ArticlePDF Available

The perpetuation of hegemonic male power and the loss of boyhood innocence: Case studies from the music industry


Abstract and Figures

It has been argued by R.W. Connell that gender equality requires the willing co-operation of men and boys. This study of youth masculinity and singing examines the process through which young people are socialised into the norms of the commercial music industry. It is argued that this industry, which is extremely influential on identities and attitudes, remains patriarchal in its power structures. This patriarchy both constrains and shapes the identities of boy performers and perpetuates the construction of females as ‘fodder’ for music that requires little cultural capital for its appreciation. The paper draws on case studies of boy performers aged between 11 and 14, together with survey work in schools of young people who were asked to listen to the commercial CD recordings made by the young performers. It concludes that, from an initial position of innocence, boy singers and their female fans become socialised into a complicit masculinity that unwittingly perpetuates patriarchal hegemony. Connell's aspiration for men and boy's participation in gender equality is rendered an unlikely hope by the power relationships discussed.
Content may be subject to copyright.
This article was downloaded by:
[Ashley, Martin]
25 November 2010
Access details:
Access Details: [subscription number 930117990]
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-
41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Journal of Youth Studies
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:
The perpetuation of hegemonic male power and the loss of boyhood
innocence: case studies from the music industry
Martin Ashley
Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK
First published on: 02 August 2010
To cite this Article Ashley, Martin(2011) 'The perpetuation of hegemonic male power and the loss of boyhood innocence:
case studies from the music industry', Journal of Youth Studies, 14: 1, 59 — 76, First published on: 02 August 2010 (iFirst)
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2010.489603
Full terms and conditions of use:
This article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or
systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or
distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.
The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents
will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses
should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,
actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly
or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
The perpetuation of hegemonic male power and the loss of boyhood
innocence: case studies from the music industry
Martin Ashley*
Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University, St. Helen’s Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire
L39 4QP, UK
(Received 7 October 2009; final version received 23 April 2010)
It has been argued by R.W. Connell that gender equality requires the willing co-
operation of men and boys. This study of youth masculinity and singing examines
the process through which young people are socialised into the norms of the
commercial music industry. It is argued that this industry, which is extremely
influential on identities and attitudes, remains patriarchal in its power structures.
This patriarchy both constrains and shapes the identities of boy performers and
perpetuates the construction of females as ‘fodder’ for music that requires little
cultural capital for its appreciation. The paper draws on case studies of boy
performers aged between 11 and 14, together with survey work in schools of
young people who were asked to listen to the commercial CD recordings made by
the young performers. It concludes that, from an initial position of innocence, boy
singers and their female fans become socialised into a complicit masculinity that
unwittingly perpetuates patriarchal hegemony. Connell’s aspiration for men and
boy’s participation in gender equality is rendered an unlikely hope by the power
relationships discussed.
Keywords: gender; generation; identity; masculinity; music
A report to the United Nations by R.W. Connell makes the point that men and boys
have a role to play in achieving gender equality (Connell 2003). Crucially, Connell
argues that, though gender equality has been placed in the public domain generally
by women, the gender equality project cannot be completed without the willing
support and co-operation of men and boys. She both outlines the various categories
of men and boys who have already supported gender equality and calls attentions to
the obstructions associated with patriarchal attitudes to gender that continue to
stand in the way. In this article, I shall discuss the considerable power and influence
wielded by the music industry and the effect this has in socialising young boy singers
into a complicit masculinity, creating a patriarchal dividend that obstructs this
aspiration of Connell.
The article is based upon the findings of two substantial research council-funded
studies of boys and singing. It does not attempt to report the whole study
programme, but draws on one particular issue that emerged as significant during
the studies. This is the degree to which the music industry’s treatment of young boy
Journal of Youth Studies
Vol. 14, No. 1, February 2011, 5976
ISSN 1367-6261 print/ISSN 1469-9680 online
# 2010 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2010.489603
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
singers and their largely female audiences perpetuates a heavily patriarchal
hegemony that is antithetical to progress in the gender equality project. Boys are
seen not to be willingly complicit in this but, in the majority of cases, unwitting
conscripts as a result of their innocence and naivety. Music and fashion are the two
most powerful markers of identity, attitude and value in young people (Bennett
2005). Hence a case can be made that the arguments soon to be presented are
important and potentially far reaching.
Boyhood and innocence
It is first necessary to describe briefly what is meant by boy and to define
innocenceas the term is to be understood in this paper. I have treated boyin all my
writing as a social construction, drawing inspiration from the feminist poststructur-
alist perspective on performing or doing the masculinities that are available to
children from the gender discourses they encounter. Connell and Messerschmidt
(2005) reiterate that gender remains relational and, in spite of the possibility that
even hegemonic masculinities are multiple, the need for boys to react against some
model of femininity, real or imagined, remains. For many boys, vocal performance,
not least because it is so frequently seen as a doing of key aspects of femininity, is
one such model.
There is, however, one important caveat with regard to the principle that the
social construction of masculinity is undertaken independently of fixed bio-medical
properties. Between the approximate ages of 10 and 14, boys reach a pubertal
midpoint in the development of the larynx which results in a unique ability to sing
with what is frequently referred to as the voice of angels (Cooksey 1993, Mould
2007). This ability is possessed neither by children under the age of 10 nor adults,
only by mid-pubertal boys. Whether or not it is in any way possessed in the same way
by mid to late-pubertal girls remains a hotly contested issue (Welch and Howard
2002). However, even if girls do possess similar physical ability to sing with the pure
voices of angels, this may be valued socially less than boys ability to perform the
same feat for reasons akin to a patriarchal dividend (Paechter 2006) and a complicit
masculinity that has formed much of the substance of the study.
Thus, though boy meaning physically or socially juvenile can apply to males of
any age between the pre-natal and the full grown adult (Groth 2007), in this study it
refers to those aged between approximately 10 and 14 whose precocious singing
talent is exploited by the music industry.
Current discussions of boyhood innocence tend to be drawn towards two
discourses. There is first the discourse of child protection, which sees all boys as
sexually na
ve and in need of protection from ‘dangerous strangers’ (Kitzinger 2003).
Then there is the discourse of ‘toxic childhood’ (Palmer 2006) which encourages the
belief that children are in fact growing up too soon, one symptom of which is an
alleged early sexualisation, distasteful to a conservative outlook. In both cases, it is
boys’ sexual innocence that is the valorised concept. It is true that boys can be the
victims of pederasty or ephebiphilia, though potentially also the perpetrators of sex
crimes themselves. However, in this paper, I shall argue that ‘moral panic’ (Cohen
1987) results in other potentially equally significant forms of innocence being
60 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Lack of adult sexual knowledge is indeed only one of the definitions of innocence
given by Gittens (1998). She refers to the broader meaning of innocence, which is
simply lack of any knowledge. She also calls attention to the Latin in-nocere, meaning
either not to hurt or not to be hurtand cites the postmodern theorists Kroker and
Cook (1988) in likening the cynical exploitation of bimbos by record companies to
excremental culture characterised by disposability and meaningless gratification.
I have argued previously that young people also significantly lack knowledge of
economics, that they are economically innocent and potentially the victims of
economic abuse. Young people are frequently criticised for their failure to appreciate
the value of things, yet the consequences of an education that prioritises competency
in mechanical calculation at the expense of understanding the values associated with
the numbers are less often questioned (Ashley 1998). Giroux (2000) makes a further
fundamental point about innocence. Children, he argues, are still seen as the
unreasoning, primitive creatures of unspoiled nature. The result is that they
are subdued by a huge bureaucratic weight of child protection that simultaneously
fails to recognise their agency and autonomy. This paper will demonstrate how
boys are not passive victims in need of protection but active agents learning
through experience how to construct a stable, complicit masculinity that is ultimately
supportive of the patriarchal status quo in the music industry.
Boys’ involvement in the music industry
There is a significant gender imbalance in favour of females with regard to young
peoples participation in singing, both presently in the UK (Welch et al. 2009),
historically (Koza 1992) and across most Western cultures (Harrison 2008). The need
to understand this as an issue of boys well-being (Courtney 2003, Clift et al. 2008)
was the principal motive for the study programme, although security of availability of
male singers was a cited potential benefit for user groups such as choir directors.
Literature review confirmed what was already strongly suspected, not only that boys
regarded singing as sissy (Green 1997), but that the discourse of compulsory
heterosexuality (Kehily 2002) acted as a disincentive to the majority of boys who,
conscious of their bodies as a living, moving, text (Martino and Pallotta-Chiarolli
2003) avoided performances perceived as associated predominantly with girls. Boys
who did want to sing could feel resentment at their exclusion by the failure of schools
to tackle the issue (Freer 2006).
Literature review also revealed that commercial music possesses a strong
economic orientation to the use of heterosexism as a marketing tool, the singing
of boys such as the Westlife boy band being marketed to girls and women keen for a
sexually charged video performance by nice clean boys, with hair on the chest
obscured (London Weekend Television 2003). A market for younger boys singing
has been created through so-called bubblegum pop (Brownlee 2003) in which, for
example, a Disney Channel video of Stevie Brock portrays scenes of a young 13-year-
old boy being idolised by teenybopper girls who gaze adoringly at him during a stage
performance. Later on, the chosen one of these is portrayed in a fantasy adolescent
romance scene of the two sitting together on a swinging bench and leaping into a
swimming lake.
Bayton (1993) is amongst those who note the degree to which females have been
excluded from performance in rock and relegated to the low status of pop fan and
Journal of Youth Studies 61
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
the above is an example of what Bennett (2000) describes as the use of women and
girls as fodderfor the music industry. Wald (2002) is concerned by the phenomenon
of the girled boy band and points out that there is high and low culture within the
so-called pop world, and boy bands that fall into the category of manufactured
teenybopper pop acts are the lowest form of culture. She sees this as part of the
discourse of degraded womens consumption in which females are held inferior to
males by their uncritical attachment to formulaic and inauthentic fodder, sold
through appeal to adolescent hormones and derided by the legitimate and serious
male rock critic. Meier (2008) confirms the degree to which the patriarchal power
structures of the music industry enforce a view of cultural taste in which the
authentic is produced by serious males, authenticity involving a process of raising
‘‘artistic’’ (male) rock above ‘‘commercial’’ female pop (p. 241). Whiteley (2000)
testifies to the futility of womens resistance, the attempts of female Bass player Suzi
Quatro to dress in a bikers outfit being dismissed by New Musical Express as
Penthouse fodder.
The authors own contribution to this discourse has been to examine the
relationships that attach, not to rock or pop music, but to the voices of angels
possessed by 1014-year-old boys (Ashley 2008a, 2009). Outside the traditional
performance arena of sacred choral music, there is a significant commercial market
for such voices in the classical/pop crossover genre. Recent successes in this genre
and studied by the author include The Choirboys, Angelis and Libera. It became very
clear during the authors research that the largest single audience for this work was
elderly and female the term grannies being employed repeatedly by the young
people interviewed and surveyed, though this included mothers, usually of older
children. The only other significant audience (and this depended on the finer details
of imaging and repertoire) was young adolescent girls. Notably absent from the
perception of young people were adult males, pre-pubertal girls or boys of any age.
Considerable significance was attached to this for two reasons. First, if there is no
adult male interest in boyssinging, there is no reason for boys to associate singing
with an adult masculinity which, according to Mac-an-Ghaill (2002), they yearn for
but cannot have. Second, if the majority of boys show no desire to join with other
boys who sing or imitate older peers who have been commercially successful in this
activity (as would be the case in sport), the perception of the activity as for girls
confirms its status as a subordinate or suspect form of young masculinity (Frosh
et al. 2002). Both these matters clearly concerned a project which sought to identify
reasons for boys under-representation in singing.
To state, however, that there is no adult male interest in boys singing, however, is
not entirely correct. Setting aside a homoerotic underground of which most boys
were either innocent or reluctant to discuss, there is a strong adult male interest in
the commercial aspects. If angel voices can be exploited to earn money, then they
are of interest to the males who control the music industry. This possibility assumes
significance as both boys and women are subordinated to a patriarchal order in
which a young boys body and voice is manipulated to maintain the status quo of
females as fodder for commercial music. It is this aspect of the study that is now
examined in more depth. What has been learned about the reproduction of
patriarchy within this particular niche of the music industry?
62 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Two studies were funded. The first was as an interdisciplinary enquiry which was to
draw equally on the literatures of gender studies and music and voice, covering all
genres of singing that are available to young males who have not attained adult vocal
development. This study employed mixed methods. It was structured around
12 detailed case studies of boy performers, which were qualitative (described below)
but also investigated the reception of their work by age peers. This latter process was
predominantly quantitative, involving field work in a total of 17 secondary and nine
primary schools distributed across all regions of England, Wales and the Isle of Man.
The second study was funded to develop and test materials based on the outcomes of
the first study. This had strongly suggested that a key issue to be tackled was an inter-
generational one in which adult tastes dominated the market for the singing of 10
14-year-old boys. This study was, in consequence, significantly concerned with the
way in which boys of this age were imaged through repertoire and dress to satisfy
adult nostalgia and fantasy about childhood and the consequences of this for the
perception of singing as an appropriately masculine activity amongst boys.
Whiteley (2005) employs the terms wild boys (rock) who rebel through aggressive
(and in the case of heavy metal, misogynistic masculinities) and nice boys (pop) who
are idolised by females manipulated as passive consumers. This rebellion, which uses
language calculated to destroy the idealised bond between boys and older women
who think them cute, resists firmly any attempt to reverse the conventional male
upon female direction of the subordinating gaze. It describes well a not inconsider-
able rift which was found to be significant in the present studies.
The main research instrument was a multimedia presentation of young male
vocal performances. Audio samples of performances, short video sequences and
visual examples of the way the singers had been imaged were included in a montage
assembled with video production software. Twelve performances in the genres
described above by boys aged between 10 and 15 were featured. This instrument was
employed to stimulate discussion in the homes of boy performers and in music
classes in the schools visited, a process of data gathering spanning in total some
2 years. In each of the primary schools, the Y5 and Y6 classes (ranging from one to
three in number according to the size of the school) were visited. In the secondary
schools, teachers were asked to identify a Y7, Y8 and Y9 class that would be
timetabled for music during the days of the visit. Y10 or Y11 General Certificate of
Secondary Education (GCSE) sets were also visited in four of the schools. Focus
groups of six male pupils, six female pupils and three male/three female pupils who
had seen the presentations were also arranged. Schools were selected to include a
range of different types in which boys might be expected to sing as well as schools
chosen on the grounds that music was not a particular feature of the curriculum. As
far as possible considerations such as the need to achieve a spread of urban and rural
location and differing ethnic and social class demographics were taken into account,
although the nature and impact of the music department with regard to boys singing
was the primary variable. The primary schools visited were located in the catchment
areas of the secondary schools. Nine KS2, 20 KS3 and four KS4 classes were visited,
resulting in data from over 500 young people. A full account of this process is given
elsewhere (Ashley 2008a, 2008b).
Journal of Youth Studies 63
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Data gathering from the 12 case study boy performers was significantly more
detailed. Visits were made to their homes and, whenever possible, observations were
made and additional interviews conducted in naturalistic settings such as recording
studios. The approach to the performers was through an interpretive, humanistic
phenomenological framing (Smith and Osborn 2003, Kendler 2005, Faulkner and
Davidson 2006) developed through a previous ethnography (Ashley 2002).
Professional discussions were initiated in which the boys talked about their
work as performers in relation to the other boy performers, audiences, record
companies and marketing. This methodology aimed to integrate observations with
an iterative, respondent validated approach to interviewing. The approach was
heavily influenced, not only by the emphasis in grounded theory upon continuous
interplay between analysis and data collection (Strauss and Corbin 1998) but also
by the desire to be naturalistic (Lincoln and Guba 1985). The iterative approach
sought also, with some success, to draw the boys into the analysis. This was a
process of treating young people, not as objects of research but as co-participants in
theorisation and the creation of meaning (Woodhead and Faulkner 2000, Alderson
Ethically, in addition to such routine considerations as anonymity, ownership of
data and right to withdraw, it was felt necessary to treat the boys who had consented
to case studies as defended subjects, a term associated with Hollway and Jefferson
(2000). Frosh et al. (2003) report on their psychoanalytic understanding of the term
defended subject when working with boys who were encouraged to express dissent
from hegemonic constructions of masculinity that, for example, privileged football.
Sagan (2007) similarly discusses an unconscious urge to keep levels of anxiety down.
It was known from previous studies that boys who sing are likely to adopt
multiple identity strategies to cope with conflicting pressures (Ashley 2002, 2008b).
Thus the boys themselves moved on a daily basis between different constructions of
masculinity, some hegemonic (the playing of sport, roughhousing and having a
laugh) some subordinate (singing) and some complicit (enjoying the patriarchal
dividend offered by the music industry). The ethical concern was with not
interrupting the boys ability to do this.
Theory did indeed evolve during my conversations with the boys, and understanding
of the emergent phenomenon addressed in this paper continues to evolve. It must be
appreciated that some of the case studies occurred later in the process than others.
The two shortly reported are amongst the latest and represent the emergence of an
issue, unanticipated at the design phase of the study, but potentially of ongoing
significance in view of its coherence with the literature on patriarchy within the music
Analysis was through transcription and the coding of emergent themes,
supported by second order questioning and the cross referencing of interviews
during the process of iteration. Though they worked largely in isolation on their own
albums, the boys showed some interest in the work of their professional peers when
invited to look at these during interview. A particular issue has been that of data
saturation. Bowen (2009) is skeptical of the treatment of this concept by some
researchers and reminds us that sampling must continue to the point of redundancy.
64 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Sample adequacy is more important than sample size, and adequacy means that the
research participants selected must be those who best represent or have the most
knowledge of the research topic. Data saturation from this unusual if not unique
sample occurred early on. In the coding, age and sex of the audience were universal
themes, the perceptions being (a) that the audience was mostly elderly and female
and (b) that the ideal target audience was girls of their own age. On this topic, the
boys found common cause and appeared in some case to be relieved to hear of fellow
sufferers who also got the grannies. On the topic of grannies and absent male
audiences, the eleventh and twelfth of these unusually knowledgeable participants
had added nothing new to the data contributed by the previous 10. That grannies
are the audience appears to be the saturation point.
However, another frequent theme was musical integrity and most of the
performers were contemptuous of bubble gum or candyfloss pop in which a boy
of their own age was deliberately imaged to appeal either to unsophisticated teeny
girls or older women. Indeed, an embryonic patriarchal attitude emerged in several
of the interviews. The examples below both show how boys construct the music they
value as serious in opposition to the fodder they are required to perform to satisfy
a commercial market of gullible females: know, hes got the old grannies. Maybe theyre trying to get the younger parents
and the younger generation.
Do you think theyll succeed?
I think they will because a lot of the population of Great Britain are quite gullible.
(Chris, case study 3)
Songs that are written by John Rutter and people ...are targeted at ignorant people that
dont know much about music. Theyre cheesy and cheesy songs are the ones that people
mostly like. (Nigel, case study 12)
Old people who go O wow, the voice of an angel! My mum would listen to him. Shes
got really bad taste. (Dan, case study 4)
These perceptions correlated strongly with the results of the school surveys which
revealed almost identical perceptions from the peer audience viewpoint. The most
common reason given by peer audiences for not listening to the work of the boy
performers, mentioned in over 90% or replies, was that the music was for old people
and grannies (the word granny or similar words such as nan were used frequently
and consistently). The second most frequently given reason, mentioned in 21% of
cases was that the music was not created by the young singers themselves. School
audiences appeared to place quite a high premium on originality and song writing.
Commercial pop music was frequently derided by the young audiences, with girls as
well as boys showing a surprisingly rapid tendency between the ages of 11 and 14 to
discard bubblegum in favour of something perceived to have more integrity.
However, coding of the qualitative data included categories that distinguished
between voice, repertoire, genre and body and this revealed that whilst boys and girls
offered comments in all of these categories, boys comments on body were
infrequent and reserved, whilst girls were most frequently about the body. For
Journal of Youth Studies 65
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
All the songs are terrible. Tomsaid he was a rock singer but that was pop! (boy, Y9)
Hes got a deeper voice and thats better. (boy, Y8)
Its a really nice, sexy image and the clothes are lush. So is the hair. (girl, Y9)
Hes better looking, cuter than the others. (girl, Y8).
The word cutewas used frequently and appeared to have two meanings in the study.
It could, as in the above comment, be used by young girls to describe a nice boy they
would like to go out with. It could also be used, in the words of one 14-year old, to
market boys to aging mothers who might want to trade in their teenage sons. The
boy performers had a clear view of this. They did not generally like the word cute, but
could not resist being flattered by the implied interest of the former use. The latter
usage worried them, in varying degrees up to the extent of quite terrified.
I now present two extracts from the case studies of boy performers which
illuminate the degree to which the innocence of the young people is manipulated
and their cuteness exploited. It is my contention that these case studies reveal a
process of unwitting conscription into the perpetuation of patriarchal hegemony in
which boys are serious and girls fodder within the commercial music industry.
Case study: cute and commercial (from case study 11)
Grant (pseudonym) was a winner of the prestigious BBC Chorister of the Year
award and a member of a treble boy band of some repute with two well-marketed
pop/classical crossover CDs to its credit. I had been keen to include this particular
group in the research because of the suggestion that their CDs had made the boy
treble voice cool. It was already known from the survey work in school that the
singing on the CDs was not considered coolby the peer group as represented across
the 17 schools. In particular, I was struck by the marketing announcement that
appeared on the bands official website:
So what are Bn band? They are cute. They are commercial ...They might sing like
angels but they have discarded their traditional uniform of cassocks and surplices for
Gap chinos, designer suits and trendy haircuts.
The word cute, as described above, had emerged as significant in the previous 10
case studies and the survey work in school. The word commercial was newly
introduced to the study by this announcement, unfortunately too late to test against
previous case studies the degree to which data saturation might be reached.
Nevertheless, it had immediate significance because of the tensions between
commercial exploitation and the presentation of singing as a freely available social
activity with the potential to promote boys well-being. Boys in previous case studies
had made comments suggesting that they were aware of being exploited, though
powerless to do anything about it. Here, we had a brazen example of the record
company making a virtue, if not of exploitation, certainly of commercial. Would
Grant be in agreement that it was virtuous to be both cute and commercial?
I met Grant in his home, one or other of his parents being present throughout the
interview. We began with exploring a set of cartoon figures that I had used in all the
school-based research (Figure 1).
66 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
The figures are designed to show the stages of physical growth that correspond to
stages of vocal maturity and most boys of Grants age (13) when asked to choose the
figure that represents their current physical status of growth tend to choose the centre
one. Grant did too, but when asked whether his actual choice would be his ideal
choice he chose the figure to the right. I asked him whether he was content with
being a boy or whether he wished to leave childhood behind and was anxious to grow
up. Contrary to the moral panic of toxic childhood (Palmer and Leaman 2006) he
affirmed several times that he was content with being a boy. His idealisation of the
figure to the right was due to its apparent possession of physical capital, not its status
of more nearly approaching adulthood:
Its great being a kid, but Id like to be taller, bigger, stronger, muscly with a jutting out
I hear a boy talking here! This is about sport isnt it?
Yes! (face lights up). I like lots of sport (he reels off a long list which seems to include
everything except tennis, which is singled out as not particularly liked). I dont feel
pressured, I love being a kid, rolling around in the mud, free to do what you like, playing
in the paddling pool and getting all your clothes soaked. Getting in trouble with the
teachers is the best part! (said with a broadening grin). Messing about and annoying the
ones who cant shout properly ...
In this extract, three stereotypes of normalboyhood are confirmed in one go: plays
sport; gets muddy; annoys teachers.
I presented Grant with a tabulation of the words used to describe his band on the
marketing site and asked him to indicate on a scale of 110 how happy he was with
each of the words (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Cartoon representation of pubertal growth stages.
COMMERCIAL 1 2 345678
12 45678910
1234 6789
12345678 10
Figure 2. Boy singers contentment with cute and commercial labels.
Journal of Youth Studies 67
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
It is clear here that he shares the doubts about calling a boy cute. It is not an
appropriate word for Grant any more than it is for his fellow performers or the peer
audiences in schools. Angel is similarly uncertain, though less objectionable than
Well, youve only given yourself a 9 for talent! Suitably modest! No one gives a 10!
Its nothing to boast about. Its good to know you have it, but you dont go round
shoving it in peoples faces.
So what about cute?
I can deal with it. I wouldnt call myself cute, but, well, older people say when I sing,
Oh, youre so cute (imitative voice) but it doesnt bother me that much. Im angelic
sometimes, but most of the time probably not.
So youdsayits an occupational hazard?
Ye s.
Cheeky, however, meets with his approval. It is part of what normal boys are
supposed to be like-slightly rebellious, liable to leave their bedroom in a mess or
cheek teachers the patriarchal dividend of boys will be boys(Reay 2001, Jackson
The new finding is that to be commercial, unlike cute is perceived as virtuous.
What about commercial? Why is it quite good to be commercial?
Well, Im with UMG. They make money if people buy the CD. Thats fair and its good
for them.
Here, Grant seems defensive of the music industry because it is seen to be ethical. Its
practices are fair. This is in contrast with some of the other case studies where the
boys were explicitly critical, recognising a degree of exploitation of both themselves
and audiences. The way each boy had been treated would seem to be a variable here
(see Ashley 2008b, 2009 for fuller expositions). The second case study now reported,
which was the next in sequence after that of Grant, takes the commercial theme
further and shows how a 14-year old learns the hard way about the bottom line of
commercialism and piracy in the music industry. It also shows the degree to which
sexual and economic innocence exist in proportion in the life of a young person who
is evidently in transition from a motherson relationship to a relationship with the
adult males who both control the music industry and lurk on the internet as
potentially part of the homoerotic underground in boyssinging.
Case study: weirdoes and the theft of intellectual property (from case study 12)
Nigel, though middle class in terms of cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986) was not
from a wealthy home. He had been a full-time chorister, attending a choir school and
singing daily. At our first meeting, he described to me how he was shortly to record a
CD album, capturing his treble voice before it disappeared for ever. It later emerged
that this, unlike most of the other albums in the case studies, was a self-financed
68 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
venture, incurring significant costs in the hire of a professional studio. In order to
raise money to pay off the debt incurred, he had come up with the ingenious idea of
creating his own website, from which tracks from the album could be downloaded
and donations made. These donations were to be split between paying off the debt to
the recording studio and giving to the charities that had supported his musical
education. The website was also to be used to communicate to a wide public the
benefits and enrichment that a boy could enjoy through singing, and encourage more
boys to sing.
He perceived (correctly) that such a website would be of considerable interest to
me. Doubts soon surfaced, however, about the degree to which the issue of child
internet safety had been considered, particularly when I saw some of the innocent
pictures he had chosen of himself. In accordance with the ethical protocol for the
study, I felt obliged to raise my concerns with his mother. Thus began a lengthy
correspondence in which all sorts of problem did emerge. One uncomfortable
meeting was held between the three of us at which he showed some signs of distress at
the scale of the problem to be solved and the amount of effort he had put in to date.
Innocence was clearly evaporating fairly rapidly.
At this stage, the situation could be summarised as:
Nigel recognised that he might be in some kind of (unspecified) danger from
weirdoes (his word) accessing his website.
He and his mother both recognised that various solutions in the form of
controlled access and password protection might be tried.
Neither he nor his mother possessed the technical capability to achieve this
and were thus disempowered in a relationship in which those (older males)
who understood web design were the powerful.
Persistence and determination eventually resulted in some form of password
protection, but this appeared to be unreliable with regard to who could and could
not access the site. The degree to which the boy understands the homoerotic interest
in his voice and image and interprets it as a threat to his safety is encapsulated in this
interview, which was videotaped because Nigel had agreed to contribute to a
university inter-generational seminar.
When I heard you were doing this, I thought it was great, but I did raise a few issues of
concern, with your Mum, didntI?
Yes, well, weve looked at the issues of concern and weve worked on them.
What do you understand the issues of concern to be?
Well the main one, obviously, is to keep weirdoes out. We dont want any strange fifty
year olds with beards wanting nice cool, not cool as in, cute fourteen year old boys, Im
not saying anything but, um, (pause) just to keep weirdoes out.
Elsewhere in the interview, a brief reference is made to setting the weirdoes pulses
racing at the sight of the 14-year old but, as with case study 1, I did not probe any
further to find out the thoughts suppressed during the pause. Knowing that being the
potential object of the weirdo gaze is clearly distasteful to him is probably sufficient.
Further interest might be gratuitous.
Journal of Youth Studies 69
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Later, the issue of the technical problems with keeping undesirables out and
allowing access to those with benign motives in crops up:
Even though me and my mum know nothing about creating websites, my brothers too
involved in creating a car and things to be able to help at the moment and I need help
myself and my Mum need help because we dont know how or what to do
Not insignificantly, an adult female and a younger boy are equally subordinate in
power to an older brother who belongs to the community of adult males empowered
by their mastery of web technology (Oakley 1994).
Later, during the course of the case study, a new problem rapidly emerged. A
Google search by Nigel and his mother revealed that certain agencies had been
downloading some of his songs, creating fake album covers from images pirated off
the website and passing the work off as their own intellectual property. Various
commercial companies (or pirates posing as such) had apparently been charging 99p
a download as though these were legal. The mother estimated from the number of
hits recorded on these sites that the boys debt to the recording company would have
been paid off three times over. In this extract from a later interview, the concept of
intellectual property theft is introduced and the conversation is not constrained by
the taboos with regard to sexual innocence that inevitably dominate the relationship
between an adult male researcher and a 14-year-old boy:
OK, now, moving on, what is intellectual property?
Ive no idea!
Right. You will have by the end of this interview! Er, now theres a song, there are
several songs on your website, The Angel Gabriel, is that one of them?
The answer here is bold and the researcher assumes a different stance, unconstrained
by the taboo of sexuality. An innocent 14-year old is about to be initiated into the
adult world of intellectual property and the interview assumes an authoritarian
dimension that is both pedagogic and pastoral. The balance of power shifts to the
adult male as the territory shifts to the safer one for a man/boy relationship of
economics. First, the extent of the innocence is explored by simply asking the boy to
tell the story of what happened to his Angel Gabriel recording. He explains at some
length how there was confusion over the cost of the recording, resulting in his
incurring an additional £250 of debt due to a genuine misunderstanding. After some
time, when it is clear that Nigel is not going to draw on such concepts as intellectual
property, a question is finally planted:
Who does your voice belong to?
Right. So your property?
My property, and my property is in Bn studios as well because the main CD is in
Bn studios which is the recording studio and, um, so I can, I should be able to charge
people for using it but what weve found out is ....
70 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
This question releases another lengthy recount in which Nigel tells the story of how
he and his mother have tracked the illegal downloads. His body language as revealed
by the video recording reveals considerable animation and suppressed anger at the
way he has become a victim. It seems clear that the issue uppermost in his mind is the
debt he has to pay off:
Well, I dont like it, huh, whilst it is, whilst it is flattering, it may be flattering but its not
nice. I dont like Bindistinct when I could be making money
The final meeting with Nigel occurred when he visited the university to give a
presentation on his website experience at the symposium on inter-generational
relationships, designed to facilitate dialogue between young people and adults. Also
presenting in this symposium was a male police officer specialising in child
protection and internet safety. I received the following thank you letter after the
event: was also very useful to me, both for the website, and for life skills in general,
hearing everyones point of view was extremely interesting, and the truth that the police
man (sic) showed was very scary
The scary truth presented by this police officer to this choirboyis that he is indeed
right to assume that the sex of weirdoes is male, but that the weirdo threat is
considerably worse than he had imagined. Nevertheless, Nigel talked in a relaxed way
about weirdoes. It was not this which elicited the animated response in the video
recorded interview. It was the fact that IP theft was not nice because I could be
making money.
Connells point is that that men and boys have a role to play in achieving gender
equality. The argument I have advanced in this paper is that boys involved in the
commercial music industry, though possessed of a certain degree of innocence, are
also undergoing socialisation into what Connell would call complicit masculinity.
They may be unlikely to embrace a non-complicit masculinity as to do so would
mean to relinquish the patriarchal dividend and to render themselves vulnerable to
further subordination in the gender order. It may be helpful to reiterate at this point
Connells terminology and how it applies to boy singers.
Marginalised masculinities are those performed by social groups subordinate to
the hegemonic mainstream, for example black or working class. Subordinate refers to
relationships within the gender order. Gay masculinities are most commonly cited as
exemplars, but singing, as a performance associated with emotional leakiness
(Thompson and McGrellis 2001) and low physical capital (Bourdieu 1986) would be
subordinate in the gender order to performances in sport that more closely approach
the hegemonic ideal. Complicit masculinities are those that do not act in ways
prescribed by the hegemonic model but passively sustain it in order to reap the
patriarchal dividend (Connell 2005).
Masculinities, in Connells scheme, may also be authorised (for example,
successful black athletes may rise beyond marginal status) and it is clear that
Journal of Youth Studies 71
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
strongly heterosexual performances by male singers such as Tom Jones may allow the
authorisation of an otherwise potentially subordinate masculinity. Connell is also
keen to stress that exemplary masculinities such as that of Sylvester Stallone also
change and adapt to new conditions that permit the continued domination by
patriarchy. Complicit masculinities play a key pivotal role in this process.
The boy singers have a heavy personal investment in this process. We have
already seen how they move on a daily basis between different constructions of
masculinity, some hegemonic (the playing of sport, roughhousing and having a
laugh) some subordinate (singing) and some complicit (enjoying the patriarchal
dividend offered by the music industry). They often talked openly and in some depth
about such matters as being positioned as gay, explicitly articulating an under-
standing of multiple identity and describing their own identities as shifting and
context specific. From some of the other case studies:
Im a different person at school, I play football and I dont talk about singing.
In choir surrounded by people who are doing the same thing, it is different in school, its
seen as strange.
I much prefer to sing in head voice in choir, but I did a Queen number at school in
tummy [sic] voice. I wouldnt use head voice at school.
Collins (2006) too has noted that boys are careful to differentiate between situations
where they know other boys will understand their singing and situations where they
know they will be ridiculed. It is asking them a lot to side explicitly with the gender
equality project. Chris explicitly articulates here how he reaps a patriarchal dividend
with girls through his own careful management of his image as a worker in the
music industry:
If you met some girls your age that you didnt know well, would you tell them that you
were a singer? Would you be absolutely truthful and say Im a chorister and I sing in
The more Ive told girls the more they, they dont seem to mind. Um, erm, and they
seem to, they seem to even respect me more ...I wouldnt say I was a chorister and I
wear a frilly frock, but I would say I am a singer and I work professionally. If I said it to
one girl and it didnt turn out well, well! then maybe I wont say it to the next.Blong
pauseBut if they like that, then they go and tell their friends that are there. (Chris
case study 3)
These boys have invested heavily in those hegemonic masculinities that counter-
balance the subordinate ones in their identities and are complicit in reaping the
economic rewards that accrue through their unique, transitory assets their angel
voices and the authorisation of their bodies as legitimate gaze objects through the
dividend of conformity to compulsory heterosexuality.
There have been criticisms of Connells theory. Ellis (2008) draws on authors such
as Mac-an-Ghaill and Haywood (2006) to argue that Connells emphasis on
hegemony and hierarchy underestimates the extent to which the formation of
masculine identity is characterised by fluidity, fragmentation and contradiction. Ellis
continues to argue that Connells pro-feminist stance and preoccupation with the
concept of gender oppression results in insufficient attention to other cultural
72 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
markers such as age, class and ethnicity, which all combine with gender to interact in
the complex process of identity formation (Mac-an-Ghaill and Haywood 2006,
p. 120). It is certainly true that age (or generation) emerged as a highly significant
factor in the present study and that gender could not be understood without at least
equal consideration of generation. The power relationships were significantly more
than those simply of gender, not least through the degree in which younger boys
exercised power over older women through their apparently greater cultural capital,
itself associated strongly with social class.
The boys also exercised power over both younger girls and older women through
the cuteness of their bodies, a reversal of the traditional direction of the gaze,
engineered by adult male power brokers associated with the recording industry.
Though adult males were the main power brokers in this relationship, the generational
subordination of younger males to older males occurred as a power struggle within the
power struggle. Older males exercised power not only through their cultural
domination of the music industry but also through their technological domination
of internet activity. Other adult males, however, were potentially disempowered by
their positioning as possible weirdoes associated with a homoerotic underground
interest in boy singers. This potentially empowers the young boys as having rights to
protection and the older women as the natural protectors of children in the face of the
evidence that weirdoesare likely to be adult males.
Demetriou (2001) has also seen potential limitations in Connells theories and
prefers the notion of a hybrid blocwhich unites practices from diverse masculinities
to ensure the reproduction of patriarchy. He cites the Promise Keepers as an example
of a hybrid masculinity that combines traits of both sensitiveand toughman. It is,
he argues, the adaptability that comes through this hybridisation that ensures the
continued dominance of patriarchy through strategic alliances of masculinities.
Connells theory may be limited in contrast because it sees non-white or non-
heterosexual elements in hegemonic masculinity as a sign of weakness and
Many of these features are indeed consistent with the findings of my own study.
The singing boys demonstrate agency, hybridity and strategic alliances within their
masculinities. What is interesting in the present study is the degree to which the
particular hybrid combinations of masculinities and strategic alliances which seem to
characterise the case studies in this paper are the result of an agency that results from
innocence, a complicity that is unwitting, at least in its earlier stages.
The point was made earlier that data saturation with regard to grannies and
cute occurred early on in the study with no confounding cases. The issues of the
commercial exploitation of cute and the associated economic innocence occurred
too late in the study for data saturation similarly to be reached. There are good
grounds, however, to continue a similar line of enquiry, building in such concepts to
the questioning. Not least is the need to involve both boys and girls in critical
reflection on the practices of the music industry and this alone prevents foreclosure
on Connells call to involve boys and men in the gender equality project. Economic
innocence itself is a significant concept for further study, given the degree to which
young people are on the one hand significant consumers of music and fashion but on
the other hand innocent of such economic considerations as mortgage repayments
or, indeed, the true cost of insuring on the road the first car bought for the bargain
of £500.
Journal of Youth Studies 73
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Innocence remains a significant issue, but this discussion has shown that neither boy
performers nor their girl audiences are innocent in the sense of a romanticised blank
slate. They are, by the age of 14, already stakeholders in the patriarchal dividend.
Where there is still a lack of knowledge or experience, it permits young people to
engage in what might be called honest rhetoric. By this I mean that they are able to
state a na
ve commitment to equality of opportunity that is able to co-exist with the
ongoing enculturation into complicit masculinity with some degree of integrity. By
the time a reflexive knowledge of gender relations has developed, stakes in the
patriarchal dividend may have become so high that only the most committed will
respond to Connells call for men and boys to play an active role in the gender
equality project. Education about the gendered practices of the music industry may
yet be a significant means of advancing this particular cause.
Alderson, P., 2003. Listening to children: children, ethics and social research. London:
Ashley, M., 1998. Economics and the loss of innocence. In: C. Holden and N. Clough, eds.
Children as citizens. London: Jessica Kingsley, 171182.
Ashley, M., 2002. The spiritual, the cultural and the religious: what can we learn from a study
of boy choristers? International journal of childrens spirituality, 7 (3), 258272.
Ashley, M., 2008a. Teaching singing to boys and teenagers: the young male voice and the problem
of masculinity. Lampeter: Mellen.
Ashley, M., 2008b. Boyhood melancholia and the vocal projection of masculinity. THYMOS:
journal of boyhood studies, 2 (1), 2639.
Ashley, M., 2009. How high should boys sing? Gender, authenticity and credibility in the young
male voice. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Bayton, M., 1993. Feminist musical practice: problems and contradictions. In: M. Bayton, ed.
Rock and popular music: politics, policies, institutions. London: Routledge, 177192.
Bennett, A., 2000. Popular music and youth culture: music, identity and place. Basingstoke:
Bennett, A., 2005. Subcultures or neotribes? Rethinking the relationship between youth, style
and musicalm taste. In: A. Bennett, B. Shank, and J. Toynbee, eds. The popular music studies
reader. Abingdon: Routledge, 106113.
Bourdieu, P., 1986. The forms of capital. In: P. Bourdieu, ed. Handbook of theory and research
for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood Press, 241258.
Bowen, G., 2009. Naturalistic inquiry and the saturation concept: a research note. Qualitative
research, 8 (1), 137152.
Brownlee, N., 2003. Bubblegum: the history of plastic pop. London: Sanctuary.
Clift, S., et al., 2008. Singing and health: a systematic mapping and review of non-clinical
research. Canterbury: Sydney de Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.
Cohen, S., 1987. Folk devils and moral panics: the creation of mods and rockers. Oxford:
Collins, D., 2006. Preferred practices in teaching boys whose voices are changing. Choral
journal, 77 (November), 119120.
Connell, R., 2003. The role of men and boys in achieving gender equality. EGM/Men-Boys-GE/
2003/BP.1. Brasilia: United Nations: Division for the Advancement of Women.
Connell, R., 2005. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity.
Connell, R. and Messerschmidt, J., 2005. Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept.
Gender and society, 19 (6), 829859.
Cooksey, J., 1993. Do adolescent voices break or do they transform? Voice, 2 (1), 1539.
74 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Courtney, W., 2003. Key determinants of the health and well-being of men and boys. Journal of
mens health, 2 (1), 127.
Demetriou, D., 2001. Connells concept of hegemonic masculinity: a critique. Theory and
society, 30, 337331.
Ellis, H., 2008. Boys, boyhood and the construction of masculinity. THYMOS: journal of
boyhood studies, 2 (2), 119124.
Faulkner, R. and Davidson, J., 2006. Men in chorus: collaboration and competition in homo-
social vocal behaviour. Psychology of music, 34 (2), 219237.
Freer, P., 2006. Hearing the voices of adolescent boys in choral music: a self-story. Research
studies in music education, 27, 6981.
Frosh, S., Phoenix, A., and Pattman, R., 2002. Young masculinities: understanding boys in
contemporary society. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Frosh, S., Phoenix, A., and Pattman, R., 2003. Taking a stand: using psychoanalysis to explore
the positioning of subjects in discourse. British journal of social psychology, 42 (1), 3953.
Giroux, H., 2000. Stealing innocence: youth, corporate power and the politics of culture.
London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Gittens, D., 1998. The child in question. London: MacMillan.
Green, L., 1997. Music, gender, education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Groth, M., 2007. Has anyone seen the boy? The fate of the boy in becoming a man.
THYMOS: journal of boyhood studies, 1 (1), 642.
Harrison, S., 2008. Male voices: stories of boys learning through making music. Camberwell,
VIC: ACER Press.
Hollway, W. and Jefferson, T., 2000. Doing qualitative research differently: free association,
narrative and the interview method. London: Sage.
Jackson, C., 2006. Lads and ladettes in school. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Kehily, M., 2002. Sexuality, gender and schooling: shifting agendas in social learning. London:
Routledge Falmer.
Kendler, H., 2005. Psychology and phenomenology: a clarication. The American psychologist,
60 (4), 318324.
Kitzinger, J., 2003. Who are you kidding? Children, power and the struggle against sexual
abuse. In: A. James and A. Prout, eds. Constructing and reconstructing childhood:
contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. London: Routledge Falmer,
Koza, J., 1992. The missing males and other gender related issues in music education, 1914
1924. Journal of research in music education, 41 (3), 212232.
Kroker, A. and Cook, D., 1988. The postmodern scene: excremental culture and hyper-
aesthetics. Basingstoke: MacMillan.
Lincoln, Y. and Guba, E., 1985. Naturalistic enquiry. London: Sage.
London Weekend Television, 2003. The South Bank Show. No. 612, Oct 19. London: London
Weekend Television.
Mac-an-Ghaill, M., 2002. Key note address. Expert symposium. Centre for Research in
Education and Democracy, 17 October, UWE Bristol.
Mac-an-Ghaill, M. and Haywood, C., 2006. Gender, culture and society: contemporary
femininities and masculinities. London: Palgrave McMillan.
Martino, W. and Pallotta-Chiarolli, M., 2003. So whats a boy? Addressing issues of masculinity
and schooling. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Meier, L., 2008. In excess? Body genres, bad music, and the judgement of audiences. Journal
of popular music studies, 20 (3), 240260.
Mould, A., 2007. The English chorister: a history. London: Continuum.
Oakley, A., 1994. Women and children rst and last: parallels and differences between women
and childrens studies. In: B. Mayall, ed. Childrens childhoods observed and experienced.
London: Routledge Falmer, 1332.
Paechter, C., 2006. Masculine feminities/feminine masculinities: power, identities and gender.
Gender and education, 18 (3), 253263.
Palmer, S., 2006. Toxic childhood: how the modern world is damaging our children and what we
can do about it. London: Orion.
Journal of Youth Studies 75
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
Palmer, S. and Leaman, L., 2006. Has childhood vanished? Times Educational Supplement,
Friday, 22 September.
Reay, D., 2001. The paradox of contemporary feminities. In: B. Francis and C. Skelton, eds.
Investigating gender: contemporary perspectives in education. Buckingham: Open University
Press, 152163.
Sagan, O., 2007. Research with rawness: the remembering and repeating of auto/biographical
ethnographic research processes. Ethnography and education, 2 (3), 349364.
Smith, J. and Osborn, M., 2003. Interpretive phenomenological analysis. In: J. Smith and
M. Osborn, eds. Qualitative psychology. London: Sage, 5180.
Strauss, A. and Corbin, J., 1998. Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures for
developing grounded theory. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Thompson, R. and McGrellis, S., 2001. From ‘‘Peter Andres six pack’’ to ‘‘I do knees’’: the
body in young peoples moral discourse. In: R. Thompson, S. McGrellis, J. Holland,
S. Henderson, and S. Sharpe, eds., Constructing gendered bodies. Basingstoke: Palgrave,
Wald, G., 2002. I want it that way: teenybopper music and the girling of boy bands. Genders
[online], 35. Available from: [Accessed 12 July
Welch, G., et al., 2009. The national singing programme for primary schools in England: an
initial baseline study. Music education research, 11 (1), 122.
Welch, G. and Howard, D., 2002. Gendered voice in the cathedral choir. Psychology of music,
30 (1), 102120.
Whiteley, S., 2000. Women and popular music: sexuality, identity and subjectivity. London:
Whiteley, S., 2005. Too much too young: popular music, age and gender. Abingdon: Routledge.
Woodhead, M. and Faulkner, D., 2000. Subjects, objects or participants? Dilemmas of
psychological research with children. In: M. Woodhead and D. Faulkner, eds. Research with
children: perspectives and practices. London: Falmer, 1039.
76 M. Ashley
Downloaded By: [Ashley, Martin] At: 14:34 25 November 2010
... The topic was investigated in depth by the present author with the aid of two large grants from the UK government's Arts andHumanities Research Council between 2007 and. This research is reported in detail elsewhere (Ashley 2008a(Ashley , 2008b(Ashley , 2009(Ashley , 2010a(Ashley , 2010b(Ashley , 2011. In summary it can be stated that this work confirmed that beliefs of educators such as those cited above are well founded. ...
... The cathedral music tradition, with rare exceptions such as Westminster Cathedral's employment of boy altos, has no use for boys once their ability to sing soprano parts has been lost. The commercial music industry is generally reliant on boys sounding 'like angels' and similarly loses interest in offering recording contracts once boys have passed the 'cute' or 'granny appeal' stage (Ashley 2011). The public schools tend to plough on, largely heedless of Cooksey's work, moving boys from treble down to alto, tenor or bass in their choirs as they have always thought appropriate. ...
Full-text available
Between the approximate ages of 10 and 15, boys undergo a protracted phase of staged voice change that coincides with other changes in secondary sexual characteristics associated with puberty. A number of researchers, particularly John Cooksey in the United States, have described this. Tensions, however, remain between the theoretical model described in the research and the singing practices boys encounter through choral work in the UK. The age of 13 seems pivotal with regard to the singing range for boys. Cultural and social factors influence this and it is suggested that staged developmental models such as Cooksey's pay inadequate attention to these. This paper reports on the ability of young adolescent boys with good experience of singing to discern differences in vocal timbre and technique in age peers through perceptual tests. It concludes that such boys have surprisingly good discriminatory powers and that more attention should be paid to develop the listening skills of other boys as part of a programme to encourage better understanding of the young male voice.
... Elvis and Robert Plant were symbols of sexual excitement and subjects of sexual fantasies for gay men as much as straight women (Swedenburg 1997;Fast 1999;Darling-Wolf 2004). And of course women artists in pop-rock-metal music are equally sexualized and sold as willing sex-objects, equally fantasy figures for the masturbatory activities of straight men and gay women (Hurley 1994;Frith 1998;Railton 2001;Ashley 2011). ...
In modern leisure spaces, nothing typifies dark leisure as a normative rule better than the supposed alternative, counter-cultural space of pop-rock-metal music. In the first half of this paper, I explore dark leisure theory: first, through an analysis of Rojek’s framework for abnormal leisure; then through and exploration of modifications to dark leisure theory in and from leisure studies and cultural studies. I show that the concept remains sadly neglected in both subject fields. Then in the second half of the paper, I construct a new theory of dark leisure for our times, out of a case study of the norms and values associated with the idea of the alternative in pop-rock-metal music. After this mapping of dark leisure through pop-rock-metal music I set out the challenge for leisure studies to embrace the dark side.
... Negative representations of women in male-produced urban grooves in Zimbabwe are considered a result of Western popular music standards and contributing to the erosion of women's equality [47,48]. Research in Malawi and Swazi exploring men's appropriation of female music concluded that initiatives to exploit female music for female empowerment are needed [49,50,51]. Music practices are culturally derived. ...
The expression and understanding of culture is relative to time and social context as individuals and groups within cultures struggle to negotiate the substance and implication of specific cultures [1]. Music and medicine are culturally derived as is the intersection between music and medicine, which at times can be integrated disciplines while at other times they may fester as disconnected treatment modalities. Analyzing the role of culture in music and medicine can reveal unique possibilities that may serve to enhance health.
... Increased negative representations of women in maleproduced urban grooves have been blamed on Western popular music standards and postulated to contribute to the erosion of women's equality (Chari, 2008), results echoed when examining images of women in selected songs by Thomas Mapfumo (Naidoo, 2010). In similar song and gender studies outside of Africa, the gender gap between men and women's legitimization in popular music has been identified (Schmutz & Faupel, 2010) with the socialization process of youth masculinity and singing being complicit and unwittingly perpetuating patriarchal hegemony (Ashley, 2011). In the field of orchestra music, during school and university education, girls do much better than boys but are outnumbered by boys in professional orchestras at a rate of four to one as reported in 1997 which is blamed on patriarchal values (Davidson & Edgar, 2003). ...
Full-text available
Societal structures create and maintain disparities between persons of dominant and non-dominant status affecting all aspects of the community including healthcare service delivery. Music therapists as healthcare providers have a responsibility to explore ways that social justice approaches can address and mitigate discrimination in music therapy education, research, and practice. Anti-oppressive practice (AOP) offers a systematic way to disassemble inequity in practice and to inspire inclusive practices. In order to consider how music therapy can operate as an anti-oppressive practice, this thesis explored the question; What are the experiences of residents and staff in music therapy as an anti-oppressive practice? Interviews were conducted with older adults in a residential setting who were living with complex health conditions including dementia, and with residents who have dual-diagnosis intellectual deficit/mental illness referred to an assessment service for teens and adults. Analysis of the interviews using Constructivist Grounded Theory indicated that music therapy is perceived as valuable in providing a broad spectrum of support including in improving socialization, mood, and communication, but potential negative impacts can occur if music is not provided sensitively. Music therapy was additionally observed to foster positive relations between staff and residents although some staff considered music therapy was a hassle for them. The song-based music therapy service model developed by the author and described by interviewees were contextualized through a reflection on the service development and training experiences of the author. This is provided through historical description and critical autoethnography. The wider literature about music and human experiences was consulted for further context and rationale. The research processes and findings of the interviews and autoethnography revealed that it is the inclusive collaborative expertise of the music therapist which allows the social justice framework of anti-oppressive practice to be evident in her music therapy service and music therapy research.
... By no means all teachers pause to analyse in any depth what the so-called "X factor" actually is. Were they to do so, they would connect with the literature that discusses how adolescent girls and older women are constructed as "fodder" for a heavily patriarchal commercial music industry that exploits the sex appeal of boys as young as 12 or 13 (Ashley, 2010;2011). ...
Full-text available
Boys Keep Singing was a large scale knowledge transfer project funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council and undertaken by Edge Hill University and the University of York in collaboration with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. It was based upon the findings of a previous AHRC funded research fellowship, published as a monograph in 2008. The two projects sought to identify the underlying causes of a significant gender imbalance in singing and to explore, test and evaluate solutions that would be of value to practitioners in music education. The underlying approach conceptualized the issue as a complex one of gender justice. It was considered that boys' education was incomplete without an adequate grounding in the arts, including singing. The facilitation of increased young male participation was an obvious benefit for music professionals, but not the primary motivation which was that singing and other arts were believed to be an indispensible part of the social, cultural and "spiritual" development of boys. A greater benefit might thus accrue to society if a larger proportion of the young male population experienced higher levels of emotional literacy and health, social competence and wellbeing through participation in the performing and social arts. In spite of the efforts expended, the 11 – 14 year old boy and his voice remains a real enigma for identity studies. It is possible to tell the eleven year olds newly promoted to secondary school that they are now becoming young men and can begin to access lower voices as the proof of this. It is equally possible that eleven year olds could be told they are on the cusp of a unique and short lived singing career in which their soprano voice will peak in power, beauty and intensity. The majority of boys receive advice of neither sort. Most flounder vocally without support to develop the resilience necessary to cope with an unpredictable and changing voice. If, as is so often argued, there is a crisis of boyhood, the apparent difficulties in giving such advice arguably are part of it. This paper examines whether the concept of resilience can be used to progress the analysis of gender imbalances in application and attainment within a context of gender justice.
The music that was produced in Dunedin, New Zealand, during the 1980's occupies a unique place in the global indie music canon. In writing about this supposed ‘Dunedin sound,' critics and scholars alike have fixated on the city's remoteness: it is believed to be distant from metropolitan centres of music industry power and influence, and consequently supported a subversive and democratised local music scene. This article explores the implications of the ongoing historicisation of Dunedin's popular music scene along these lines, and highlights the ways in which the valorisation of the city’s musical heritage obstructs problematic power dynamics that impact the way young musicians in the city express place and musical identity. Our research applies an embedded participatory ethnography to unpack the ideological positions occupied by contemporary local musicians, and to critique factions within the contemporary musical scene in the city.
This chapter presents a discussion of key terms used in the discourse about religions and spirituality spirituality, spiritual experience, religion, religious experience critiquing the ways in which they are often used which is, it is argued, frequently so non-specific that many aspects of human experience could be carried within them. In the interest of informed scholarly conversation, we need to have clear conceptions of what these terms mean, and this chapter attempts to provide this. Moreover, it sets upon this task against the background of research into the spirituality of teenage boys that was carried out by the author in 2004-2006. In revisiting this research, the author seeks to bring greater conceptual clarity to its findings in light of the analysis and definition of the four key terms listed above.
Full-text available
This paper describes a digital interactive book targeted at 10-14 year old boys which aims to educate about how the voice develops during puberty. The contents are based on a conventional print book for adults. The D-book has an advocacy as well as educative role—it attempts to argue in a "boy friendly" language that singing is part of a rounded and fulsome boyhood. It has had to consider carefully how this might be communicated to a potentially skeptical young audience. "Boy friendly" literature has been condemned by the critics of right wing recuperative masculinity politics. The paper therefore critiques the picture of boyhood that has been conveyed and discusses the justifications for the compromises that have been reached.
Full-text available
This is the first book to focus on the role of education in relation to music and gender. Covering a wide range of music, including classical, jazz and popular styles, Lucy Green invokes a concept of musical patriarchy and a theory of the social construction of musical meaning. She shows how women’s musical practices and gendered musical meanings have been reproduced, hand in hand, through history. Viewing the contemporary school music classroom as a microcosm of the wider society, Dr. Green conducts empirical research to convey the everyday musical practices, values and experiences of girls, boys and their teachers. She reveals the participation of music education in the continued production and reproduction of gendered musical practices and meanings.
Book synopsis: This book examines aspects of 'young masculinities' that have become central to contemporary social thought, paying attention to psychological issues as well as to social policy concerns. Centring on a study involving in-depth exploration, through individual and group intererviews, the authors bring to light the way boys in the early years of secondary schooling conceptualise and articulate their experiences of themselves, their peers and the adult world. The book includes discussion of boys' aspirations and anxieties, their feelings of pride and loss. As such, it offers an unusually detailed set of insights into the experiential world inhabited by these boys - how they see themselves, how girls see them, what they wish for and fear, where they feel their 'masculinity' to be advantageous and where it inhibits other potential experiences. In describing this material, the authors explore questions such as the place of violence in young people's lives, the functions of 'hardness', of homophobia and football, boys' underachievement in school, and the pervasive racialisation of masculine identity construction. Young Masculinities will be invaluable to researchers in psychology, sociology, gender and youth studies, as well as to those devising social policy on boys and young men.
List of Illustrations - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Is Childhood Socially Constructed? - Who Owns Children? - Is there a Child Within? - What Do Children Represent? - Are Children Innocent? - Children's Sexuality: Why Do Adults Panic? - Conclusion
The body can be understood as inherently moral, playing an important role in the creation of moral boundaries and discourse. Mary Douglas has shown how the body becomes a metaphor for a society, with ideas of dirt, disease, purity and danger serving to map moral boundaries of acceptability (Douglas 1966). While Douglas’s approach treats the body as a natural metaphor for moral order, more recent commentators have observed that the body is increasingly divorced from nature, and drawn into the realm of choice, modification and commodification. What Featherstone (1991) has called the ‘secular’ body, Shilling (1993) the ‘unfinished’ body, Fiske (1989) the ‘aestheticized body’ and Bordo (1993) the ‘plastic’ body, becomes part of the reflexive project of the self, subject to choice, aestheticizing and body-reflexive practices (Connell 1995: 59).
, The first book on the ethics of research with children, extending the ethics of research with adults to research with children and young people aged up to 18 years. 130 pages.