Snakes and leaders: Hegemonic masculinity in ruling-class boys' boarding schools

Scott Poynting, Mike Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Recent events in a ruling-class boys'boarding school college in Sydney prompted public discussion about "bullying." Debate ranged between those seeing an endemic problem to be cured and those who saw minor, unfortunate, and atypical incidents in a system where bullying is under control. It is argued here that such practice is inherent in ruling-class boys' education. It is an important part of making ruling-class men. Using life-history methods with available biographical material, the article shows that ruling-class schooling of boys in boarding schools involves "sending away" and initial loneliness, bonding in groups demanding allegiance, attachment to tradition, subjection to hierarchy and progress upward through it, group ridiculing and punishment of sensitiveness and close relationships, severe sanctions against difference, brutal bodily discipline, and inculcating competitive individualism. Brutalization and "hardening" are essential to all these processes and are characteristic of ruling-class masculinity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-346
Number of pages22
JournalMen and Masculinities
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2005


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