Publication: Journal of Men's Studies
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 58550
ISSN: 10608265
Journal code: JMNS

This special issue of The Journal of Men's Studies endeavors to underscore new scholarship on men in education, the disproportionate lack of male teachers, and the ways intersectional identities (i.e., gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability) complicate the emergence of a more inclusive teaching profession. Reasonable people can agree that a fundamental goal of education is to improve lives- culturally, spiritually, economically, and otherwise. Educators from pre-primary to the university levels are tasked with implementing curriculum and pedagogy in support of this lofty goal, although from our respective experiences, they do so in different ways with varied outcomes. We contend here that a comprehensive knowledge of gender is critical to that goal. More specifically, we hope to contribute to an ongoing conversation about the saliency of masculinity in and through pedagogy, arguing that gender in its fullest meanings is very much articulated by how men and masculinity are integrated into the project of learning. Where or how we begin this process toward a new ethos on gender and masculinity? In this article, we offer less of a traditional research study and more of a think-piece that engages with the complexities of teaching masculinity in courses marked as either overtly feminist (as are those offered by Brenda Weber through Indiana University's Department of Gender Studies) or those more tacitly coded as feminine (as are those offered by Shaun Johnson through Towson University's College of Education). In our discussion, we address and also trouble who has the legitimacy to teach about gender and in what ways notions of legitimation hinge on a sense of stable, sometimes even essentialized, sex/gender codes, even as those codes reveal their plurality.

As college instructors, we encounter a certain degree of cognitive distortion when we have taught topics perceived to be out of alignment with our own sex and gender location. Rather than adhere to a strict identarian-based curriculum that maintains an instructor can only "legitimately" teach subjects "proper" to his/her sex or sexuality, we seek to consider what kinds of pedagogical strategies might intervene in the way that the learning of gender holds saliency. One solution, it seems to us, is an emphasis not on a gender-free utopie culture where social identity markers no longer apply in some equivalent to "color blindness," but in a genderful pedagogy that acknowledges plurality and works to appreciate that different bodies, practices, and identities can be identified as healthy and necessary. Because part of what we will examine is the degree to which perceptions about our own gendered and sexed identities intervene and sometimes augment the study of masculinity and the ways in which this genderful pedagogy is expressed, we begin our collective consideration with individual reflections on our respective classroom environments and experiences, then offering greater reflection that more fully elucidates our goal of a genderful pedagogy.


I (Shaun Johnson) work in a discipline that is not "proper" for my sex. Recent rankings and estimates from the National Education Association (2008) indicate the percentage of male teachers hovers around 24 percent and decreases dramatically with the age of the student. International data from the same time in many developed nations shows a common ratio around 80 to 20 percent for women-to-men teachers, respectively (UNESCO, 2008). These figures reinforce the gendered notion that the care and education of children, particularly in grades K- 12, is a feminine task. As a male and former elementary school teacher, I encountered a number of what Foster and Newman (2005) call "identity bruises," or pejorative comments directed toward male teachers for their unconventional vocational choices. A female colleague once blithely noted, for instance, that a fellow male teacher and I were "screwed" because we would never be able to "afford" women, in terms of bread winning and setting up households. To the best of my memory, I had no reaction to her comment, which could either be due to the fact that I simply did not get it or because part of me felt she was right. I do recall some moments of doubt about my elementary teaching. In the classroom, my ten year-olds looked up to me and I could rarely do any wrong. In the real world, I felt the need to defend the gender contradiction that I represented as a male teacher. It is certainly possible that my status anxiety was unique to my personality, but it is undeniable that those same feelings of insecurity pushed me towards a PhD. If not for money- this is academia after all- then perhaps I desired a heightened degree of stature.

Education is one of the quintessential "caring" disciplines (Haywood, Popoviciu, & Mac an Ghaill, 2005). It is second only to nursing in terms of the concentration of women who choose the profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009) reports that 92 percent of all registered nurses in the U. S . are women. Women typically perform the bulk of the labor and, often as a result, the status of these professions is continually, if unfairly, left wanting. In fact, the research literature evinces the low status of the teaching profession as one of the primary reasons for male truancy as educators (Carrington, 2002; Cushman, 2005; Drudy, Martin, Woods, & OTlynn, 2005; King, 1998; Mills et al., 2004; Nelson, 2002; Sargent, 2001). The presence of men in education, especially at the pre-primary and elementary levels, has been a matter of contestation over the last century or more (see Bardeen, 1908). Initially attracted away by attractive and higher- wage industrial labor in the formative days of mandatory public schooling, teaching was not considered by many men as a viable career (Carter, 1989; Hansot, 1993; Rury, 1989). There is a great deal of recent empirical literature on the contradiction posed by men at the chalk face (see, for example, Martino, 2008; Mills H aase, & Charlton, 2008; O'Donoghue, 2005; Skelton, 2003; Thornton & Bricheno, 2006). In addition to the aforementioned bouts of "identity bruising," men face further scrutiny due to homophobia and its insidious connection to pedophilia (King, 1998; Sargent, 2001). A common error is to laud the teaching that men do, valorizing their work in the classroom as somehow both more courageous and more caring than the "naturalized nurturing" female teachers offer (Gaskell & Mullen, 2006). This is not my intention. I do wish, however, to utilize the challenges that men in teaching experience so as to think more about the prevailing tropes of masculinity that are a part of men in the elementary c 1 as sroom .

Now that I have completed a doctorate in curriculum studies just over a year and a half ago, I work at the university level to prepare future elementary teachers for the rigors of daily life in the classroom. A peculiar thing happened on my way to the lectern: the pejorative comments directed toward my maleness in education stopped. How is it that I can be so easily embraced as an expert in teaching children? The answer, it seems to me, speaks of sex as well as of gender, since it is not only the disproportionate number of females in relation to male bodies in the teaching profession that contributes to the experiences I have had, but also the ways in which the profession itself is largely coded as feminine.

Part of the reason for my ease of transition from fifth grade teacher to college professor, the hurdles posed by dissertation work notwithstanding, might, in fact, be buried within what is implied through the term "expert." As an elementary social studies methods instructor and student teaching supervisor, my position no longer hinges upon the caring and nurturing thought to be consistent with public school teaching, but instead acquires credibility due to the masculinist hierarchy of knowledge transference from a male professor to a largely female student body. Granted, there is some degree of caring work that I need to perform with my college- age students, namely that I treat them fairly, understand the pressures they are under in their field classrooms, and provide constructive feedback as a mentor. Yet, a masculinist culture is a sustaining ethos in higher education, even within teacher preparation programs (Acker & Dillabough, 2007).

The bulk of my focus is now on what is often termed the "science of teaching": the origins of curriculum and the psychology of classroom management, for example. In a classical sociological study of education, Lortie (1975) labels this teaching's "technical culture," or complicated concepts and vocabularies typically off-limits to laypersons. In the parlance of "science," my prior experiences as a caregiver in the classroom are not perceived to be as relevant to my present work. Thus, the contradictory position that I held as a male in the elementary classroom no longer factors obviously. With the way I bring up my previous experiences as battle scars inflicted in the trenches, my former elementary teaching now functions as a field apprenticeship rather than as a profession incompatible with, or unworthy of, my sex. Whether I want it to have this meaning or not, working as an elementary school teacher is now perceived as a way I earned "street cred" rather than as something to which I dedicated my life. The former is redolent of the current education reform movement in the United States. For instance, many prominent leaders, like controversial former DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, earned their credentials through brief alternative certification programs, only to teach in short stints so that they might acquire that much-heralded classroom credibility.

My own career trajectory thus offers an object lesson in maleness and masculinity, since my service as a fifth grade teacher at one point bruised my congruence with masculinity codes, but my conversion to a PhD and teacher trainer likewise transformed my elementary education career into valuable field work. The shifting meanings of gender and sex in my own life and career point to a significant problem with the conversation on gender and education: there is resistance to discussions that acknowledge the significance of gender theory at the practitioner level. Zittleman and Sadker (2002) report little mention of gender or sexuality in varied teacher education textbooks. I also know from my own experiences as a faculty member that my colleagues and I constantly endeavor to emphasize diversity and multiculturalism within our practice; complex discussion on gender and sexuality is typically off our collective radar. Especially with masculinity, gender theory is both insistent but elusive, much like the great white whale that haunted Melville's Ahab. In the study of education, this way of relying on but ignoring gender often manifests through a sense that gender considerations apply only to the experiences of boy and girl students or male and female teachers. When these social actors are not so specifically addressed as, for instance, in the study of curriculum development or the history of education, gender seems not to be a relevant category of analysis. Thus, educators and scholars of education should continually push for non-essentialist investigations of gender where appropriate. Rather than focusing principally on, for example, the distinct experiences of male and female educators, gender, along with other intersectional identities, should always be considered as one of the central lenses through which education research and practice are viewed.

The difficulties in engaging a critical and non-essentialist discourse on gender or masculinity in the classroom is evinced by my own problems with maintaining an eye for gender within my practice. In preparing to write this very essay, for instance, I reflected to my co-author that I felt a little rusty since I had been out of "gender mode" for far too long, particularly given that I was teaching courses in classroom management and early teacher training. I meant to imply that I was out of practice in terms of the analytical language of gender studies, but my co-author gently chided me with a reminder that "gender is never not part of the conversation." And that, in fact, the relevance of gender, even when tacitly present, was precisely what we wanted to discuss in our paper together. I have thus had to reflect more on what it might mean to be out of "gender mode" when in fact it is intrinsic to the highly stratified and categorical context of teaching.

Even as I write, I am struggling to put my ideas into words because of the persistent inclination to propose how to "bring" or "add" a discussion of gender and masculinity to teacher preparation and elementary school classrooms, as if the study of gender constitutes another unit to be added into a syllabus rather than a constitutive theme that runs through all pedagogical discussion. For many in education, practitioners especially, a conversation about gender, let alone masculinity, suggests a mobilization of confusing, theoretical, and controversial vocabularies. The vagaries of "queer theory" notwithstanding, literature on masculinity is riddled with complicated terminologies: "hegemonic masculinity" (Connell, 1995, for example), "recuperative masculinity politics" (Lingard, 2003), or concepts of de- and re-gendering public education (Martino, 2008). There is also a misconception that a critical dialogue about gender is intellectually out of reach for educators and is thus unhelpful for illuminating the practical realities of the classroom. Perhaps toward the more extreme end of the spectrum, analyzing gender in education is problematic because of the way it triggers what many perceive to be contentious issues like feminism, sexual orientation, and the sexualization of children (Frank & Martino, 2006; Lingard & Douglas, 1999; Mills, 2004; Sargent, 2001). Serious problems persist in terms of understanding how to effectively address gender in educational contexts. As a former teacher and current teacher educator, I struggle daily with the glaring omissions and the difficulties that accompany making gender more salient and manageable for practitioners. The ongoing dilemma for those in my position is how to deliver the complexities of gender theory to new and veteran teachers.


Several years ago, I (Brenda Weber) happened to be attending a production of Le Nozze de Figaro when I bumped into one of my students, Stephen, whose father was in town for a visit. Stephen had been a student in many of my courses and at that particular time he was enrolled in my undergraduate "Construction of Masculinities" class. Excited by the opportunity to have his professor meet his dad, Stephen steered his father to me during the opera's intermission and introduced us with the following words: "Dad, this is Dr. Weber, the professor I was telling you about. She teaches my masculinity class." Stephen's father looked me up and down skeptically. I reached out to shake his hand, and he took it weakly and with much hesitation, saying to his son but not to me, "What can someone who looks like that teach you about masculinity?"

It wasn't entirely clear what Stephen's father meant by me looking like "that"- since I didn't have the opportunity or the inclination to see if he meant my appearance or my sex. But it was clear to both Stephen and myself that somehow a boundary had been breeched. Much as Michael Kimmel's (& Traver, 2005; 2008) large body of work on masculinity has discussed, there is a common truism in Western culture sustaining the idea that men are the keepers of masculinity. As Freud has told us (and Robert BIy [1990]) more popularly opined), women may birth the male baby, but communities of men make the man through structures of indoctrination, initiation, and conditional approval. For this father of my male student, a female professor couldn't possibly teach his son about masculinity, since women have no rightful place in or access to its mysteries. Of course, Stephen's father was not talking about the study of gender but about the establishment of a gendered identity, something we discuss at some length in my courses. My task as Stephen's gender studies professor was not to "make a man" of him, as Stephen's father assumed, but to address gender as a socially resonant category. But Stephen's father also put a fine point on the way that in gender studies, there is no idea absent from materiality. Gender always has real world meanings and markers that make its study and discussion equally fraught and satisfying.

This is particularly the case, it seems, in the study of masculinity, where a tacit operating premise has long upheld that men perform their gender identity naturally and without premeditation or artifice. For those who question the way in which this premise goes largely unquestioned, take a quick look at Norah Vincent's (2006) social experiment, discussed in her book Self-Made Man. A journalist, Vincent elected to take up the appearance and demeanor of a man for the period of a year, so that she might understand what males experience on a day-to-day basis and thus offer a portrait of masculinity in America. Her generalizations about men, male bodies, male experience, and masculinity are shockingly broad, and I recommend the book more as a straw-man text that can expose students to how the popular discussion of gender studies often misses the mark. Perhaps most astonishing in this memoir is Vincent's dismissive attitude toward women, whom she portrays as conniving and disingenuous, in contrast to men's easier, franker, and more honest way of being. In her words: "[A]mong these guys . . . everything was out and above board, never more, never less than what was on anyone's mind. If they were pissed off at you, you'd know it" (p. 30), whereas women are "fake and cold" (p. 25). Though Vincent doesn't question the veracity of her own experience of manhood, a source of knowledge she can seemingly access simply by putting on a suit, binding her breasts, and developing a convincing five o'clock shadow, she suggests that biological men, and thus masculinity more broadly, is too noble, honest, and unaffected to be anything other than naturally produced by male bodies. In contrast to women's consciousness raising through feminism, Vincent writes that men didn't need to "learn or remind themselves that brotherhood was powerful. It was just something they seemed to know" (p. 25).

These inalienable connections between men, maleness, and masculinity are precisely the sorts of assumptions classes on masculinity offered through the Gender Studies department at Indiana University interrogate. My undergraduate class investigates in particular the ways in which masculinity is not exclusively produced or policed by male-identified or (bio) male-bodied people. Thus, masculinity is definitely not only about men's studies or male bodies. Like many Gender Studies departments, Indiana University has struggled through the politics of name change from Women's Studies to Gender Studies, and in part due to a strong connection to the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, it is also a department deeply committed to the study of sex and sexuality. Gender studies classes at IU thus tend to be populated by all sorts of bodies: male, female, trans, transitioning and intersexed; undergraduate masculinity classes, however, are overwhelmingly filled with female-identifying heterosexual-identifying students and a small percentage of mostly straight-identifying men, a discrepancy in numbers that can often be illustrative. So, while it is important to bring men to women's and gender studies courses, the demographic predominance of many women in relation to fewer men is actually helpful for intellectual reasons. Our masculinity classes are incredibly popular, and invariably, they run at full capacity with waiting lists that equal the entire enrollment limits (ever hopeful beats the heart of the undergraduate registrant). These highly enrolled classes present a particular challenge, since the majority of the students who sign up for them tend not to have taken other gender studies courses and are drawn to what they consider to be the uniqueness of "finally" taking a class that focuses on men.

Particularly when students have had no previous formal exposure to feminist and gender theory, the critical study of masculinity as led by a feminist female professor can evoke charges of "male bashing." My pedagogical strategies are often consequently designed to defuse this opposition before it ever takes hold. I happen to believe that student resistance is a necessary and helpful part of the learning process, since it offers instructors a critical gauge through which to measure a student's metabolism of new ways of thinking. But long ago, I realized that there is a difference between students resisting me and students developing a more complicated relation to the topic. In order to better facilitate learning, I try very hard to get out of students' line of fire so that I can continue to operate as an advocate to their learning rather than as the target at which they direct their confusion and anger (although sometimes also their exuberance). Some of my strategies for dealing with the steep learning curve that is part and parcel of the gender studies curriculum involve welcoming critique as a sign of active learning, authorizing the personal as a credible evidentiary archive, and invoking a feminist pedagogy that decentralizes power differentials in service of dialogic learning styles. In the past when I have taught Introduction to Women's Studies classes and small upper-division honors courses, I exemplified the politics of my feminist pedagogy by asking students to call me by my first name, letting them contribute to choices about the policies, readings, assignments, and grades, and inviting them to "out of the class" events like performances, coffees, or meals at my home.

When I moved from a women's studies curriculum to one more explicitly labeled gender studies (and thus more likely to attract male students as well as those who know little about feminist theory), student expectations changed radically and so did my teaching style. I found that students were more likely to challenge me, and less likely to feel simpatico with the "flow" of a consensus-determined syllabus. What had once appeared to be egalitarian openness now seemed to strike my students, both male and female, as inadequate preparation and wishy-washy classroom management strategies (if they gave me credit for possessing any strategies at all!). In my first semester in a gender studies department, I felt eaten alive by students who resented the difference that I represented as one of their professors. They demanded more conventionally legible forms of authority from me, both in my demeanor and in how I structured the course, and though some students seemed to appreciate the more fluid style I brought to the classroom, the overall learning environment was compromised by expectations that I present a professorial face more in keeping with that to which they were already acclimated by the larger university culture.

I set about the process of developing new strategies for managing the classroom, presenting myself as their leader and rule-maker, and anticipating potential resistance. These strategies often included enforcing strong lines of power difference, manifested through such gestures as using a formal honorific like "doctor" or "professor" and deploying a strict rule structure related to attendance, due dates, and grades. I will admit that deliberately offsetting potential blowback radically challenged my notion of a feminist pedagogy. It is thus not lost on this feminist professor that her pedagogical form in a masculinity class often mimics the very masculinist structures she is seeking to undermine. And yet, largely by choosing to "man up" and offer students the directionconferring and decisive authority figure they expect in the classroom, I have experienced new opportunities to exercise a feminist pedagogy. One place where this reformed feminist pedagogy has found expression is in the discussion of male privilege.


It's something of a rite of passage in an undergraduate gender studies curriculum to, at some point talk, about social privilege, and no article has become more useful for illuminating the meanings of automatically conferred social perks than Peggy Mcintosh's (1988) "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Through a series of vivid examples, Mcintosh deftly shows how micropractices create and sustain social power hierarchies. So, Mcintosh notes, white privilege is structured around a series of automatically available goods, services, and behaviors, such as being able to walk into a drugstore and be confident that there will be band aids that match white skin tone and hair products suited for Caucasian hair or being able to "turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely [and positively] represented" (p. 2). Mcintosh's article is a call to visibility and accountability for those who possess social privilege. She notes that she had been taught to consider racism as "something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had not been taught to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege puts me at an advantage" (p. 3). It is thus incumbent on those of us who possess social privilege to acknowledge and decline its automatic conferral. And, of course, along with white privilege, there is a string of other forms of social privilege that line up according to our normative identity default categories, requiring that students also contend with male privilege, class privilege, sexuality privilege, etc.

I have been teaching at the college level for fifteen years and over those years, Mcintosh's article- and the topic of social privilege more generally- has served as an important indicator about these matters we are addressing of how the instructor's sex and gender are intricately folded into the subtext of learning about gender. So, for instance, when I was younger and still working on my PhD, Mcintosh's powerful argument would never fail to, perhaps appropriately, get under my students' skins, no matter what color those skins might have been. In general terms, students tended to resent Mcintosh, and they often took personal offense at her categorization of social privilege because they voiced feelings of having been accused of unfairly benefiting in a way they did not seek and thus, they seemed to feel, should not be held responsible for. Privilege can never be talked about in the abstract; it always involves real people, real advantages and disadvantages, and actual feelings of resentment and pride. Resistance, then, is not entirely surprising.

Such a strong affective response, it seems to me, is precisely the point of Mcintosh's article, since the invisible nature of social privilege makes it difficult for those who possess it to believe they are advantaged until their unearned perks are challenged and/or taken away, which, in turn, is a profoundly destabilizing experience. But I often was not able to get students past their own resistance and critique, a consequence I attributed to the nature of the topic, as well as to their sense of me as an instructor who did not "tell" them what to think but encouraged their critical resistance and dialogic interaction. As I have mentioned, although I very consciously tried to subvert stereotypes that make of the female instructor a nurturing presence, I also adhered to a model of feminist pedagogy that worked to develop a "community of learners," who are "empowered to act responsibly toward one another and the subject matter and to apply that learning to social action" (Shrewsbury, 1993, p. 166). Even while suspecting that a middle-aged, white, male professor would not encounter the same sort of resistance were he to introduce such a concept as social privilege to his class, I perceived the "blowback" as a somewhat hopeful sign that a feminist pedagogy was bound to ruffle feathers if it were really addressing matters honestly.

How, then, do I account for the fact that now, as a professor and the director of undergraduate studies for my department, as an author of books and articles, and as a woman in my mid- forties, students accept Mcintosh's premise about social privilege with nary a hint of resistance. Indeed, they have written me long and quite thoughtful essays about the meanings of male privilege, seeking to address its invisible tentacles and to hold themselves, their peers, and perhaps most astoundingly, their male bosses and fathers accountable for the degree to which male privilege has been their silent partner in life. Both male and female students can enumerate specific and detailed evidence for the existence of male privilege. And quite remarkably, students now seem to understand that the rhetoric of crisis actually abets male privilege. Writes one male student, "I believe that the 'masculinity crisis' makes us so worried about men that we stop worrying about male privilege. We even want to give men more of what they think they deserve so they won't be in crisis anymore" (AT).

I should note, moreover, that as a faculty member, I have recently moderated more than one acrimonious session between a graduate student and a disgruntled undergraduate over the nature of "White Privilege," based largely on the umbrage the undergrad has taken over the grad instructor's teaching of Mcintosh's article. So, my students' acceptance of the ideas of social privilege is not some indication of a generational mind shift. I have apparently entered a golden era where I can seemingly teach this most incendiary of articles on race and gender privilege without raising the ire of my students. And so, I find myself wondering where has all of the blowback gone? Why are students taking what I say at face value? What happened to all of the defensiveness? Are they now somehow ready to accept one of the foundational tenets of social justice theory? Or could it be that my perceived authority makes students more willing to accept the fact that social privilege exists, and in its existence is both insidious and systemic? And isn't this a freaky irony -that my particular status might make them better able to question status as a system.

I can't really pinpoint any other likely culprit than the rise in my perceived authority that might account for my students' new acceptance of what in the past meant skipping through a mind field of rancor. For surely, though there has been much about me that has changed in the last fifteen years, from a certain sense of rising confidence in the classroom to a heightened ability to use multi-syllabic words in succession, the basic identity categories that mark me- my whiteness, my femaleness, and my presumed heterosexuality- have not changed. Indeed, aside from getting older and now having far more wrinkles and the need for reading glasses, I like to believe that I am far hipper, funnier, and more "with it" now than I was when I was writing a dissertation on Victorian literature. So it doesn't appear that my age has caused their new acquiescence. I think it is more likely that they respect my knowledge and feel that I both appreciate and expect their intelligent engagement in return. Somehow, then, I think I've been able to move into a mode of pedagogical instruction that is both authoritative and egalitarian, in the parlance of teaching theory, I am engaging both a masculinist and a feminist pedagogy.

Unlike the stereotypes of old, where professors speak knowledge into an echoing lecture hall of passive students who then regurgitate this material back on a test, I have sought a pedagogical style that accepts the authoritative role my students seem to want me to possess, all so that I might help them develop skills that aid them in critiquing the authority structures that give me power (although, let's be honest, these structures are a lot bigger than me). It may not be my ideal of a feminist pedagogy, but ultimately, I have to content myself with the question: Is there anything more radical than genuinely asking your students what they think, actually listening to their responses, and then fully trying to respond with your own thoughts rather than a canned lecture intent on covering certain content points critical for their exam? Indeed, this method gives a plurality of voices and knowledge systems a place in the domain of the classroom, since it contributes in concrete terms to our idea of a genderful pedagogy that is attentive to both gender justice and feminist theory. In so doing, a genderful pedagogy shows students how masculinity is not solely the domain of men, as Stephen's father indicated, but that all members in a culture work to make its meanings salient.


As we have noted, the relation between theory and practice is critical to both of our respective disciplines. Praxis is the education professor's métier, so to speak. Indeed, in a climate of increasing cuts to publicly funded educational services, a metric of teaching that translates learning outcomes into clearly quantifiable entities pushes these matters of theory even further under the rug. Few ideas or reforms in education are deemed worthwhile unless they can somehow be delivered to or translated for teachers and other practitioners in directly teleological ways. Teaching is often highly masculinist in this insistence on linearity and measurable progress (Martino, 2008). Equally, the very meanings of feminist theory cannot be separated from the political conditions to which such theory must be applied. Yet, within the pre-existing hierarchies of higher education, feminist pedagogies resist the very structures that give them voice.

Given these factors, the challenge for us is how to make the discussion of gender both relevant and rigorous, while being applicable to both theorists and practitioners. One partial solution resides in the literatures of social justice theory. Teaching and learning in the social studies- including history, geography, economics, government, and civics- assumes the responsibility of preparing future citizens for life in a democratic society (Parker, 1996). Weaver-Hightower (2003b) details the vast "disjunctures" and subsequent conflicts between practical and theoretically oriented literatures on masculinity and education. Among other things, living democratically in large part means the freedom and opportunity to make innumerable choices in life. The society in which we live and its various institutions must also recognize this wealth of choices, provide the capability to exercise alternatives, and remove the social hierarchy that legitimizes various choices over others. Scholars of gender and democracy make this need clear, particularly the work of Nussbaum (2002, 2006) who advocates for a model of capabilities defined by the following mantra: "what people are actually able to do and to be" (2006, p. 49). Emphasizing capabilities in conjunction with rights hold governments or other authorities accountable for supporting people in the exercise of their rights and opportunities. Maloutas (2006) proposes that democracy, more than a regime or form of governance, is a cultural framework within which we relate to and live with one another. With democracy being the least worst system of promoting freedom and individual liberties, choice and opportunity to pursue one's destiny are core elements. The rights and opportunities to live our lives free from the constraints of gender norms should be the kind of democracy we advocate in society, particularly within our education system.

Conversations on gender and democracy dovetail with the concept of gender justice , an internationally recognized term that typically alludes to a strict opposition to oppression and marginalization based on gender and sexual orientation (Molyneux & Razavi, 2002). Inasmuch as we support the research and terminologies affiliated with gender justice, genderful adds a unique quality to the conversation. To use race as a complimentary example, is it possible to be truly "colorblind" given that many bodies are outwardly marked by race?

Rather than doing our best to ignore the impact of race out of some misguided political correctness, we should instead fully embrace and celebrate racial diversity. Similar ideas hold true with gender and our concept of genderful. We think it is important to legitimize and teach for a wide spectrum of gendered practices, as opposed to stubbornly fortifying an apolitical and neutral "genderblind" space. Since, as we have demonstrated in the above sections of this article, our bodies are often explicitly marked by gender, it seems foolish to ignore plurality regardless of how good the intentions for gender-blindness might be. Living within a democratic cultural framework is for us synonymous with genderful in some respects. That is, the ability to practice gender should be multi-faceted or pluralistic rather than essentialist or dichotomous; additionally, the opportunity to practice gender should be open, inclusive, and equal. If genderful means thinking about gender as a range of practices and opportunities within a democratic society, then its pedagogy is the act of encouraging this ethos for others. A genderful pedagogy must model and communicate a conception about gender that is critical of master (and masculinist) tropes and categories, while being more fluid and negotiable in nature and providing opportunities to experience gender and sexuality that is free from bias and stereotype. Therefore, it is through a genderful pedagogy that a gender just society is possible; that is, teaching through a genderful pedagogy is a means to achieve gender justice.

Genderful is not only about promoting pluralistic practice. It is also about eliminating marginalization and oppression based on gender and sexuality. Preliminary efforts have been made in Australia, for instance, to promote more reflective educators regarding gender justice in the classroom. Officials for Education Queensland in Australia proposed a four-part model to improve classroom practice called Productive Pedagogies, evaluating educators based on intellectual quality, connectedness, supportive classroom environment, and recognition of difference (Hayes, Lingard, & Mills, 2000; Keddie, 2006, 2008; Mills & Lingard, 2007). In a detailed assessment of each of this model's four key components, Keddie (2006) concludes that there is tremendous potential for this framework to encourage gender just practice in teachers:

A gender justice perspective that draws on feminist principles to focus on valuing difference and diversity provides a platform for teachers to begin articulating affirmative 'ways of being' with boys and, within this framework, to begin questioning and challenging rather than reinscribing the narrow or dominant versions of gender and hierarchical constructions of masculinity that constrain boys' (and girls') academic and social outcomes, (p. 102)

Perhaps a model such as this could indicate how we might inspire educators toward a gender just or genderful pedagogy.

Masculinity is one lens through which to view gender and education. First and foremost, a study of manhood and masculinity is essential to the work on the lack of men in education. There are certain cultural forces that limit male participation in teaching, most of which are driven by sexism and homophobia. Additionally, boyhood and masculinity studies are continually emerging lines of inquiry in education, partly due to how captivated the mainstream conversation is on gender and education with this notion of the "boys crisis" (see Gurian, Henley, & Trueman, 2001; Hoff-Summers, 2000; Sax, 2008; Tyre, 2008; Whitmire, 2010). In other words, the authors here are collectively critical of the idea that males are the new educationally disadvantaged as a result of misguided feminism and an inattention to boys' seemingly unique academic requirements, central tenets of what Mills (2003) calls the "backlash blockbusters" due to their popular-rhetorical opposition of pro-feminist progress. There are numerous problems with this so-called crisis, namely that boys are not some monolithic block whose academic performances can be judged as a whole (Francis & Skelton, 2005; Lingard, 2003; Mead, 2006; Weaver-Hightower, 2003a). What is also concerning is the reliance on broad generalizations about boys' academic needs that mimic the same tired stereotypes many already possess about gender and sexuality (Titus, 2004). A genderful pedagogy particular to masculinity, would encourage pluralized masculinity practices. Anathema to the homongenized categories of sex and gender consistent with essentialism, genderful immediately assumes masculinities in the plural, with a non-hierarchical inclusivity of all potential practices both imagined and unimagined.

Let us reiterate two final points with which to end this section. Schools of education do not by and large satisfactorily address gender for future teachers (Crocco, 2001; Thornton, 2003; Zittleman & Sadker, 2002). Gender and sexuality are not readily seen as constant and ineluctable categories of reflection and analysis in education. "Bringing" a study of masculinity to schools of education is one way to improve the situation, yet it must be done through the auspices of pro-feminist and non-essentialist authors on masculinity in education in order to preserve progressive gender values (for example, Connell, 1988, 1995; Kimmell & Traver, 2005; Mac an Ghaill, 1996; Martino, 2008; Skelton, 2003). Questions remain: are there problems with professors (either male or female) addressing masculinity in education? Do issues in credibility "yoke" masculinity to manhood, so to speak? We think not. Balance implies binaries, and dichotomous notions of gender need to be problematized or even eliminated. Inasmuch as the lay public is concerned about boyhood and male role models, a continued examination of gender, and especially of masculinity, is a worthwhile course in teaching and teacher preparation. At the same time, we must emphasize "critical examination" and not naive recruitment of just any male teacher, which tends to reinforce stereotypes (Goodman, 1987; Martino & B errill, 2003) and does nothing to raise supposed male underachievement (Carrington, Tymms, & Merrell, 2005; Driessen, 2007; Francis, Skelton, Carrington, Hutchings, & Read, 2008). Critically examining masculine stereotypes also could ultimately ameliorate the homophobia and anti-gay bullying currently plaguing American schools (Crocco, 2002; Jennings & Sherwin, 2008; Thornton, 2002).

The second and concluding point comes from Gayle Rubin's (1975) powerful essay on the traffic in women:

A woman is a woman. She only becomes a domestic, a wife, a chattel, a playboy bunny, a prostitute, or a human Dictaphone in certain relations. Torn from these relationships, she is no more the helpmate of man than gold in itself is money (p. 87)

One could easily substitute "teacher" for "woman" in Rubin's litany of denigrating female stereotypes to reveal an equally insidious attitude about educators. The whole notion that a teacher is a woman and becomes a highly scrutinized state employee, a glorified babysitter, a schoolmarm, a twenty- something MRS major waiting for a husband, or a business school cast-off indicates the misogyny underlying the status discrepancy attached to the teaching profession. In altering cultural norms for the understanding and acceptance of masculinity through a genderful pedagogy, then, these vestigial attitudes about women will also change. Evidence of such change can be seen in work at the classroom level.


Throughout this article we have spoken about our respective experiences with gender in the classroom and the ways in which a genderful pedagogy, predicated on the notions of inclusi vity, plurality, and heteroglossia (to take a term from literary theory), inform a way of teaching that invites creative new possibilities for conceptualizing gender, specifically masculinity. For Shaun, this pedagogy involves a mindful awareness of gender theory's constant relevance, even in the context of an educational school curriculum that commonly conflates sexed bodies with gender's intricacies. His call to mindfulness requires that a "crisis in boys," or the absence of men in the elementary classroom, cannot be the only ways that we interrogate the meanings of masculinity in education studies. Additionally, alternative to simply "adding men" to classrooms and schools, a genderful pedagogy in education, delivered by all teachers, could help eliminate the cultural boundaries that code teaching as an emasculating profession. For Brenda, the call for a genderful pedagogy involves something more akin to Luce Irigaray's (1977/1985) classic formulation of masquerade and mimicry. Masquerade, says Irigaray, is a "false version of femininity arising from the woman's awareness of the man's desire for her to be his other;" mimicry offers an "interim strategy ... in which the woman deliberately assumes the feminine style and posture assigned to her within [phallogocentric] discourse in order to uncover the mechanisms by which it exploits her" (p. 220). In this respect, Brenda offers students a version of the pedagogue they desire to see so that she might more effectively lead them to a form of social critique they would not otherwise accept.

Much of this adroit maneuvering is predicated on a complicated conversation about the meaning of gender equality. Many second-wave feminists were very much committed to the notion that equity between the sexes might be predicated on eradicating the social differences between the sexes, and thus gender justice required gender neutrality. In An Unconventional Family (2001), Sandra Lipsitz Bern offers a poignant testimony to her efforts to raise her son and daughter in a gender-neutral environment, even as in The Lenses of Gender (1994) she powerfully demonstrated how calls for equality must interrogate the meanings of difference at their very core, since calls for democracy often end up ratifying a masculinist hierarchy (p. 55). Iris Marion Young (2005) puts the matter most succinctly:

Much of [the] early second- wave feminist theorizing invoked an ideal of equality for women that envisioned an end to gender. "Androgyny" named the ideal that many feminists theorized, a social condition in which biological sex would have no implications for a person's life prospects, or the way people treated one another (including, importantly, in the most consistent of these theories, one's choice of sex partners). These androgynous persons in the transformed liberated society would have no categorically distinct forms of dress, comportment, occupations, propensities toward aggression or passivity, associated with their embodiment. We would all be just people with various bodies, (p. 13)

As Young (2005) notes, "This appeal to an ideal of androgyny was short lived" (p. 14). Why? Because gender is a critical constitutive element of identity, even in the context of what Judith Butler (1990) identifies as gender's endless performativity. We may not like the degree to which gender distinctions can often invoke power discrepancies, but living without its defining capabilities is not a viable solution. So the task at hand becomes how to live with and embrace gender's multiple contortions and complications, its fullness rather than its paucity.

One solution, it seems to us, is to bear in mind a driving dictate of feminist theory: how we teach is as important as what we teach. Of concern for both of us in our reflections together about this topic has been the degree to which we can marshal a specific pedagogy that will inculcate values of difference, teaching students how to interrogate gender binaries even, sometimes, by adhering to their restrictive codes. Although our teaching environments are very different, we share common ground in a mutual commitment to communicating gender pluralism through a combination of content and pedagogy that challenges students to question and push the status quo within a context of doing so ourselves.

One very specific strategy toward building a genderful pedagogy, then, is simply to think out loud, and in the process, to invite students to contribute to collective knowledge-building (rather than demonstrating through text-lecture-test methods that students have nothing of value to offer apart from the reiteration of professorial ideas). Another specific strategy is to include materials on the syllabus that are perplexing and wide-ranging and don't necessarily conform to the professorial point of view or politics. In this vein, a student wrote to Brenda at the end of one of her masculinity seminars:

I really enjoyed how we looked at different aspects of masculinity from popular texts such as The Road and in movies like Big Daddy and Rebel Without a Cause. My favorite text was The Road, as I have never read anything quite like it. I typically would not read a book like that in any of my classes, so it was a nice change of pace from standard textbooks. I also really like how we read texts that you, Dr. Weber, [were] not particularly fond of. You challenged us to take our own viewpoints on the topics related to masculinity, rather than spoon feedings us your viewpoint. It was very engaging and allowed my mind to come up with all sorts of explanations to the questions you asked. (SS).

Perhaps the most important element of a genderful pedagogy is respect for difference. And so we conclude our discussion about masculinity and the politics of teaching in this section, fittingly, in the voice of one of Brenda' s students, who offers an important clarion call to gender educators:

The most important thing I learned about masculinity in this class was actually that masculinity studies existed and these topics can be discussed in a respectful way for both men and women. One of the reasons I decided to drop my major in gender studies was because of the way classes focused so heavily on feminism and femininity and the discussions always felt as if they were alienating the one or two men in the class. I did not want to continue in a field of study that I felt was disrespectful to one gender while trying to upset and trouble ideas of gender at the same time. A lot of the times the other classes would devolve into men are bad because this is bad about masculinity, or male privilege is bad and men who have it are bad too. I am sure this was not the actual intent of the message but that's what it felt like to me and the few men who took the class often felt like this too.

In this class I was able to think critically about masculinity, femininity, and their relation to one another without feeling like I was being forced to pick sides. I learned a lot about the way sexism operates in subtle ways in daily life and even more about recognizing moments of gender in life and media. This class gave me an excellent education in viewing the world through the lens of gender and gave me an ability to see the constructs of masculinity being perpetuated all around me . (AH)


In our conversations together about gender and pedagogy, we have been perplexed by the following questions: Who can legitimately "deliver" studies of masculinity? Given the sex and gender disposition of students and professors, what are some of the particular issues that attend the teaching of masculinity? Is the study of gender best performed in women's and gender studies courses at the collegiate level, or, like the effort to teach composition skills through a writing-across-the-curriculum agenda, might the study of gender be effectively engaged in and through other disciplines and at other levels? In the case of talking about gender through the school of education, might such conversations lead to a new study of masculinity that can critically resist the popular predisposition to yoke masculinity to manhood? And finally, what are the specific discursive, behavioral, and epistemological strategies called to account in the teaching of masculinity studies, and how might these differ from- or at least complicate- a feminist pedagogy?

Gender is heightened as a useful category of analysis not in the flattening of differences through a vision of a gender- free utopia but in the honoring of differences through a genderful pedagogy. We believe that sex and gender are actively constructed through social and cultural interaction, and yet we have differently experienced in frustration and fascination that the meanings of gender within the college and the K- 12 classroom can be artificially stabilized by the very structures that give us authority to speak and to teach. Indeed, quite often students' perceptions about our own gendered and sexed identities intervene in the study of masculinity, making it necessary that we directly acknowledge and explicitly address our own perceived ontologies in order to engage with the pedagogical climate. For Brenda, such strategic intervention often requires that an undergraduate masculinity class begin each semester by addressing the proverbial elephant in the room: What can a woman teach you about masculinity? For Shaun, the pedagogical situation relies on an alternative metaphor: the white whale, which, like Moby-Dick, is ever-present yet elusive just as is gender theory within education. In this case, the white whale emerges in the perceived conflict between sex and gender since, as the literature has long contended, a man who is passionate about teaching often belies the gender codes that constitute mainstream masculinity (Apple, 1985; Blount 2006; Finklestein, 1989; Strober & Tyack, 1980). It is through the combination of feminist pedagogies and gender justice practices that a genderful pedagogy gains its meaning and use- value, since, as we have shown here, it is not only the plurality of our students' sexed and gendered lives that must be built into the collective consideration, but the appearances and actuality of our own lives that must be factored into a meaningful pedagogical practice.


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Author affiliation:


Author affiliation:

a Towson University.

b Indiana University.

The authors would like to thank the JMS for creating this special issue and to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed to either author: Shaun Johnson, Department of Elementary Education, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252; Brenda Weber, Gender Studies, Indiana University, Memorial Hall E., 130, 1021 E. 3rd Street, Bloomington, Indiana, 47405. Email: spjohnson @towson .edu , breweber @ indiana .edu

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