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Teaching manfully? Exploring gendered subjectivities and power via analysis of men teachers’ gender performance

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The notion that teachers’ classroom behaviour and interaction with pupils may be predicted on the basis of their gender underpins recent controversial campaigns to recruit more male teachers in the UK. Teachers’ performances of gender are explored in this article, which draws on three cases from a larger study to analyse the ways in which teachers ascribed male produced their gendered subjectivities in the classroom and in interviews. Findings highlight the extent of diversity in male teachers’ practice and in their constructions of gendered subjecthood, hence providing evidence to question assumptions that male teachers teach, or relate to pupils, in particular ways due to their identification as male. The analysis emphasizes the fluidity and complexity of gender, including the (novel) identification of ‘male femininity’ in male teacher performances. Yet while supportive of the argument that gender is not necessarily tied to sexed bodies, the paper illustrates how embodiment can constrain or facilitate access to, and exercise of, particular gendered discourses, with consequences for power positions. It also highlights how these processes can result in the consolidation of particularly powerful subjectivities, somewhat testing Foucauldian perceptions of power as ‘never localized’. Hence the paper presents a challenge both to education policy makers and to theorists of gender and power.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Roehampton University, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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