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The game within the game: girls' underperforming position in Physical Education

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Since 1980 the Swedish compulsory school curriculum has stipulated that Physical Education (PE) should be taught co-ed and schools are legally required to promote gender equality. The latest evaluation of PE in Sweden shows that more boys than girls ranked the subject highly and that they had a higher level of activity during the PE lessons. Drawing on a case study, the aim of this article is to illuminate how games placed girls and boys in different subject positions. The logic governing the observed lessons was ‘proper game’, i.e. playing according to the official rules. Combined with hegemonic masculinity and the passivity of the teacher, this kind of logic resulted in the game being dominated by several dominant boys and by the ball-playing girls either being positioned or allowing themselves to be placed in situations in which they consistently underperformed. A gender category in late modernity, resting on hegemonic masculinity, can be seen as a cultural flashpoint that reflects problems in society rather than problems in the gym.
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Keywords: Physical Education; body; embodiment; gender; hegemonic masculinity; learning; subject position; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sport and Health Sciences,The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Box 5626 S-11486Stockholm11486, Sweden

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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