"I'm a glorified MENimist": How boys make sense of a 'curriculum of manhood' in an elite school

Year: 2017

Author: O'Brien, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

manhood' in an elite school
This paper will report on findings from a six-month ethnographic study in an elite boys' school in Sydney, Australia. The research investigated how boys make sense of the day-to-day practices in an elite school and how masculinities are intentionally and unintentionally taught. It considers how a 'curriculum of manhood' in this school shapes boys' own beliefs and experiences of being and becoming men. In order to do this, an ethnographic methodology was employed. Observation and participation in health and physical education classes and broader school life, such as assemblies and sporting events, spanned across two school terms. Student participants, teachers and staff were invited to take part in focus groups and interviews that were conducted in the final weeks of the fieldwork.

Although the privileged, classed and gendered practices in this school were, at times, invisible to students, they shared critical perspectives that illuminated principles and practices inherent to the school's culture. Findings suggest that regimes of gendered power and privilege disrupt the positive messages of gender equality and acceptance that are integral to the intentional aspects of the 'curriculum of manhood' within the school. Boys' perceptions of this discrepancy varied, with some making sense through adopting an anti-feminist or "menimist" stance. Also evident was the problematising of particular practices that continue to glorify the rugby player or rower regardless of their adherence to the official 'curriculum of manhood'. This paper will explore these perspectives and offer practical considerations for the implementation of gendered curriculum, particularly in the context of health and physical education.