Your question is a critical one. Yes, the "shunning" behavior you refer to
is more sexist and discriminatory, but clearly intersects with the
overtones that mark the behavior. This is, of course, homophobia in its
broadest form as it is targeted at all behavior and interests that boys
display which we stereotypically classify as "feminine." Homophobia is the
vehicle that maintains our traditional notions of masculinity as the valued
one for male behavior. The impact for most boys serves to confine them
within a "box" defined by rigid notions of masculinity. Sadly, for those
boys who step "outside the box" and display such interests or behaviors the
impact is far more direct and can result in the discriminatory behavior
concerns you here. Institutionally, this kind of "boy on boy" behavior
(shunning, bullying, etc.) is often seen as normal (e.g. "boys will be
and ignored or tacitly approved by the adults in the environment. Such
expressions of homophobia are not just confined to boys, but used by girls,
women and men as an expression of disapproval of feminine behavior. There
no question that this is discriminatory behavior that schools must begin to
Within the context of the concerns you raise, it is important and somewhat
heartening to note that we are beginning to see a number of lawsuits filed
against school districts, administrators and teachers based on "deliberate
indifference" to this form of harassment. This is the clause that was
in the Monroe v. Davis case in the Supreme Court.
In my area there are four such suits, all boy on boy harassment with
homophobic overtones. It is my understanding that administrators at
Columbine High School have also been named in a "deliberate indifference"
suit for the kind of homophobic bullying that existed (and now corroborated
by a recent report) prior to the tragedy there. Harris and Klebold were
routinely harassed in such a way. Additionally, a number of the other
shooting incidents have been preceded by this kind of behavior.
A recent "homophobic harassment" suit in the Kansas City area almost had
Janet Reno signing on to the suit on behalf of the boys who had been
harassed. It was settled for over $70,000. One can only hope that this is
the "wake up call" that school districts need to stop such discrimination.
I have always maintained that the cultural approval of this broad form of
homophobia is the "glue" that keeps sex role stereotyping, sexism, and
gender based discrimination locked in place. Gender equity depends on our
challenging this dynamic. It has an impact on all of us.
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