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Moving (in) the heterosexual matrix.: On heteronormativity in secondary school physical education
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Forskningsgruppen för pedagogik, idrott och fritidskultur.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0638-7176
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Forskningsgruppen för pedagogik, idrott och fritidskultur.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9965-0123
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Forskningsgruppen för pedagogik, idrott och fritidskultur.
2011 (English)In: Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, ISSN 1740-8989, E-ISSN 1742-5786, Vol. 16, no 1, 67-81 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Studies on heteronormativity in PE either appear to have explored the experiences of and conditions for non-heterosexual students, or adopt a retrospective point of view. Further, the relation between heteronormativity and movement and how movement activities embody social norms and values related to gender and sexuality has not been explored in depth.Purpose: To explore the relation between movement and heteronormativity in PE as experienced by the students.

Participants, setting and research design: The study is based on interviews with 24 students, aged 15 and 16 years and living in a big city area in Sweden. Each student was interviewed on three occasions, immediately following PE lessons visited by the researchers.

Data collection: The interviews revolved around: (1) the students' social situation; (2) their sporting habits and interests; (3) their views about PE (aims, content, teaching methods, learning, assessment and grading); (4) their views of girls' and boys' conditions in PE; and (5) their views about body and movement.

Data analysis: A discourse analysis was conducted, based on the interview as a whole, namely the interviewer's questions and comments and the interviewees' responses and possible counter-questions. Particular interest was directed towards linguistic regularities relating to norms and ideas about gender and sexuality.

Findings: Heteronormativity conditions the way in which girls and boys (feel they can appropriately) engage in a certain movement activity and still be viewed as 'normal'. In the PE classes we visited, being recognised as a 'normal' or straight girl presupposed a feminine appearance, a good coordinative and rhythmic ability, self-confidence in relation to partner dancing, and conversely, a lack of self-confidence and a reluctance to appear aggressive and competitive in connection with ball games. Boys who adopt that position might be apprehended as 'effeminate' or 'poofs' – unless they have some kind of status marker that can serve as a heterosexual alibi, like being popular and athletic. Being recognised as a 'normal' or straight boy presupposed a masculine appearance and confidence, i.e. aggressive and competitive behaviour, in team ball games. Girls who occupy that position might be perceived as 'butch' or 'manly' (perhaps as lesbians?) if they do not, correspondingly, have some kind of marker that can serve as a heterosexual alibi. This might include having a feminine appearance.

Conclusions: Since heteronorms are embodied in and through movement, any attempt to challenge the heteronormative culture of PE teaching would have to carefully consider which kinds of activities to include in the PE curriculum, and to make it possible for the students to move in new ways. Such a strategy would include a critically reflexive approach among PE teachers towards the conventional endeavour to make the teaching 'work' without too much emphasis on exploring how students experience different physical activities. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 16, no 1, 67-81 p.
National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-1997DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2010.491819OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-1997DiVA: diva2:460783
Available from: 2011-12-01 Created: 2011-12-01 Last updated: 2015-12-22Bibliographically approved

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Larsson, HåkanRedelius, KarinFagrell, Birgitta

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