PE Is Not for Me: When Boys' Masculinities Are Threatened

Authors: Tischler, Amy; McCaughtry, Nate

Source: Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1 March 2011, vol. 82, no. 1, pp. 37-48(12)


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This study used hegemonic masculinity theory to examine the intersection of masculinities and school physical education from the perspectives of boys who embodied masculinities that were marginalized. Over a 13-week period using present-focused, student-centered, qualitative methodological approaches, we observed, interviewed, and worked in small groups with 5 middle school boys from two schools. We identified three significant themes that merge the stories and experiences of masculinity hierarchies in sport-based physical education. First, we found that four social practices (content, pedagogies, teacher-student relationships, and peer cultures) in these physical education settings privileged some masculinities over others. Second, we examined the role that embodiment played, both in how the boys wore their oppression and in how their bodies resisted marginalizing situations. Third, we describe the contrasts these boys drew between physical activities experienced in sport-based physical education and physical activity experiences in other areas of their lives. We used Connell and Messerschmidt's (2005) reconceptualization of the theory of hegemonic masculinity for understanding how competitive sport-based physical education functioned to oppress boys with masculinities that were deemed abnormal. Additionally, we introduce feminist poststructuralism as a possible theoretical lens for interpreting boys' bodies as also being active agents in social practices rather than being only passive objects who are oppressed and dominated.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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