Constructions of masculinity among young sporty boys : the case of KwaZulu-Natal Preparatory School's first rugby team.
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This study is an analysis of the manner in which preparatory school boys construct their masculinities through the sport of rugby. The study is based on interviews with the entire First XV rugby team of Connaught Prep School. Sport and rugby in particular are seen as an important cog in the masculinity-making process for men but this is also true for young boys. Rugby in South Africa is regarded as a sport that real men play. Historically played primarily by white men, it remains a marker of hegemonic masculinity. In their involvement in the Connaught Prep.s First XV, boys affirm the importance of the sport, act out the values associated with the sport and display the skills required to play the sport successfully. The thesis argues that sport, and in particular, rugby, is a central feature of boys. constructions of masculinity. Due to the physical nature of rugby and the hype that surrounds and the support that is given to the sport, it has become part of the hegemonic culture of boys at Connaught Prep School. But hegemonic masculinity is not fixed; it is contested and changes. The 1st XV rugby team and its members are an important part of the process that gives content to the masculinity that is hegemonic at Connaught Preparatory. The boys try and live up to the ideals of masculinity that they see on television, hear from and see in their fathers and find in other boys. In selecting a set of sporty values, these boys perpetuate rugby as the preferred sport and a rugged school boy masculinity as the hegemonic made gender identity of the school. While the 1st rugby team try to aspire to the ideal hegemonic masculinity at the school, they cannot meet the ideal rugby masculinity and this renders them vulnerable. They are vulnerable to physical injury and also to the humiliation of heavy losses against rival teams. Susceptible to these conditions makes their construction of masculinity a delicate and fragile situation to be in. While the boys contribute to hegemonic masculinity they also, at times, undermine it by contributing to a counter hegemonic masculinity. These are the boys that stress playing sport for fun (rather than winning), are caring, and develop friendships through the sport. The findings of this study, brings to light the importance of sport in the development of a young boys. masculinity and the vulnerable and fragile situation these boys find themselves in as a result.