Review: Victoria Rawlings: Gender Regulation, Violence and Social Hierarches in School (2017)

March 2, 2017 in General

Victoria Rawlings: Gender Regulation, Violence and Social Hierarchies in School: Ashgate: Palgrave Macmillan: 2017.

This is a major contribution to the emerging area of political debate over regulation of anti-LGBT bullying within schools. Rawlings critically interrogates the practice of anti_LGBT bullying as an enactment of horizontal power relations between male and female/ straight and lesbian/gay/transgender students, carried out at the level of interpersonal relationships and social exclusion. When a young gay man, transman or alternative straight man is subjected to homophobic verbal abuse and possible escalation to queerbashing if he doesn’t satisfy heteronormative models of what young masculinities ‘should’ be like, this is one manifestation. Certainly, this also happens to young heterosexually active women, who are labelled ‘slags’ and ‘sluts’ within patriarchal discourses, while young lesbians and ‘unavailable’ are conversely labelled ‘dykes’ usually, albeit by other young women, and usually at the level of interpersonal verbal abuse. Accepting this premise, what can we do to halt it? How do we close down anti-LGBT bullying youth peer groups and social networks? It may not do any good just to legislate for it, pass behavioural conduct codes within school perimeters and enforce such codes within those contexts? One deceptively easy answer is to prohibit ‘hate music’- except that depends on a simplistic, monocausal model of media stimulus and social ‘consequences.’ It may be the case that homophobic and transphobic violence and verbal derogation is related to family, organisational, or peer group relationships and discourses, or cross-pollination of those and other anti-LGBT discourses in a wider context. Or, there may be animosity toward non-community LGBT individuals but not toward LGBT individuals identified as members of particular ethnic and/or religious subcultures- or LGBT members of dominant social groups may be less vulnerable to homophobic/transphobic violence, given the punitive consequences that may ensue, and such animosity may be directed toward LGBT members of subordinated communities.

Whatever the outcomes, Rawlings has produced a new and intriguing look at how anti-LGBT ‘bullying’ is enacted, why it might exist and how to deal wih it.

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