Masculinity and the Idea of Boyhood in Postwar Ontario, 1945–1960
Publication Year: 2014
Ontario Boys explores the preoccupation with boyhood in Ontario during the immediate postwar period, 1945–1960. It argues that a traditional version of boyhood was being rejuvenated in response to a population fraught with uncertainty, and suffering from insecurity, instability, and gender anxiety brought on by depression-era and wartime disruptions in marital, familial, and labour relations, as well as mass migration, rapid postwar economic changes, the emergence of the Cold War, and the looming threat of atomic annihilation. In this sociopolitical and cultural context, concerned adults began to cast the fate of the postwar world onto children, in particular boys.
In the decade and a half immediately following World War II, the version of boyhood that became the ideal was one that stressed selflessness, togetherness, honesty, fearlessness, frank determination, and emotional toughness. It was thought that investing boys with this version of masculinity was essential if they were to grow into the kind of citizens capable of governing, protecting, and defending the nation, and, of course, maintaining and regulating the social order.
Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Ontario Boys demonstrates that, although girls were expected and encouraged to internalize a “special kind” of citizenship, as caregivers and educators of children and nurturers of men, the gendered content and language employed indicated that active public citizenship and democracy was intended for boys. An “appropriate” boyhood in the postwar period became, if nothing else, a metaphor for the survival of the nation.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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There are a number of debts associated with this book. First and foremost, I would like to thank Rebecca Coulter who has always been a constant source of inspiration. Her continuous support and encouragement, as well as her wise, prudent, generous, and thoughtful counsel, has helped sustain...
Introduction: Approaching Boyhood In Postwar Ontario
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As these observations suggest, in country town as in burgeoning metropolis, among local commentators and highly trained professionals alike, the early post–Second World War years saw Ontarians much preoccupied with the nature and potential of boyhood. Ontario Boys explores these public discourses during the so-called Baby Boom years, from roughly 1945...
1. Home, Family, Citizenship: Shaping the Boyhood Ideal
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The popular and professional ideas on boyhood in the late 1940s and the 1950s took shape in a social and political context impacted by dislocations and upheavals in marital and familial relations brought on by Depression era and wartime conditions. Out of this social and political turbulence came a...
2. One for All: Teamwork and the Boyhood Ideal
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The growth of corporate culture in postwar Ontario compelled corporations to draw attention to the problems of administration and management that arose when men worked in groups rather than individually. What corporations required during the postwar period was the right kind of...
3. One above All: The Heroic Ideal in Boyhood
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Competing models of masculinity emerged as traditional notions of rugged individual manliness were superseded by a much more corporate mindset. Some adults promoted a version of boyhood that would help boys become men in grey flannel suits, who would slide easily into corporate...
4. Dissonant Ideas: Other Boyhoods
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As Ontarians strove to regulate boyhood, a key issue was the bad boy. For many adults, this version of boyhood stood in direct contrast to the normal boy. The bad boy was imagined as probably from a workingpoor neighbourhood and as incapable of integrating himself with the “normal”...
5. Changes and Continuities: Historic and Contemporary Boyhood Ideals
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Looking over the postwar years, it is not hard to see this period as something of a familiar story: concerns about boyhood ran alongside a broader “crisis” in masculinity. Once again, concerns about the status of boyhood have emerged front and centre in the gendered landscape of public discourse...
6. Conclusion: Making Ontario Boys, 1945–1960
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In the immediate postwar years in Ontario there existed a deep preoccupation with boyhood, in reaction to the uncertainty, insecurity, instability, and gender anxiety brought on by Depression era and wartime disruptions in marital, family, and labour relations, rapid postwar economic changes, the emergence...
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References and Sources
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Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 1 Illustrations, black and white
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada