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Feminine men and masculine women: in/exclusion in the academy

Liz Atkins (Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Mark Vicars (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to draw on concepts of “female masculinity” to interrogate how hegemonic gendering discourses, forms and performances are inscribed in neoliberal narratives of competency in higher education in the Western Hemisphere.


Drawing on individual examples, the authors consider how these narratives are omnipresent in the sector, and systematically act to exclude those who do not conform. In doing so, the authors draw extensively on bodies of literature exploring gender/identity, and neo-liberalism. In particular, the paper draws on the work of Halberstam (1998, 2011), and of Drake (2015).


There are comparatively few women in senior positions in Higher Education and the authors argue that as gendering institutions they reproduce hegemonic gendering discourses. The authors find that hegemonic gendering discourses are instrumental in maintaining and privileging specific forms and perceptions of masculinity and femininity as inscribed within and reproduced by perceptions of professional competency.


This paper examines neo-liberal practices from a more nuanced perspective than some traditional polarised critiques which regard gender as a binary. In doing so, it contributes to debates on masculinity, but more importantly, opens discussions about the implications of gendering discourses for the role of the few women in senior positions in higher education institutions globally.



The authors would like to thank Jo for contributing his narrative. He knows who he is.


Atkins, L. and Vicars, M. (2016), "Feminine men and masculine women: in/exclusion in the academy", Education + Training, Vol. 58 No. 3, pp. 252-262.



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