Masculine Theory

Masculine Theory
Some Background
From Fighting Ruben
“Miffy, for God’s sake. What a name. He’s a
Pomeranian and he’s a dead-set embarassment to walk.
So we wait until it gets dark…the fluffy embarrassment
machine comes prancing towards us like a damned
ballerina. I promise you when we’re walking that dog
and see someone we know, we pull our hoods over our
heads and look the other way…..” (Zuzak, 2000, p. 26)
Why is this important?
We believe schools should be sites of inquiry into
forms of social difference (gender, race, ethnicity,
etc.) with the goal of expanding human freedom and
potential within the bounds of a democratic society
(Bean & Harper, 2007).
Challenging essentialized masculinity is important
Acting outside these norms can result in name-calling,
missing school due to psychosomatic illness, bullying,
and suicide
What is masculine theory?
Like feminist theory, examines how gender is
scripted in life and texts
Key elements (from Blackburn & Smith, 2010;
Dutro, 2003):
Performative social practices (e.g. football)
Who has power (e.g. high school jocks)
Is relational (e.g. what it means to be: a girl, guy, gay,
Disrupts hegemonic masculinity (power issues)
Disrupts fixed sets of attributes that define masculinity
Young Adult Novels
Font shifts (often to cursive) signal safe spaces for
jettisoning tough guy positioning, Cameron asks his
brother prior to an illegal boxing match:
“Are you scared, Rube?”
There’s no point lying. I’m scared as hell. Scared crazy.
I’m asylum scared. Straightjacket scared. Yes, I think
it’s pretty much decided. I’m scared” (p. 85)
Steve in jail in Monster
“The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are
out and someone is being beaten up and screaming
for help. That way even if you sniffle a little they
won’t hear you. If anybody knows that you are
crying, they’ll start talking about it and soon it will
be your turn to get beat up” (Myers, 1999, p. 1)
Research in Masculine
A transformative pedagogy aimed at opening up spaces
for students to read against the grain of traditional
Scholars: Wayne Martino, Michael Kehler, Hightower,
Dutro, and others
Using young adult novels and critical questions of
character and reader positioning (see Bean & Harper,
2007 for a longer list of needed research)
View masculinity as a topic “so that students could
deconstruct and interrogate it as a way to accomplish
the goals of social justice
Bean, T. W., & Harper, H. J. (2007). Reading men differently:
Alternative portrayals of masculinity in contemporary young
adult fiction. Reading Psychology, 28, (1), 11-30.
Blackburn, M. V., & Smith, J. M. (2010). Moving beyond the
inclusion of LGBT-themed literature in English Language
Arts classrooms: Interrogating heteronormativity and
exploring intersectionality. Journal of Adolescent & Adult
Literacy, 53, (8), 625-634.
Dutro, E. (2003). “Us boys like to read football and boy stuff.”
Reading masculinities, performing boyhood. Journal of
Literacy Research, 34, 465-500.
Myers, W. D. (1999). Monster. New York: HarperCollins.
Ruben Wolfe
Zusak, M. (2000). Fighting Ruben Wolfe. NY:

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