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Snakes and leaders: hegemonic masculinity in ruling-class boys’ boarding schools

Poynting, Scott and Donaldson, Mike (2005) Snakes and leaders: hegemonic masculinity in ruling-class boys’ boarding schools. Men and masculinities, 7 (4). pp. 325-346. ISSN 1097-184X

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Recent events in a ruling-class boys’ boarding school college in Sydney prompted public discussion about “bullying.” Debate ranged between those seeing an endemic problemto be cured and those who saw minor, unfortunate, and atypical incidents in a system where bullying is under control. It is argued here that such practice is inherent in ruling-class boys’ education. It is an important part of making ruling-class men. Using life-history methods with available biographical material, the article shows thatruling-class schooling of boys in boarding schools involves “sending away” and initial loneliness, bonding in groups demanding allegiance, attachment to tradition, subjection to hierarchy and progress upward through it, group ridiculing and punishment of sensitiveness and close relationships, severe sanctions against difference, brutal bodily discipline, and inculcating competitive individualism. Brutalization and “hardening” are essential to all these processes and are characteristic of ruling-class masculinity.

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