Exclusionary violence and bullying in the playground: Football and gender ‘policing’ at school
This paper is based on an ethnographic study with six- to 10-year-old children at play in a South African ‘township’ primary school, conducted between 2012 and 2014. The ethnography demonstrated how children learn to become particular gendered beings through practices of inclusion, exclusion and ‘policing’ through forms of play. Drawing data from aspects of the ethnography, this paper focuses on boys who gained popularity and status at school through their investment in football, not only as a game which they played every day during break at school, but also as a strong source of identification and a dimension of power. It focuses on these boys who became popularly known as the ‘footballing boys’, and the kinds of exclusionary violence and bullying they utilise to dominate the playground space and ‘police’ gender ‘transgression’. It explores how some of the ‘footballing boys’ construct and ‘police’ gender in the playground through violence and bullying. Findings raise prevention implications for consideration by teachers. Furthermore, the implications of the findings for teaching Life Orientation are briefly discussed.
Keywords: bullying, football, gender policing, play, primary school ethnography, school playground, South Africa, violence, young children.