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Rugby – Pain, Fear, Pleasure And Masculinity

23 August 2006

Rugby – Pain, Fear, Pleasure And Masculinity

School of Education lecturer Dr Richard Pringle has been named winner of the ANZALS Thesis of the Year Award (2005).

Called - “ Doing the damage? An examination of masculinities and men’s rugby experiences of pain, fear and pleasure,” Richard’s thesis examines the articulations between masculinity and men’s rugby union experiences of pain, fear and pleasure.

The Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies (ANZALS) described Richard’s PhD thesis as original, sophisticated and a valuable contribution to the development of leisure studies in Australia and New Zealand.

Despite rugby’s social significance in New Zealand, Richard said there had been little examination of how rugby influences men’s understanding of what it means to be manly.

“Previous research in sports sociology has only focused on elite level athletes and findings have tended to suggest that sport impacts masculinity in a problematic manner. For example, heavy contact sports were believed to help produce tough unemotional, sexist males who accept pain and injury as normal.”

For his research Richard interviewed 14 ‘normal’ men from diverse cultures and backgrounds who had a range of rugby experiences. His findings showed rugby was influential in all of their lives and a ‘normal’ facet of being a Kiwi male. Yet rugby did not simplistically help produce a dominant form of masculinity.

Richard says the men discussed how as a youngster rugby had helped shaped their ideas and reinforced stereotypes of men as tough, aggressive and unemotionally. However, Richard says many of the men, when they matured, began questioning these values.
“Although as adults most of them liked watching the All Blacks many had a better understanding of what it means to be manly. Many were critical of the stereotypes, however they didn’t reject rugby.”

For his thesis Richard drew on the ideas promoted by French social theorist Michel Foucault who explored how power operates and how identities are constructed.

In addition to receiving the ANZALS award, Richard is co-authoring a book with Pirkko Markula. This book titled Foucault, Sport and Exercise: Power, knowledge and Tranasforming the Self will be published in September by Routledge.


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