Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Gossip, Sexuality and Hegemonic Masculinity at the Universidad Autonoma Chapingo, Mexico

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Gossip, Sexuality and Hegemonic Masculinity at the Universidad Autonoma Chapingo, Mexico

Article excerpt

This paper analyzes the relationship between gossip, heterosexuality, and hegemonic masculinity among high school students of the Universidad Autonoma Chapingo. Mexico. Research was conducted in three phases that involved the use of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Four issues are discussed: the relationship between female beauty and male prestige, the use of violence as a legitimate way to control women's sexuality, the view of male heterosexuality as instinctive and uncontrollable, and homophobia as an expression of male, heterosexual rule. The paper concludes that some young men negotiate the norms of hegemonic masculinity, thus redefining its contents.

Introduction

This paper examines the relationship between gossip, sexuality and hegemonic masculinity in the daily life of students at the Preparatorio Agricola (Agricultural Preparatory School) (PA) of the Universidad Autonoma Chapingo (UACh), Mexico. Research was conducted with teenagers, an age group that has been the subject of considerable attention in studies on gossip in other countries, but not in Mexico (see Paquette and Underwood, 1999; Van Roosmalen, 2000; La Voie et al., 2000; Tholander, 2003; James and Owens, 2005).

The UACh was an ideal universe for this kind of research, since most students leave their parents' home in order to start high school when they are 14 or 15 years of age. Some of them live at the dormitory offered by the institution, whereas others receive a scholarship to cover their expenses. They come from low-income families and virtually all regions of the country. Far from their families, students coexist intensely throughout the school term and their friendships gain even more strength than they would in other situations as they may represent their sole source of support.

Data was collected in three phases. In January 2006, a questionnaire was circulated to 180 second-year high school students (58 women and 122 men) with the following open-ended questions: do you think that there are gossipy people in Chapingo? What kind of gossip occurs? Why do people like to gossip? Have you ever been affected by gossip? What can be done about it? This school year was chosen because students had already completed a year and a half at the institution and, we believed, had enough experience to comment. In the second phase, conducted in February 2006, a questionnaire with 18 closed questions and four open questions was applied to 212 individuals (99 women and 113 men). The questionnaire was designed to identify dominant trends and subjects of gossip, and was developed using the information obtained in the first questionnaire's open-ended questions. Once the data of both instruments were processed, in May 2006, the third phase was conducted. Research results were discussed with students of the same senior high school year in four focus groups. Sixty-six people participated in this exercise (24 women and 42 men), with a total of 458 individuals participating in the study.

The sample included 69 percent of the total student population of second year high school. The average age of participants is 16 years. A third (39.5 percent) are women and the rest (60.5 percent) are men. This distribution per sex is consistent with the total population of the second year (38 percent women, 62 percent men) and the entire population of the UACh (34.5 percent women, 65.6 percent men). For confidential purposes, all testimonies have remained anonymous; we only provide the sex of the speaker (F for female and M for male), as well as the research phase when a particular piece of information was obtained.

Theoretical Approach

Our research was guided by three concepts: gossip, sexuality and hegemonic masculinity. In this section we discuss these three concepts and explore the relationship between them.

Gossip has been defined as,

informal and private communication between a person and a small and select group, about the conduct of absent people or events. …

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