Middle and High School and the Beasts that Inhabit those Ecosystems (Blog Post 4)

First off, I know that this post is late, but after several days of intense effort culminating in the replacement of my computer’s hard drive I have got the machine to work, and I never want it to scare me like that again.  Also, I know that the class in which this topic was discussed has passed; I wanted to wait to see how I felt about the rest of the material before I decided what I would write about.

Have you ever had an experience where you were required to go somewhere you really did not want to go, and when you got there you realized that no one else was comfortable there either.  The sort of discomfort that feeds off of itself until all interactions are tainted by it and it is just shy of impossible to find enjoyment?  The answer is yes (assuming you grew up somewhere where the school district split grades six through eight into their own brutal hell-scape called middle school).  I know that Pascoe article focuses on high school and I will not dispute the fact that much of the abusive and aggressive interactions that were discussed both in class and in the article takes place in high school, I will admit to seeing these sort of behaviors acted out in high school, but in my personal experience (which I know does not mean it is a universal fact) much of the activity discussed was more intense in middle school.  One of the most interesting aspects of both the reading and the class discussion on the topic was that it was so clinical.  The individuals involved were treated as subjects that are observed enacting their baser instincts not fully aware of the implications and meanings of their words and interactions.  Having said this in a rather harsh way, I totally agree with it.  Simply put, the individuals and groups in question know on a basic level what the word ‘faggot’ means with regards to the denotation and some connotation.  I think that Pascoe touches on this when she describes how some students use the word and how for many it is simply the worst insult available (they may not know everything about it, but they know it’s a strike against someone’s hetero-normative masculinity and it can hurt much more than other words).  The interactions described in Pascoe’s article and those that live in my memory play themselves out much like the interactions between young animals at play, subtly (and less subtly at times) establishing the pecking order.  The first part of this video detailing how young hyenas will kill each other to advance their status in the pack is eerily similar to the social competition in middle and high school.

On a certain level I have a hard time judging adolescents for their abusive behavior towards one another (I still find it abhorrent).  They are mentally and socially underdeveloped and are lacking in both sympathy and empathy, and are generally not exposed to modern notions surrounding gender and its nuances let alone other such ideas surrounding non hetero-normative sexualities.  To be fair, I feel that the subject of gender and sexuality is moving forward so quickly that the second anyone leaves the university setting they begin to fall behind in their understanding.

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2 Responses to Middle and High School and the Beasts that Inhabit those Ecosystems (Blog Post 4)

  1. cstabile says:

    Not sure what you mean by the last line. If we understand gender as a social construction, certainly what we’re seeing is a period in which our constructions of gender are undergoing some big changes. Totally off topic, it’s interesting in this context that you mention hyenas, because the biology of hyena reproduction thoroughly confuses constructions of human gender and sexuality. Female hyenas are hyper-aggressive — their genitalia doesn’t conform to what we understand to be female (either visually or practically), etc. Wonder where they’d fit on our gender spectrum.

    • coleg2013 says:

      The changes you refer to with regards to the constructions of gender are what my last line is referencing. Perhaps I phrased it poorly and did not adequately depict the sensation of this rapidly (feels rapid at least) shifting paradigm. Perhaps my comments stem more from a personal sentiment than reality. Essentially, my understanding of gender has changed so entirely and so rapidly in four years (all in the university) that it has left me spinning. Since universities are the sources of much of the literature and such on the subject and also are where most of said writing is studied it lends to the feeling that once you leave the field and paradigm will race ahead without you.
      I suppose it’s kind of like when you talk to an older person. I was talking to someone in the class about this very topic and he referenced his mother. His mother claims to be a feminist, the difference being that she was a product of second wave feminism. When this student would talk to his mother about current feminist theory and such her mother seemed behind the times.
      Theory regarding things such as gender can really feel like a ‘if you fall behind you get left behind sort of scenario’ in which you are damned to sound antiquated and incorrect for the rest of your days.
      I did consider some of the peculiar connotations that the hyena reference brought with it, and while some may muddy my argument, the hyena was the only animal where the stakes felt high enough. Perhaps I’m being melodramatic but the sort of activities discussed (with regards to bullying) may be called a game by participants, and in some ways may look like a game, but it can really have lasting consequences. As far as female hyena genitalia is concerned, I think the pseudo-penis functions nicely as a metaphor for the posturing and gender performance (masculine displays) put on by male adolescents, in that both may appear masculine at a first glance, but upon further viewing is really kind of gross to look at.

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