Social Justice, Education, and Identity

By Carol Vincent | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Masculinities, femininities and physical education

Bodily practices as reified markers of community membership

Carrie Paechter


Introduction

In school, bodies matter, in many different ways. They matter because the people who go to school, children and adolescents, have bodies that are regulated and dispersed through school spaces and times. These bodies are constantly growing and changing, so the relationship between them and the school environment constantly alters to accommodate and deal with this-as the environment itself has to be altered to cope with the changing shapes, sizes and functions of children's bodies (larger furniture, sex-segregated changing rooms, sanitary protection dispensers in the lavatories). These bodies also have relationships with each other, and with the adult bodies of those who supervise them; they are positioned, touched (or not) in various ways at various times, they are analysed, gazed upon and disciplined by peers and teachers, and used in different ways to demonstrate (or not) a range of identities and attributes, some of which are gendered.

This chapter is concerned with bodies and bodily practices within a particular educational context, school physical education and the related worlds of junior sports and playground games. In it I discuss how children often, but not always, encouraged by teachers and by the nature of the curriculum, use their bodies in these contexts as a way of demonstrating particular sexual identities and repudiating others. These different ways in which children and young people use their bodies, particularly in relation to the development and claiming of such identities, have implications for social justice as they have outcomes which serve neither boys nor girls, restricting the future possibilities for both sexes. I will approach this issue through a consideration of how children and young people's bodily practices, alongside other discourses and practices, are used as reified markers of membership of localised communities of masculinity and femininity practice.


Masculinities and femininities as communities of practice

I have argued elsewhere (Paechter 2002) that we can use the idea of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998) as a useful way of thinking

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