Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools

By Lois Weis; Michelle Fine | Go to book overview

R. W. CONNELL


Chapter Nine
Disruptions: Improper Masculinities
and Schooling

A couple of decades ago a modest controversy broke out about masculinity and American schooling. The schools, Sexton argued in a widely-read book, were dominated by women and therefore imposed on boys a feminine culture. 1 Red-blooded "boy culture" was marginalized or suppressed, and therefore American males grew to manhood with difficulty in establishing true manliness. This concern was not original with Sexton. As Hantover has shown, the growth of the Boy Scout movement in the United States in the second decade of the century picked up middle-class anxieties about the feminization of boys and offered a kind of masculinizing medicine through Scouting. 2

This now seems rather comic in the light of the feminist research of the last two decades, which has documented the actual power of men in the education system as in other institutions. The pendulum has swung far in the other direction, with emphasis on the silencing of women's voices in education and in culture more broadly. 3 There can be no honest doubt about the facts of the institutional power of men and the patriarchal character of the public culture. 4

But this is not to say there are no questions to ask about men. To understand a system of power, one ought to look very closely at its beneficiaries. Indeed, I would argue that one of the cultural supports of men's power is the failure to ask questions about masculinity.

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