and giving an account of oneself as a gendered subject, and apply this theoretical literature to reflecting on the thinkability, recognizability, and embodiment of masculinities as a contested set of norms governing what is to count as a livable gendered presentation.
It is in this sense that I focus on the significance of the queer and transgender project of interrogating gender and sex classificatory systems, which involves interrupting heteronormativity and destabilizing heterosexual normalization, as central to the politics of dismantling hegemonic masculinities. The use of trans perspectives on gender, understood in terms of its embodied relationality, is also illuminated, with its implications for rethinking masculinities and signifying non-hegemonic forms of sociality. Overall, it is argued that a consideration of the significance of transgender theories and perspectives in education has important implications for envisioning imaginative and identificatory possibilities for embodying, signifying, and thinking about the livability of gender and, specifically, non-hegemonic masculinities, which are consistent or congruent with a political project of gender democratization and a more expansive definition of gender justice. ← 9 | 10 →
The Politics of Deconstructing Masculinities
Some years ago, Davies (1989) elaborated a feminist poststructuralist framework for interrogating the legibility and recognizability of gender normalization through its narrativization within the context of schooling, and specifically, the literacy classroom. She highlighted how stories—in both their production and reading—are tied inextricably to “our own sense of who we are,” and function in an identificatory capacity as a means by which to make sense of our lived experiences, particularly in relation to imaginatively positioning and recognizing ourselves as gendered subjects (p. 229). In short, texts and the stories they tell make available certain positions from which to make sense of ourselves and the world, and, in turn, draw on certain categories and classificatory systems for framing the intelligibility of our subjectivities. However, in deconstructing such systems and the discourses underpinning them, Davies illustrated that reader positioning within textual narratives is not necessarily fixed and could be refuted, resisted, or challenged—alternative readings which questioned the inevitability of gender classificatory systems (Bornstein, 1994), for example, could be pedagogically executed in the classroom through producing both alternative readings and by introducing texts which offer other imaginative possibilities beyond locking masculine and feminine subject positions into a binary or dualistic grid of intelligibility (Martino & Mellor, 2000). For example, Davies started reading feminist stories to children that positioned female characters as heroic and male characters as refusing to take up dominant forms of masculinity. She wrote about one story, The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch, 1980), in which Elizabeth (the princess) and Ronald (the prince), who are planning to get married, end up being attacked in the former’s castle by a fierce dragon who burns both the castle and Elizabeth’s clothes while flying off with Ronald. The princess’s clothes are all burnt, and she emerges looking very dirty. She finds a paper bag to wear, and goes off in search of the dragon—which she eventually finds in a cave—and ends up saving the prince. However, Ronald does not want to be saved by a ‘dirty’ princess wearing a paper bag. In the end, the princess announces that she does not want to marry a prince with “really pretty clothes” and “very neat” hair, and “skips off” into the sunset alone (Davies, 1989, p. 231).
Davies, however, pointed out that many students simply refused to read Elizabeth as a legitimate princess, and perceived Ronald as the true hero who is wearing a tennis outfit and medallion around his neck which they interpret as “a tennis gold medal” (1989, p. 231). She also drew attention to the lure of hegemonic masculinity and its desirability for many young boys, which was revealed in their response to the large and powerful dragon who captured their interest, while diminishing the presence and foreclosing for them the true significance of Elizabeth’s agency. Furthermore, Davies indicated that many students simply expressed the belief that the princess should have cleaned herself up and married the prince. In this sense, they were merely recuperating and reinstating the status quo, with regards to asserting a gender system that is embedded in what Butler (1990) termed “the heterosexual matrix” (p. 47). Implicated in such reading practices are certain norms governing the identificatory relations and forms of (hetero)sociality that underscore students’ understandings of gender, desire, and sexuality—what Butler (1990) identified as a manifestation of a “compulsory order of sex/gender/desire” (p. 8), and which Davies deconstructed ← 10 | 11 → for readers to highlight the regulatory capacity of reading practices to function as reception regimes for reinstating a binary system of gender and sexuality.
This recuperative effect of reading practices, which is motivated by a recalcitrant desire to reinstate and invest in hegemonic masculinity “as a sedimented effect” (Butler, 1993, p. 10), is also a phenomenon that emerges in more recent research undertaken by Karen Wohlwend (2012), which investigated boys playing “would be princesses” in the early childhood classroom (p. 1). Wohlwend studied how young boys engaged with Disney Princess transmedia texts. She positioned such texts as identity texts, and examined how the boys appropriated the role of princesses in their interactive play in nuanced and complex ways that involved the children revising and playing with gendered messages and their embodiment. In fact, Wohlwend argued that such identificatory interactions with these texts, which serve as resources for boys in enacting play and fantasy narratives involving princesses, enable them to ‘transgress’ and ‘blur’ familiar gender boundaries and classifications (p. 3). She claimed that by accessing and improvising collaboratively on princess play narratives, the boys not only disrupted heteronormative gender identities, but transgressed “other children’s expectations for performances that aligned with fixed binary gender categories” (p. 7). However, from the account of the fantasy play that is provided, it does not seem that merely stepping into the role of a princess—which contravenes certain norms for boys according to terms of the category boundary maintenance work involved in establishing what it is to count as acceptable masculinity—actually constitutes much of a transgression beyond superficially appropriating a position normally made available only to the opposite sex. For instance, Wohlwend reported on two boys’ improvisations of the fairy tale narrative involving a Disney princess, which resulted in what she termed “wild fantasy episodes involving pizza flinging princesses, karate-fighting queens, sky-diving mermaids, or demented fairy godmothers” (p. 15). She further added that the boys were able to create their own versions of imagined worlds involving princesses that involved “stretching identity expectations for characters” and drawing on and appropriating “identity layers” from a range of intertexts, which they skillfully incorporated into their classroom play to effect what Wohlwend claimed and witnessed as a form of “gender trouble” (p. 15).
An example of creating such imagined worlds involves two boys in interactive play with princess dolls. One of the boys, Austin, assigns the other boy, Daniel, the role of ‘the lady’ and the latter willingly assumes the role of Snow White. Austin, however, plays the role of the ‘bad guy’ princess, placing the “bad baby doll” on a “mirror-turned-magic carpet” and impersonating Superman’s “Up, up, and away!” He then returns to the doll house to engage in “bad baby mayhem,” while Snow White “tidies up after him” (Wohlwend, 2012, p. 10). Thus, rather than subverting gender norms, the performativity that is enacted here by Austin at least appears to be reiterative of norms that are compelled by a desire to replicate certain forms of hegemonic and domestic power relations that are phallogocentric in nature. Such research reveals the extent to which the residual and recalcitrant effects of the lure of hegemonic masculinity live on in the remaking and narrativization of princess characters, which is reflected in the boys’ desire to enact “the hegemonic workings of those identifications” (Butler, 1993, p. 14). In this sense, I am not so sure that the boys’ fantasy ← 11 | 12 → play constitutes entirely a subversive act of gender bending, as exemplified by the young men in Davidson’s (2009) research, which I discuss later.
Reading Practices That Trouble the Sedimentation of Gender Normalization
Such critical analysis highlights the benefits of queer theoretical perspectives in their capacity to inform our understanding of the production of normalcy and hetero-normalization involving the appropriation of a hetero-masculine and phallogocentric symbolic order. It highlights that deploying texts and reading practices can easily be recuperated to reinstate a compulsory order of gender/sex/desire, in which the norms governing hegemonic, heteronormative masculinities remain intact according to the terms set by a heterosexual matrix that enforces and sediments a certain sort of gender normalization in which traditional, female characters are imaginatively positioned as behaving just like hegemonic boys (Butler, 1990). This insight into the implications of reading queerly was elaborated by Britzman (1998), who advocated reading practices that attend to ‘structures of intelligibility’ and norms that govern the recognizability and identificatory possibilities for imagining affective conditions of sociality that are not determined by a phallogocentric symbolic order and regime of compulsory heterosexuality:
a more useful way to think about feelings requires attention to what it is that structures the ways in which feelings are imagined and read. This means constituting feelings for another as a curious reading practice, as a problem of ethical conduct, and as a symptom of identificatory engagement. (Britzman, 1998, p. 84)
As I understand it, Britzman highlighted the role of desire and the norms that govern its incitement as integral to understanding queer reading practices, and the possibilities that they afford for a particular critique of heteronormative systems of thought, as already exemplified in the critique of the boys’ princess fantasy play offered above. It is through attention to the significance of reading practices and strategically deploying texts, which are aligned with an understanding of “the identificatory possibilities” for reimagining masculinities and gender relations beyond the workings of a compulsory heteronormative order of sex/gender/desire, that particular political goals can be realized. Such reading trouble raises important pedagogical questions about destabilizing the “heterosexualizing imperative” driving the disavowal of the feminine. In following Britzman (1998), the problem for educators must involve interrogating certain conditions of intelligibility, and the norms that prop up certain “structures of signification”: “in education the problem becomes how one comes to think, along with others, the very structures of signification in avowing and disavowing forms of sociality and their grounds of possibility: to question along with others, one’s form of practice” (p. 85).
It is in this sense that reading practices are conceived as “socially performative” in their capacity to enforce normalization, as Davies (1989) illustrated. However, they can also be instigated with the objective in mind of unsettling the sedimentation of the disavowal of the feminine that governs forms of sociality that strike at the heart of the recognizability of ← 12 | 13 → what is to count as a legitimate expression and embodiment of heterosexual masculinity. As an English teacher teaching in a secondary school and reading Davies (1989), I understood the significance of reading practices as embedded integrally in a political project of opening up critical reflection for boys on a certain form of hegemonic sociality and identification governing the recognizability and legibility of masculinity as a disavowal of the feminine (Kimmel, 1994; Martino, 1995). Davies’ ideas about reading practices and texts making available particular positions for readers from which to make sense of their own and others’ lives led me at the time to think about the very disavowal of certain forms of sociality for boys and men pertaining to the livability of embodying non-normative masculinity. To what extent was it possible to encourage boys to critically scrutinize the conditions and to reflect on the structures of intelligibility underscoring patterns of desire constituted and maintained through a disavowal, prohibition, and expulsion of the feminized other, as “compelled by a regulatory apparatus of heterosexuality” (Butler, 1993, p. 12).
I selected a short story, “The Altar of the Family,” with this sort of question in mind. The story’s narrative tensions revolve around a father’s disapproval of his son’s playing dolls with his younger sister (Wilding, 1982). The motif of boys playing with dolls is central to unraveling and exposing key questions about the regulatory norms governing the enactment, policing, and surveillance of masculinities. As this story illustrates, such norms governing what is to count as proper masculinity are operationalized by the father’s homophobic disapproval of his son’s desire to play with dolls, a signifier of both the latter’s effeminacy and potential homosexuality. One evening at the dinner table, for example, the father indicates that he does not want his son to turn into a “lily-livered poofter.” In order to measure up to his father’s expectations, David (the son) eventually feels constrained to shoot a possum to prove his manhood: “He was still with terror, the horror of shooting it convulsed his stomach, his bowel, he could already hear his sister’s hysteria” (Wilding, 1982, p. 115). The violent act leads him to feel sick, and finally, the text presents the reader with an image of a boy who has been numbed by his experiences—who has been forced to repress his sensitivity and emotionality in order to be accepted by his father. For example, at the end of the story, David is presented as disavowing his fundamental personhood, playing cricket, “like an automaton figure on a mechanical clock, chiming futile time in the flat emptiness of eternity” (p. 116). As Butler (1993) asserted:
Indeed the construction of gender operates through exclusionary means, such that the human is not only produced over and against the inhuman, but through a set of foreclosures, radical erasures, that are strictly speaking, refused the possibility of cultural articulation. (p. 8).
Interestingly, many of the boys (aged 15) in my class sympathized with David and rejected his father’s insensitivity and abusive treatment of his son. One even raised questions about the tenuousness of the father’s own masculinity, which he attributed to his subconscious or latent insecurities as a man: “The father’s talk of manhood not only proves his idiocy, but illustrates his own self-consciousness in which he doesn’t see himself as fully manly.” The readings of the text vacillated, for the most part, between a rejection of the father, who was read as violent and abusive, and support for David, who was constructed favourably as a “gentle, caring sort of person.” In this sense, the text made available certain identificatory positions, ← 13 | 14 → which enabled a scaffolding platform to be established for reflecting on the norms governing certain social expectations regarding the requirement for boys to prove their masculinity. Moreover, it also paved the way for examining gender non-conformity in boys’ lives and its reception as a regulatory means for policing the boundaries of what is to count as an expression of proper masculinity. The text, therefore, points to the foreclosure of certain identificatory possibilities for boys, in terms of the livability of their masculinities due to a regulatory sex-gender system and the apparatus of heterosexuality that sustains it. In this sense, it opened up a deconstructive space for reflecting on the limits of certain identificatory practices and relations for young men and the norms governing the conditions of their thinkability.
This deconstructive potential, however, is not to deny that the text also functioned for some boys in a heteronormative, recuperative capacity to incite homophobic readings of David’s character, as the following responses indicated:
I think David is a bit of a sissy who tries to live up to what his father expects.
I think David is an alright kind of guy.…Although he might be a bit of a poofter like his father said he wants to have a normal family and live a normal life.
In short, challenging and troubling heteronormativity and homophobia in schools through the deployment of texts which include non-normative representations of gender and sexuality do not necessarily guarantee “deconstructive revolts” (Britzman, 1998, p. 82), and may, in fact, contribute further to the production of (hetero)normalcy, as the boys’ responses above illustrate. However, overall the boys’ responses to the “Altar of the Family” text indicated its pedagogical potential in provoking and inciting critical reflection on the functioning of a binary and compulsory system of gender and sexuality (Bornstein, 1994). It is in this sense that deeper understandings about gender non-conformity and the policing of masculinities can be fostered, with the view to challenging dominant readings of gender variance as symptomatic of a disorder or some sort of pathology (Martino, 2000, 2012).
Further Reflections on Gender-nonconformity and Transgressing Masculinity
This critical project of interrogating gender normalization is particularly important, given the anxiety that gender non-conformity incites, and the sort of clinical and parental surveillance which ensues in order to correct it. For example, in Toronto (and elsewhere), we know that many more boys are referred to the GID (Gender Identity Disorder) clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). In fact, for every one girl referred there are approximately six boys (Zucker, Bradley, & Sanikani, 1997). Langer and Martin (2004) argued that this higher referral rate is related to fear and anxieties surrounding the expression of non-normative, effeminate masculinities, with all of its potential for signifying homosexuality: “Far less attention has been given to gender atypical behaviour among females. There are no prospective studies examining the association between gender-atyp ← 14 | 15 → ical behaviour in girls and later sexual orientation” (p. 16). Bartlett, Vasey, and Bukowski (2000), in fact, claimed that the basis for clinical referral for children with GID “is more often parents’ or teachers’ concern regarding the child’s intense involvement in overt cross-gender play or the parents’ desire to prevent homosexuality in their child” (p. 760). Thus, as already pointed out, there is a direct link between embodied gender non-conformity, the policing of masculinities, and “the apparatus of heterosexuality,” which curtails the proliferation of identificatory possibilities for boys, in terms of their gender expression. As Butler (1993) cogently pointed out, “the boundaries of the body are the lived experience of differentiation, where that differentiation is never neutral to the question of gender difference or the heterosexual matrix” (p. 65).
Such anxieties about gender non-conformity, as they are manifested through the regulatory surveillance of boys’ bodies and their masculinities, are captured by Davies (1989), who provided an account of a deaf boy, Michael, aged 4, reported on in a research project by Rebecca Kantor from Ohio State University. He finds some nail polish in his teachers’ belongings in the classroom and, together with a group of his peers, proceeds to paint his nails bright red. The next day, however, he returns to school with a note from his father requesting that he not be permitted to play with nail polish. Michael himself asserted that “he was a good boy” and that “boys don’t wear polish.” His father’s disapproval of such a gender transgression is internalized as a moral imperative to correct a perceived deviance or transgression in terms of what is to count as a thinkable and livable expression of masculinity. Kantor continued to pursue a conversation about the legitimacy of such a transgression, namely, that while boys customarily do not wear nail polish, it is OK for them to do so, expressing that some boys even like to wear nail polish for fun. In response to such a comment, and clearly agitated, Michael asserted vehemently, “No, no no, I am a boy, a boy, a boy.” However, when Kantor persisted, and in response, indicated that it is okay for boys to wear nail polish, Michael proceeded to pull down his pants, point to his genitals, and exclaim, “Here, look, I am a Boy!” (as quoted in Davies, 1989, p. 237).
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- 2014 (December)
- hegemonic culture binary schooling Sexual identity Difference Normalizing Schooling Power relation
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. VIII, 488 pp., num. ill.