Constructing Masculinity

High school can be tough, especially when it comes to emerging an identity. Schools are a primary institution for identity formation and the construction of race, class, and gender inequalities. Cliques that are formed in high school contribute to this as they are one of the factors that influences how teens identify and position themselves. Gender and sexuality is also embedded within schools among students and teachers as heteronormativity is practiced and gender roles are created where masculinity is usually associated with males as femininity is usually associated with females.

In Chapter 1 of “Dude You’re a Fag,” Pascoe discusses adolescent masculinity and how it is constructed through expressions of sexuality. Males form these masculine identities through homophobic discourses and repeatedly rejecting those who have failed to fit this masculine spectrum such as the nerds that were illustrated in the Mr. Cougar play. The Mr. Cougar play demonstrated two popular boys that dressed up and acted like unmasculine nerds who eventually transformed into heterosexual, masculine men to save their girlfriends. The play showed that due to the nerds’ appearance and their physical weakness they were regarded as unmasculine, and when they used high-pitched voices that marked them as more feminine. By becoming these strong men from working out, the boys were supposedly shedding off their homosexual and unmasculine tendencies which shows how masculinity is constructed. Pascoe talks about how in the play females are applauded for being more masculine, but when males act more feminine it is humorous and ridiculed.

Pascoe believes that paying attention to sexuality emphasizes masculinity as an interactional process rather than a certain social identity related to specific bodies. The terms “feminine” and “masculine” are created through our repeated actions as people constantly discuss gendered norms which soon become what we believe to be the truth. Gender has sought out to be not just a quality, but this practice where masculinity is a sexualized process through which individuals dominate over each other. The regular interactions in male adolescence that seem normal are actually ritualized interactions constituting masculinity. Many people believe that boys don’t suffer from discrimination and that only girls do, but boys experience just as much if not more discrimination as girls, especially because they are practically forced by society to hide their emotions and develop what we call masculinity.

Those that prefer heteronormativity practices and opposite-sex pairings are the ones that create this patriarchal system of dominance over sexuality, and schools are one of the main places where these sexual discourses that relate to the definition of masculinity are ritualized in our heads at a young age. In Chapter 2 of “Dude You’re a Fag,” Pascoe observes River High and talks about how sexuality is structured at school in different ways such as through events and relationships, where the terms “masculine” and “feminine” are defined by heterosexuality and through actions of homophobia. This seems to be true because I remember at my high school and the ones in the surrounding areas it wasn’t just the typical bullying of the weaker and nerdier boys, but also the boys who were seen as more feminine. I had some guy friends on the feminine side who were often teased and avoided by the more masculine, heterosexual boys as they didn’t want to be friends with feminine boys because it might make them seem feminine too. Although the majority of boys at my school were heterosexual, this shows the creation of masculinity through gender bullying and dominating over sexual identities. Most of my guy friends waited until after high school to come out as gay because of this heteronormativity embedded in school that makes them want to hide their feminine side.

It’s sad to see these homophobic discourses and gender norms responsible for gender inequality in schools, especially associating with men. Females are applauded for being feminine or masculine, but society laughs at men who want to be feminine, which isn’t fair because it should be two-sided and men shouldn’t have to feel discriminated against due to their gender and sexual identities. Other men are not to blame, it is our whole society at fault as we have created these continuous practices that define and construct masculinity. High school is the time where one searches for their true identity, and with the knowledge of these gendered norms that shape the heterosexual constructions of masculinity, we can hopefully move away from that of a patriarchal rule to one of equality for all. This way the males who aren’t masculine and the females who aren’t feminine can have a place in society too without feeling rejected by the dominant group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.