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A feel for the game: strategic deployments of masculinity

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 23:28 authored by Victoria CarringtonVictoria Carrington, Mills, MD, Roulston, K
In Australia, as in many other western industrialised societies, ‘boys’ have come to dominate the gender equity landscape in education. In the main, the direction of this debate has been steered by those articulating a ‘poor boys’ discourse. However, a number of feminist and profeminist engagements with this debate, whilst countering many of the simplistic claims made through such discourses, have argued that schools need to problematise dominant constructions of masculinity. The central question facing those working with boys in schools from such perspectives is: ‘How can boys be encouraged to relinquish the social advantages which accrue from the pursuit of hegemonic constructions of masculinity?’ We suggest in this paper that the work of Pierre Bourdieu can offer some insights to educators on ways to approach this problem. The paper utilises a number of Bourdieu’s sociological concepts to demonstrate how masculinities are deployed strategically within different social fields. In many of these fields, boys and men maximise gender privileges whilst also protecting themselves from the possibility of being constructed as ‘other’. In data presented in this paper, we demonstrate how in some contexts ¾ or what Bourdieu would call ‘social spaces’ ¾ there are costs attached to the pursuit of traditional conceptions of masculinity (for example, in the classroom) while in other fields these same practices pay high social dividends. Boys are often aware of such tensions, and thus despite their knowledges of the variety of potential masculinities open to them, they will often only access those which are strategically ‘safe’, that is, those that offer pay-offs in the immediate context. The task for those working in schools to promote more just gender arrangements will thus be to provide a context which rewards non-dominant gender experimentations.


Publication title

Critical Pedagogy Networker








Faculty of Education


School of Education, Flinders University

Place of publication


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Copyright 1999 Critical Pedagogy Networker

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Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in education

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