"I guess it was pretty embarrassing when I couldn't do a pull-up:" How Six Young Men Experience and Understand Their Masculinities Open Access
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This research investigates how six young men in late adolescence experience and understand their masculinities. The study employs a hermeneutic-phenomenological methodology, which is philosophically and methodologically grounded in the work of Max van Manen (1990) and Paul Ricoeur (1981). Data collection methods include semi-structured phenomenological conversations (Seidman, 2006), auto-photography in which the young men photographically document their experience, and photo-elicitation conversations in which the young men elucidate the meaning of the photographs they took (Noland, 2006; Croghan, Griffin, Hunter, & Phoenix, 2008; Blackbeard & Lindegger, 2007). Data analysis follows van Manen's (1990) six human science research activities and the interpretive phenomenological analytic methods of Smith, Flowers, and Larkin (2009). The research is theoretically situated in Connell's (1995) multiple masculinities framework and is further informed by the work of Judith Butler (1990, 1997), Michel Foucault (1990, 1995).Through interpretive phenomenological data analysis, four super-ordinate themes emerged: (a) the masculine convention, (b) masculinities and sexualities, (c) rejecting masculine stereotypes, and (d) masculinities in relationships. Two to three sub-themes also emerged under each super-ordinate theme. Analysis reveals that the young men perceive masculinity as a socially prescribed set of gendered expectations including physical toughness, emotional stoicism, and other gendered pressures in a social milieu of intense heterosexism and homophobia. The masculine archetype these young men describe, however, stands in contrast to the masculinities they individually embrace and perform. The young men are selective in applying archetypical masculine behaviors to themselves, and they perform their masculinities in ways that contradict masculine stereotypes and in many cases openly question and reject gender expectations. The importance of relationships in the construction of their masculine identifications emerged as a very strong theme in these young men's experience.The study concludes with a discussion of how the findings relate to the extant literature on masculinities, especially youth masculinities. Implications for teacher education and curriculum are addressed, such as understanding the complexity of masculinities, greater conceptualization of gender as a diversity issue, and sensitivity to and critique of normative or discriminatory gender practices in curriculum and pedagogy. Finally, questions to guide future research are presented.