BLOG2 - Essay Example

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Here we see “an adolescent masculinity constituted by interactional rituals of heterosexism and homophobia” (p. 27). With few exceptions, the boys…
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BLOG The book’s announces its key theme: the nature of boys’ “fag dis as key to their masculine identity-work. Here we see “an adolescent masculinity constituted by interactional rituals of heterosexism and homophobia” (p. 27). With few exceptions, the boys obsessively and teasingly call each other “fag,” make homophobic jokes, and parody effeminate behaviour. The discourse entails “homophobia,” but does not simply equate to it. First, although the school culture is strongly homophobic, the terrifyingly powerful “faggot” image, for boys of River High, spills out well beyond sexual issues and indeed does not actually denote “homosexuality” as such. Rather, “fag” marks failed masculinity. If masculine in demeanor, a homosexual man is not a fag; and a fag is not necessarily homosexual. Second, both the homophobia and the fag discourse are “gendered,” practiced only by boys. (Note that the boys typically think lesbians are cool). Third, both discourses are also racial. Pascoe recurrently demonstrates how masculinity models and discursive practices differ across racial groups.
The relationship between adolescent masculinity and sexuality is embedded in the spectra of the faggot. Faggots represent a penetrated Masculinity in which ‘to be penetrated is to abdicate power’. Penetrated men symbolize masculinity devoid of power, this in its contradiction, threatens both psychic and social chaos. It is precisely this spectrum of penetrated masculinity that functions as a regulatory mechanism of gender for contemporary American adolescent boys. ‘Fag’ is not necessarily a static identity attached to a particular (homosexual) boy. Fag talk and fag imitations serve as a discourse with which boys discipline themselves and each other through joking relationships. Any boy can temporarily become a fag in a given social space or interaction. This does not mean that those boys who identify as or are perceived to be homosexual are not subject to intense harassment. But becoming a fag has as much to do with failing at the masculine tasks of competence, heterosexual prowess and strength or an anyway revealing weakness or femininity, as it does with a sexual identity.
Pascoe scrupulously delineates the boundaries of these behavioral modes among boys. She presents the exceptions to the prevalent model (e.g., religious boys, and some engaged in loving relationships). Also, she makes clear that both the dramaturgy of the fag discourse and the heterosexual claims-staking are pack behavior. Boys’ more private backstage presentation of self typically lacks the verbal swagger, coming across as more vulnerable, disclosing, and empathetic.
Pascoe’s socially centered analytical approach warrants special comment. She insists on a counter-reductionist methodology in her fundamental conceptualization of sexuality and masculinity. Two examples will suffice. First, ethnographically and theoretically, she integrates multiple levels of analysis. While firmly grounded in micro social and quotidian data, she also investigates the school as an institution (especially in Chapter 2), and understands her site in reference to larger North American socio cultural formations. Correspondingly, in her perspicacious strategic policy recommendations, she takes into account structural as well as personal imperatives, discursive alongside legislative resources, and interpersonal politics besides macro political directions.
Highlighting the difference between the deployment of ‘gay’ and ‘fag’ as insults brings the gendered nature of this homophobia into focus. For boys and girls at River High ‘gay’ is a fairly common synonym for ‘stupid’. While this word shares the sexual origins of ‘fag’, it does not consistently have the skew of gender-loaded meaning. Girls and boys often used ‘gay’ as an adjective referring to inanimate objects and male or female people, whereas they used ‘fag’ as a noun that denotes only un-masculine males. Students used ‘gay’ to describe anything from someone’s clothes to a new school rule that the students did not like.
A laptop can be gay, a movie can be gay or a group of people can be gay. Boys used ‘gay’ and ‘fag’ interchangeably when they refer to other boys, but ‘fag’ does not have the non-gendered attributes that ‘gay’ sometimes invokes.
While its meanings are not the same as ‘gay’, ‘fag’ does have multiple meanings which do not necessarily replace its connotations as a homophobic slur, but rather exist alongside. Some boys took pains to say that ‘fag’ is not about sexuality.

Work cited
C.J Pascoe. “Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school”. California: University of California (2007). Print. Read More
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