Archer, L., Pratt, S., Phillips,
- class Men's Constructions of
Masculinity and Negotiations of(Non)
Participation in Higher Education', in Gender
and Education, 13, 4: 431 - 49.
Although masculinity has remained
largely unresearched until recently, the rejection of or resistance to
education by males is well documented. This approach follows analyses
masculinity as a matter of multiple identity, connected with ethnicity
and gender:'different masculine
identities will be produced and differential locations within and
divisions, entailing different relations of dominance/subordination in
to other racialised, gendered, classed groups' (432). Hegemonic
'never complete or absolute', and needs to be redeveloped in changing
Much of the work looks at
masculinity and schooling. Working-class boys see education as
inadequate masculinity and middle-classness, and tend to reward instead'"the macho qualities of being cool,
hard and risk-taking' (Head, 1999)' (433). However, black and ethnic
pupils are also positioned, and resist in different ways, as in common
stereotype of Afro-Caribbeans as a challenge.
Not much research has yet been down
on the transition to fe or he. Working-class men are seen as a
problem for recruitment, although they participate'in roughly equal(but
very small) numbers to working-class
women' and again there is a difference for those from Afro-Caribbean
Bengali groups(433). Some initiatives
have been launched to focus on working-class men in particular.
This particular study was based on
this series of focus group discussions concerning males who were both
in HE and
outside of it[details are given 434 -
5]. The study found:
(1)'Anti-participation Discourses' (435), where HE was
seen as incompatible
with working-class masculinity, and university students seen as Other,
white middle-class men, or as'boffins'or'bods', as'socially inadequate men who enjoy
study'(435). Study involved giving up
your social life and living on a low income. There are hints here of a
compensation culture as a reaction to having been failed, and some
with the lads studied in Willis. The peer group was seen as important.
some men reported regret at not having done well at school. Studying
as hard work, with no guarantees of ultimate success in the job market,
offering no'fun', as boring. This
the view that the working-class men, work is the centre of their social
and thus'they address educational
choices and decision-making through discourses that privilege work and
(437).[and this is confirmed by
extracts from the conversations pages 437 - 8]. Almost no one spoke of'university participation in terms of
personal development and fulfilment... Put simply, the men think they
much to lose' (438). This strong instrumentalism has been identified by
Delamont as offering a real barrier to the expansion of educational
opportunity, but they can also be'read
in terms of the men's pragmatic responses to their disadvantage
within classed power relations, rather than as"bad"or"selfish"values/attitudes'
(438)[this touches on lots of work on
culture and whether it represents a pragmatic or cultural response to
(2)'Pro participation Shared Discourses' (438), where
it did seem possible
to achieve mobility and security through education. Even here, the
identity, changes' (438), a matter of achieving higher incomes and
perks, or avoiding the worst aspects of manual labour.
[The study then goes on to isolate
the effects of'racialised
For some Bengalis, Muslim notions of
masculinity conflicted with the drugs and drinking lifestyle of
universities were seen as corrupting. Afro-Caribbeans saw study as
with 'Cool Pose', revealed in an American study (Majors and Billson
1992)as'ritualised form of masculinity that entails
physical posturing, impression management and carefully crafted
that deliver... pride, strength and control' (440). While white
men celebrated manual work,'many black
and Asian men specifically rejected manual identities' (440). For them,
maturity and responsibility, including looking after families
defined their identities, and study was seen as irresponsible. These
allow'the men to exercise various forms
of local power in relation to other working-class males and women. In
comparison, participation in HE could"interfere"with the
maintenance of these powerful identities... particularly... because
is never an"achieved"identity, but is continually produced' (441).
Many of the men in the sample worked in traditionally gendered
well'which may reinforce particular
versions of masculinity' (445) .
Sometimes, but this did lead to a
discourse which favoured participation, especially if it leads to more
middle-class jobs. Bengali males saw it as common to go to university.
most of the men realise they were being structurally disadvantaged.
offered a particular barrier, and black and Asian men differed in their
about the efficacy of education to overcome or reinforce inequality.
may be due to the belief that'young
people often feel that they are in charge of their own destinies,
that"their motivation, enthusiasm
and aptitude would win out"' (442). Pessimists saw racism more
pragmatically as an additional barrier, perhaps excessively so.
black women were better able to
negotiate successful educational routes' (442). White working-class
seemed strongly attached emotionally to class identities, and the
moving to new identities have been discussed by Reay among others. This
attachment seems slightly less apparent in working-class white men, and
some black and Asian men, the prestige of gaining a degree would not
movement away from their cultural background.
Overall, there is some variation
across the sample. Pragmatic identities seem to be important.
had been negotiated rather than just ruled out. Nor was there a simple
connection between school resistance and non-participation.
considered in terms of potential losses and risks set against benefits.
common theme was the need to give up existing identities, and to enter
area without the usual resources and power.
Many young men did not seem to have
planned their choice, and to have arrived'through routes that appeared to be chaotic or by
chance', which seems
to be incompatible with the idea of'informed choice... envisaged in much university
(443) [and pragmatic calculation]. Perhaps the need to preserved
self-identity is what drove choices and calculations. Risks do impact
differently on different groups, and there is now 'the idea that
construction and self-actualization for many male adolescents combine
stereotypical risk-taking with simultaneous processes of risk
(444): this may mean that what looks like faulty strategies are really
manage risk[lots of this appeared in
the classic study of apparent low ambition among working-class men].
of the sample,'participation
constituted an economically, socially and culturally more difficult and
option' (444). This can take the form of reporting considerable
pressure as a
result of family bereavement and illness, or the need to juggle
responsibilities in poverty. There are also inequalities in terms of
cultural capital, including accurate information on HE and how to get
especially via traditional routes.
While working class women seem to
experience equal if not greater social domestic and economic
seem to be 'better at supporting one another and organizing
collectively'(445). However, it is
possible that they can
make the transition without so much'identity risk'.[There
is a hint
that even those men who do make it into HE have been too optimistic
risks and constraints]. Policies increasing participation need to'recognise the"real",economic and social barriers' (446).