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Chapter 4 “Take It Like a Man” Masculinities, Treatment, and Crime We walked into Unit C during gym time, finding the boys engaged in a heated debate about a volleyball game. One of the boys complained, “every time I miss a shot, they [the other team] say something, but when they miss, we just don’t say nothing, like no big deal. They make a big deal when we don’t get the ball.” Mr. Connelly, one of the regular staff members on duty, assured the residents that it was “just a game, guys! Why would you make such a big deal over a volleyball game? Tomorrow, will you even remember who won the game? You’re here to work on yourselves and get out of here, not to win games.” When one of the accused culprits in the conflict tried to assert his side of the story, Mr. Connelly deliberately stopped him, saying: “Sampson, you’d argue about the color of the sky; why do you always have to say something?” He replied: “I’m gonna speak up . . . if I see something’s not going right, I’m gonna SAY something.” Mr. Connelly dismissed Sampson’s position outright, telling him that his need to speak up is about “controlling the dorm,” not about saying anything important. The conversation ended there. Less than an hour after this exchange, the group returned to the dorm for free time. The residents began to engage in different games, and a few lined up to play ping-pong against a staff member. One after the other, residents faced off against Mr. McClatchy. During each game, he shouted out “Loser!” when they missed the ball, such as “5–1, Loser; Serve, Loser!” This tone continued as Mr. McClatchy summarily beat all the boys who challenged him. This scenario contains numerous layers of complexity regarding institutional context and messages about power, the importance of winning and losing , and the value of competition. On the one hand, Mr. Connelly’s attempt to diffuse the conflict on the volleyball court by telling the residents it was “just a game” provided the boys with a sense of assurance that they could play a game for fun, and did not need to chide or insult each other for missing the 69 ball. In this sense, he sent a message that everyone could be equally respected during a team sport. In the next moment, Mr. Connelly’s prompt dismissal of Sampson’s side of the story directly conveyed that his individual point of view was neither important nor valued, thus contradicting the “equal playing field” ethos invoked in his initial comments. The tone of “it’s just a game” was further undermined by Mr. McClatchy’s ping-pong dynamics, relaying to the boys that competition was more important than having fun, and that victory should be sought at risk of being labeled “a loser.” This vignette speaks not only to competition, but also contributes to understandings of masculinity shaped in part by the value placed on victory and mastery over others. Deriving a sense of self worth through negative comparison characterizes many features of traditional or hegemonic masculine ideologies that are evident in many social institutions, including correctional facilities, and that often contradicted the treatment messages present in other aspects of Wildwood House’s milieu. Conflicting discourses of manhood and masculinity add another layer of complexity to the facility’s tangled web of messages concerning appropriate behavior and self-expression and comprise the primary focus of this chapter. Masculinity, Power, and Crime In the past two decades, scholars have produced a robust body of literature on gender socialization, the development of gender identity in childhood and adolescence, and the intersections of multiple masculinities with additional axes of identity such as race, class, and sexuality (Connell 1987, 1995; Mac an Ghaill 1994; Messerschmidt 1993, 2000; Pascoe 2007; Thompson and Pleck 1995; West and Zimmerman 1987). This contextual understanding of masculinity implies that there is no universal, essential way of becoming or being a man. Rather, individuals adopt a range of gendered responses to their social environments, and in turn, the development of masculinity hinges upon the contexts of social institutions such as the state, schooling, the workplace, and the family (Connell 1987, 1995; Goodey 1997; Messerschmidt 1993). Carrie Paechter (2007) has suggested that these social institutions serve as “communities of gendered practice,” in which individuals learn and perform expectations of conduct associated as masculine or feminine in a given context. Masculinity, like...


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