Detailed Program of the Conference

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The current Conference time is: 9th Aug 2022, 06:13:22pm CEST

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Overall view of the program
Parallel session - I.5 Masculinities In The Classroom: Gender Imbalances And New Models
Wednesday, 02/June/2021:
5:45pm - 8:00pm

Session Chair: Irene Biemmi
Session Chair: Silvia Leonelli
Session Chair: Rossella Ghigi
Location: Room 9

Session Panels:
I.5. Masculinities in The Classroom: Gender Imbalances And New Models

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Erika Bernacchi

Istituto degli Innocenti, Italy

Based on changing gender relations in European societies (e.g. increasing women’s education and labour market participation), traditional male breadwinner and female career roles have been challenged (Scambor, 2013). However, the level of horizontal segregation in education and professions remains high and stable in Europe and even more so in Italy: while women are underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), men’s share in care and educational occupations is very low. The European funded "Boys in care" project - that took place in the years 2017-2019 in 6 European states (see was aimed at supporting boys in pursuing careers in the care field based on the emerging concept of “caring masculinities” (Elliot, 2016). Such a concept is founded upon Fraser’s (1996) model of gender equality, in which “care” is defined as the basis for social and economic cooperation, a human norm which applies to both men and women (not a female task). Thus, caring masculinities is to be regarded as a guideline model that comprises men’s caring activities and a change among men towards gender equality. (Scambor, Jauk, Gartner and Bernacchi, 2019)

Based on the findings of the “Boys in care” project, the intervention will first analyse the reasons why care is so gendered and number of men in care and education professions is so low based on consideration of care as a central mechanism for reproduction of gender socialization and on concepts of egemonic masculinities (Connell, 1996). The topic will also be addressed through the “triangle model: terrain of the politics of masculinities” (privileges, costs, diversity) (Messner 1997). While gender stereotypes in education and early socialisation have been studied since a longer time, the “cages of masculinity” have only recently started to be addressed (Addis, 2011, Ciccone, 2009, 2019, Gasparrini, 2016)

Secondly, the presentation will investigate the specific challenges encountered by boys who choose an education leading to care professions both in relation to gender norms that regards care professions as unnatural for boys (including the issue of the influence of teachers, parents and peers and the lack of role models) and in relation to material conditions of work (Biemmi and Bernacchi, 2019).

The central part of the presentation will address the issue of how to support boys who wish to pursue a career in the care professions by presenting the methodologies used with teachers and vocational counsellors, the pedagogical materials produced (Holtermann et al, 2019) and the awareness raising initiatives carried out in the “Boys in care” project.

Finally, a reflection will be proposed on how a larger presence of men in care work can represent an opportunity to establish a more caring society for all and to loosen rigid masculinity norms.


Cristiana Otttaviano1, Greta Persico2

1Università di Bergamo, Italia; 2Università di Bergamo, Italia

The paper is focused on the relation between educational care and masculinities in Early Childhood education (ECE) (0-6). From a theoretical perspective it falls within Men’s Studies and describes an empirical research study, mainly realized using a biographical approach, on male teachers working in ECE, and the focus group with some families. The aim is to explore the stories of the lives of some men who do jobs closely related to childcare. The interviews are focused on the reasons the men chose jobs with tasks traditionally considered to be “female” duties, as well as how these teachers feel about their work, their caring and relational approaches, and if and to what extent their jobs are changing/have changed their perceptions of themselves, and, finally, on the nature of the reactions to their choice both in the micro and the macro social context. The comparison with the outcome of other international studies shows some common issues emerging across different national contexts: the lack of role models or mentors in ECE; the challenge to ‘hegemonic’ masculinities of engaging in childcare in order to involve body, emotions and vulnerabilities; the shadow of paedophilia related to homosexuality and, finally, the role these men embody as ‘breakers’. These results were also compared with what emerged in two focus groups involving parents, where we have thematized experiences and imaginaries regarding the educational presence of men alongside children.


Giuseppe Burgio

Kore University of Enna, Italy

Research on bullying follows an argumentation that describes the phenomenon, the various types of bully, the various types of victim, and then moves on to the proposal of an educational intervention. However, it must be acknowledged that these interventions, which have been in place for a long time, do not seem to be at all effective. My hypothesis is that this lack of effectiveness is due to a theoretical error: not having analysed the causes of the phenomenon, not having identified an aetiological hypothesis. To try to make up for this, I conducted research on the insults that adolescents exchange with each other. From it, a sort of adolescent ideology emerged, based on multiple forms of exclusion: sexist, homophobic, racist, ableist and hetaist. The only subject that cannot be insulted is the male, white, young and healthy. This produces a normativity that supports the phenomena of male bullying, which can be interpreted as a useful and rational device to easily manage the bully's virile reputation. This is consistent with what we know about bullying, which has been described as a predominantly male phenomenon with an escalation of vileness when both the bully and the victim are male. Bullying thus stages a performance of masculinity that has a precise regulatory function in the male peer group. My interpretation is based on an extension of the concept of script identified by Simon and Gagnon, which is interpreted here as a gender script. Male bullying is in fact based on a machismo-type cultural scenario, which is enacted through interpersonal scripts and has an inner continuation through intra-psychic scripts. For this reason, I interpret bullying as an educational device, useful for the management of masculinity among adolescents. On this basis, it is then necessary to think about the prevention of bullying within a gender education panorama, an education to multiple masculinities, rather than within a generic education to differences, as it happens now.


Paolo Gusmeroli

Università di Padova, Italy

In this contribution I discuss the results of the Project The (un) reasons of violence [Le (s)ragioni della violenza]. Men at work, carried out in two professional schools of Veneto (Italy) in 2019. The Project was promoted by GRU (Men’s Responsibility Group), a service dealing with men who have perpetrated violence against women, in collaboration with the anti-violence Ngo Iside (Venezia-Mestre). The activities implemented within the program had a double goal. The first was to investigate the relationship between social constructions of masculinity and gender violence, targeting boys’ voices and views with the technique of focus group. The second aim was to involve students (boys and girls) in an anti-violence campaign to foster their awareness on this topic. To pursue this second objective, students were asked to carry on a small research and design their own anti-violence manifesto. As referent for the GRU service at the time, I managed three encounters and one focus groups for each class. The focus groups (one mixed, and one only with boys) involved an overall number of 21 students (13 boys). In addition to allowing the collection of narratives, the meetings were also an opportunity for participatory observation of doing and displaying gender among peers. Discussions were focused on two main themes: a) students’ expectations regarding gender entitlements in intimate relations (mainly heteronormative, but not only); b) students’ representations and 'explanations' regarding masculine violence against women in the society. Interpretation of results keep into consideration the situatedness of the discussion in the classroom, where anti-violence and gender equality discourse was realistically perceived as a binding norm promoted by the school institution. At the same time, I problematize my posture in the research (and education) field, as a man investigating, debating, and teaching about gender violence. Adopting an ethnographic approach, I consider here masculinity as a flexible and adaptable resource activated by boys to negotiate the definition of 'appropriate' gender identities and practices - coherent with the pro-feminist framework of the meetings - while reassuring their adhesion to the male group solidarity and its tacit normativity. In other words, I consider how boys’ adherence to pro-feminist anti-violence narratives and in favour of gender equality combine with role-distance strategies that reaffirms plural forms of masculine expression and solidarity, with ambivalent effects. Findings are used to reflect on the way masculine norms might adapt to gender equality and anti-violence discourses promoted by institutions (such as school) by reaffirming the implicit distinction between 'official' and 'practical' (masculine) rules of social life.


Sandro Bellassai

Università di Bologna, Italy

Gender studies, along with other areas of critical analysis (or even more than them), directly involve the deep relationship between the researcher and the analytical objects of the research. In the case of masculinities' studies, in particular, one can hardly avoid to face the epistemological problem of an ostensible "neutrality", in terms of gender, that men ordinarily attribute to themselves. It is therefore a matter, for the researcher, of also recognizing the "cognitive traps" that too often lead her/his interpretative framework into knowledge processes distorted by a stubborn "invisibility" of men as men.

Yet the "optical" shield of an invisible gender specificity has no less important effects on boys' reception of education at various levels. Such (self-)critical standpoint can be extremely insightful in education, especially when dealing with boys and young adults. The deconstruction of the common understanding of men as universal human beings, in fact, may have a profound impact on the way boys generally deal with the contents of various disciplinary fields. It can also stimulate, more deeply, a critical self-reflection on their own personal growth.

In this paper, drawing on decades of personal experience in researching and teaching around these topics, I will offer some examples of how a gendered perspective in training and education, arising from a mutual and shared recognition of masculinity-based dynamics, can stimulate a work of transformation of both students and teacher as men, in their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.


Pina Caporaso

European School Brussels II, Belgio

A great number of women in teaching has not resulted in a more equitable education. Schools are not feminist environments in terms of career, practices, theories. Teaching, particularly in primary level, has been closely associated with nurturance and care, while in the secondary level with the intellectual work. Teaching to young children has been considered an extension of women’s mothering role. The feminization of teaching could seem another form of domestication for women (Rahayani, 2010).
Women in education are still seen as cheap labour and they are less promoted than their male counterpart: “Teaching is a good job for a woman, but it is a career with prospects for men” (Burgess, 1989). This refers to the so called “glass escalator,” a term for the advantages that men receive in the “women’s professions”, becoming better suited than women for leadership positions (Williams, 2013).
There are several reasons to recruit more men into primary teaching:
- restoring gender balance and diversity existing in society;
- providing children of male role models who act as an equal to female colleagues;
- offering a support for children raised in families without father;
Other perspectives focus on the importance of challenging gender stereotypes and sexist messages. Men who become primary teachers are in the position of crossing gender boundaries and acting against hegemonic forms of masculinity. But they must choose to be part of this change that redefines the idea of caring.
In an Australian research the authors ask male teachers about the main themes concerning male primary teachers (Hansen & Mulholland 2005). Themes like societal apprehensions, expressing caring by touch, discipline, building community are developed through the single stories of teachers. Teachers mainly focus on the suspicion about the masculinity of men opting for caring professions. Even if they had been recruited as disciplinarians, they have found more caring ways of using their disciplinary role.
Inspired by this research, I interviewed some of my male colleagues in the primary school of European School in Brussels. This is not meant to be a scientific research but a sort of dialogue with peers. The idea came from a teachers training that I lead about gender equality in education, in a multi language and multicultural school.
Only if both women and men in school take action, they can create a culture that values difference.

Biemmi, I., Leonelli S. "Un'emergenza sempre attuale: le gabbie di genere e la segregazione formativa", in Le emergenze educative della società contemporanea 2018

Ghigi, Rossella, Fare la differenza. Educazione di genere dalla prima infanzia all'età adulta, Il Mulino, 2019

Hansen P., Mulholland J. “Caring and Elementary Teaching - The Concerns of Male Beginning Teachers” in Journal of Teacher Education 2005

Leonelli, S., “Donne docenti: genere, pedagogie e modelli educativi”, in “Eredi di Laura Bassi. Docenti e ricercatrici in Italia tra età moderna e presente”, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2014

Rahayani, Y. “Feminization of teaching” in Journal of English and Education (JEE), December 2010

Williams, C. L. “The Glass Escalator, Revisited: Gender Inequality in Neoliberal Times”, SWS Feminist Lecturer 2013


Vulca Fidolini

Université de Lorraine, France

Since Barrie Thorne's work on schoolyards, school spaces have often been interpreted as privileged laboratories for studying gender identification processes as well as their intersection with age/class/ethnic inequalities. The literature on gender at school has been rapidly invested by studies on construction of masculinities. Raewyn Connell’s work – which has become the prominent worldwide reference in masculinities studies – was indeed firstly based on school contexts. Focusing on gender performances at school, the Australian sociologist came to elaborate the renowned concept of masculinity as a “configuration of practices” (Connell, 1995). After that, numerous studies on men and masculinities have continued to carry out research on school contexts in order to show how hegemonic, complicit and subordinate models of masculinity are socially produced (see for example Cheri Jo Pascoe’s works).

By discussing the main outcomes of research carried out on masculinities at school during the last 30 years, this presentation will try to show how the contribution of this international literature can offer pertinent interpretive tools for thinking educational practices in contemporary schools, in Italy and abroad.