Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

High school and the difficult terrain of sexuality and gender identity are brilliantly explored in this smart, incisive ethnography.

Pascoe's unorthodox approach analyzes masculinity as not only a gendered process but also a sexual one.

Read Online Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

I expected the full scope to better understand what it's like to grow up "male." What the reader gets, however, is the rather narrow case study of one California school (described as "racially diverse and working class"), with essentially one type of guy - the loud-mouthed jock who degrades female students to assert his masculinity. Pascoe reveals early on that she is a lesbian, and while sexual orientation is a natural part of the conversation about gender identity, I felt that she spent *way* too much time on these girls for a book with the subtitle "Masculinity and Sexuality in High School." I have to wonder if her personal interest in the narratives of these young women distracted her from the thesis of her book.

Thus begins Dude, Youre a Fag, which has the accessible narrative tone of a coming-out novel but is actually an incisive, well-researched, fascinating ethnography of a year in the life of students at a suburban, working-class public high school in Northern California. Aside from protecting the identities of the young people Pascoe interviewed, the anonymity performs a neat trick, recasting River High as what it most resemblesa typical Middle American high school, complete with pep rallies, cheerleaders, Homecoming dances, and Cougar pride. With a nod to queer theorists like Eve Sedgwick, Pascoe points out that while homosexuality is no longer pathologized, gay male effeminacy is pathologized, and that the same edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that erased homosexuality as a diagnosis in the 1970s added a new diagnosis in its wake: Gender Identity Disorder; to merit this diagnosis, a girl must actually assert that she is a boywhereas a boy need only display a preoccupation with female activities. Girls, although they are constantly prey to sexual harassment from boys (which, in her whole year at River High, Pascoe never saw disciplined or reprimanded), are immune to the fag epithet, which as Jeremy, a Latino junior says, is the lowest thing you can call someone. As mutable and fragile as masculinity is revealed to be in Dude, Pascoe reminds us that there are some boys who are unable to move the fag discourse off of themselves: For the one boy who permanently inhabited the fag position, life at River High was not easy. For the gentle, effeminate Ricky, who enjoys choreography and wears make-up, the double transgression of sexual and gender identity made his position at River High simply unlivable. Until we get this message, which Pascoes book so clearly spells out, boys like Ricky will be jettisoned, and only those gay boys who can throw a football and those lesbians who comply with notions of masculine supremacy will be able to enjoy the dignity that all humans deserve.

Reading this book was like going back to my high school. Pascoe talks about the challenges of doing participant-observation in a high school, studying boys. I would definitely recommend reading just the appendix for anyone interested in field methods or doing research at a school.

It seems like even interviewing one or two students would've added quite a bit to the study.) The real highlight of the book was the chapter about masculine girls in the school, which primarily documented two very distinct cliques - the popular "basketball girls" who identified primarily as nonwhite and included open lesbians among their ranks, while adopting some of the clothing and culture of straight Black men, and the "GSA girls" who included mostly white lesbians who identified with more of a goth or punk culture. Perhaps the main area that I wish the book had covered more was how gay males functioned within the school's social structure. Since a good part of the book is devoted to how the administrators and school institution reinforce heterosexuality as normative behavior, it would have been nice if her writing and/or research had touched upon what effects of this structured endorsement had upon gay (and for that matter lesbian) students. Seeing how ineffective anti-harassment laws can be in the context of school teachers and administrators unwilling to enforce them was sobering, and realizing how different Ricky's fate might have been had he been part of a stable, wealthy family willing to insist upon laws made to protect him being held up made me wonder how at-risk gay teens can be helped effectively.

True, much of what she writes will not come as any big surprise to those who are up on teen culture and the use of the terms "gay," "fag," and "faggot" today, but I think her observations about the ways in which teenage boys are homophobic are the more innovative clincher.

Dude You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (2012), by sociologist C.J. Pascoe, is a discourse on the exploration of schools as a socializing institution for boys concerning the formation of their masculine identities. This study leads to implications on how educational facilities, as major institutions of socialization, might work to educate both faculty and students beyond the confines of narrow stereotypical gender-norm definitions and provide a greater understanding and acceptance of alternate gender possibilities. The creation of powerful, dominating masculine heterosexual identities simultaneously reinforced the feminine quality of passive submission, while it also created marginalized and stigmatized groups of students who did not identify with and fall within the narrow definitions of a controlling masculinity or submissive femininity. The school institution acted in a way that created an organizational culture that enforced and reinforced a hegemonic hetero-normative and dominating masculinity that existed there, while stigmatizing those they considered others. Social deviance in the instances of feminine boys, the politically active non-normative Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) group, and those who were identified by others as possessing a non-white sexuality, were stigmatized. What Pascoe discovered is that many aspects of the high school environment worked to form social cohesion by shoring up stereotypical ideals of hetero-normativity and masculinity while at the same time marginalizing and stigmatizing those who did not identify with or fit into those categories. Furthermore, the creation of this hegemonic heterosexual and masculine identity simultaneously constructed marginalized and stigmatized groups of those who did not fit into this stereotypical gender norm. Understanding this process of identity creation through gender socialization is useful to help us see how the current hegemonic force shapes and maintains a position of masculine power through actions that should be recognized as forms of bullying and harassment.

(i was simulatenously intrigued & repelled by the title when i saw it in the syllabus !) pascoe studies adolescent masculinity in a california high school in the early 2000s. she is primarily interested in how the construction of masculinity (via school sanctioned rituals like homecoming & disparate sessions of "boy talk") is harmful to non-normatively gendered students & is key in preserving harmful gender and sex roles and dichotomies. deemed feminine and by participating in f** discourse, boys are able to create or retain their masculine selves by invoking the abject. i also think it would be valuable to those hoping to understand the construction of masculinized identities specific to adolescent teenage boys & the implications of such constructions (marginlization, the creation of abject identies for girls & LGBTQ members)

(She does meet with a group of girls that are lesbians, but only after hearing about them from the boys. I do not know if she had planned on working with them when she began her research) She follows the fag discourse throughout, searching for threads and meanings and applies queer theory to her observations. Pascoe gives an overview of how the chapters are set up, gives a brief explanation of queer theory and why she chose to use it, and explains why she chose this high school for her research. It was interesting to see how fag discourse was created and how the boys explained it - often two very different versions. Revealingly the boys explain that they don't use the word fag to imply homosexuality and they don't even think of it in a sexual way. As the black boys come off stage, they start protesting in advance that they never touched any of the girls. They don't get in trouble, but there is a clear message that black students are hyper-sexualized and the adults in the school must do everything to make sure they don't have sex. The message the school is sending, both indirectly and clearly, is that white relationships are acceptable and homosexuality is OK as long as the students are popular. In a brief side observation, Pascoe notices how the fag discourse is turned when it comes to girls. The whore discourse comes from both girls and boys, but Pascoe notes that girls never call the boys fags. When they are in a group they go along with the fag discourse and relate to girls as sexual conquests, but when they are alone they cringe about the behavior.

Dude You're a Fag explores the multifaceted ways in which masculinity and sexuality police the everyday lives of high school adolescents. She accuses some researchers on being too lofty with their policy recommendations but Pascoe is also lofty in hers, arguing that high schools should create safe spaces where both boys and girls can engage in a wide variety of gender play. Dude You're a Fag can be read by both gender and sexuality academics as well as high school teachers and administrators looking to learn more about the ways in which their policies implicitly allow boys to dominate girls, in every sense of the phrase. Her book is important to understanding how masculinity and sexuality develop in adolescence and how these lessons embed themselves in everyday interactions, which allowed to continue without consequences could have severely damaging effects for male-female interactions in larger society.

I also found details about Pascoe's time at River High fascinating--the process of her research. Given all this, Pascoe seems like quite the intrepid researcher.

  • English

  • Nonfiction

  • Rating: 3.82
  • Pages: 240
  • Publish Date: June 4th 2007 by University of California Press
  • Isbn10: 0520252306
  • Isbn13: 9780520252301