The paradox of
in education: combining
fluidity with fixity
The contemporary concern with 'a crisis of masculinity' has successfully eluded in-depth scrutiny of what is happening to girls and women. However, at a time when masculinities appears to be an ever growing preoccupation within education, it is important to refocus and ask how femininities are lived and regulated at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Recent research studies suggest that contemporary gendered power relations are more complicated and contradictory than the new orthodoxy that girls are doing better than boys suggests (Kenway and Willis 1998; Blackmore 1999; Francis 2000a; Walkerdineet ah2001). There is much to celebrate in both the emergence of new, strong, assertive femininities and the continuing pleasure and reward that the performance of femininity brings many women and girls. At the same time, the contemporary orthodoxy that girls are doing better than boys masks the complex messiness of gender relations. Despite girls' better educational attainment, recent research studies point to a vast majority of boys, as well as a significant number of girls, still adhering to the view that it is preferable to be male than female (Reay 2001).
Historically it has always been the case that masculinity is the preferred 'superior' subject positioning. In fact there is a long mainstream tradition which views female identity as 'non-identity'. Tseelon (1995: 34) argues that this tradition, which pervades psychoanalytic, theological and social