Pizza, Teenage Boys, And Masculinity

A year-long District of Columbia program called the “Men of Strength” club—MOST Club—entices high school boys into discussions about masculinity and gender roles by offering pizza at lunch-time meetings. It’s a bit devious, perhaps, but there are worse ways to go about things.

Facilitator Kedrick Griffin spends an hour every week at each of various school around the district, hoping “to challenge traditional masculinity and push his young charges to respect their female peers.” Recognizing that sexist behaviors are rewarded by other teenage males, Griffin tries to persuade the guys in his group to think about how harassment, for example, feels from the girl’s perspective, and to learn to deconstruct hegemonic masculinity. Some topics go over better than others; many students, for instance, are still reluctant to accept gay men as masculine enough and as deserving of rights.

I’ve always believed in the proverb, “You win more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Or, in this case, pizza. It may be hard for teenage boys to hear that they’ve been perpetuating and benefiting from a sexist, homophobic culture; rather, by shifting the emphasis to how mainstream masculinity also oppresses them, educators may have better luck in getting them to think critically about their behaviors and beliefs. And who turns down free pizza, anyway?

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About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.