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King’s masculinity

July 2, 2012

In an essay titled ‘Contradictions’, Michael King presents an interesting discussion of his own experience with regards to developing a sense of masculinity in NZ. He describes his own personal curriculum vis-a-vis the “New Zealand male stereotype (hard workers, hard players, hard drinkers, good fun and staunch mates)” (61)

He describes the role models he encountered at home, at school, and elsewhere, and considers the education they gave him in terms of masculinity. His encounters with rugby, alcohol, women and sex become an interesting study of the how’s and why’s of his own masculinity. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of the elements of experience that were “part of the school’s oral tradition, passed underground from one generation of students to another” (53) and the way these contrasted with official messages from school and parent…. Some interesting quotes:

“…the school actively encouraged… playing rugby hard. It was a sport; but it was not just a sport. It was also an arena in which we displayed manly qualities by being fearless, by going into the rucks hard, by tackling hard, by going down on the ball in the face of on-rushing opponents, by never giving up. We upheld the school’s reputation by winning and diminished it by losing. There was no Olympic nonsense about taking part and the trying being more important than the winning. We had to win.” (55)

“Perhaps we associated sex with sport because our adolescent rugby careers unfolded at the same time as our sexuality.” (57)

“The charisma generated by a large crowd watching live rugby is the closest thing to raw nationalism I have experienced.” (53)

Ref: (blue bold emphases mine; italics in original) Michael King (2011) The Silence Beyond: Selected writings by Michael King: With an Introduction by Rachael King. Penguin Books: Auckland. 


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