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Title: The air-conditioned man : the construction of masculinity in Singapore school choirs
Authors: Wye, Calvin Chong Kit
Keywords: Social sciences::Sociology
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Wye, C. C. K. (2019). The air-conditioned man : the construction of masculinity in Singapore school choirs. Master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: The unequal participation rates of male choristers in choirs have been studied and documented across various western societies including the U.S., Europe, New Zealand and Australia (Elorriaga, 2011; Freer, 2010; Hall, 2005; Harrison, 2004; Harrison, Welch, & Adler, 2012; Koza, 1993; Legg, 2013; McBride, 2016; Palkki, 2015; Powell, 2015; Watson, Rubie-Davies, & Hattie, 2017). Gender, specifically notions of hegemonic masculinity, has been cited as the engine that drives this phenomenon of the ‘missing males’. However, there has only been a handful of such research conducted in Singapore. Existing literature on Singapore choirs suggests that gender is not an influence in males’ decision to sing in their school choirs (Freer & Tan, 2014). Using a phenomenological approach, this thesis draws upon in-depth interviews with 30 men to examine the male choral experience in Singapore’s schools. It identifies subscribed notions of masculinity to be the driving force that results in the lower participation rate of boys in school choirs. These subscribed notions of masculinity create a school environment where Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) such as choir are ranked on a hierarchy by both parents and students. CCAs are imbued with gendered meanings, with some CCAs deemed more suitable and appropriate for boys to join in the pursuit of achieving masculinity. It becomes normative for boys to choose sports or uniformed groups to embody traditional forms of hegemonic masculinity. Within this school context, hegemonic masculinity is characterized by non-femininity and physical activity. Boys who choose to sing in choirs such as the interviewees in spite of such normative masculinity ideals bore numerous social costs as they were repudiated as exemplars of an ‘abject identity’ of failed masculinity (Butler, 2011). This abject identity was articulated through various methods, most notably 1) labelling, stigmatisation by schoolmates and 2) interviewees’ friends and families flagging choir as an inappropriate CCA.
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