Making the Australian male: the construction of manly middle-class youth in Australia, 1870-1920
AuthorCrotty, Martin Alexander
AffiliationDepartment of History
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsCrotty, M. A. (1999). Making the Australian male: the construction of manly middle-class youth in Australia, 1870-1920. PhD thesis, Department of History, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
Deposited with permission of the author. © 1999 Dr. Martin Alexander Crotty
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Australia's middle classes were plagued by a variety of concerns for their society's security and well-being. Among the many answers proposed to these threats, control of the nation's young men was among the foremost. Through schooling, juvenile literature, youth groups and various government initiatives, increased efforts were made to ensure that Australia's young men would safeguard and advance their society. Ideals of manliness were promoted with increased vigour, and evolved in accordance with changes in perceived threats. Until the 1870s and 1880s, the primary fears influencing middle-class constructions of manliness were of descent into barbarism, irreligion and vulgarity in a land far removed from European civilisation. This decline was associated with excessive of masculine qualities at the expense of feminine religious and moral virtue. Efforts to control and define manliness thus focused on suppressing masculine hardihood in favour of an effeminate manliness marked by intellectualism, godliness and moral maturity. However, the increasing secularism of the late nineteenth century, growing pride in Australia, the impact of social Darwinism, and the perception of military threats to Australia and the British Empire made feminine ideals of manliness less desirable. Effeminate boys could not conquer the interior spaces of Australia, nor guard against racial decline, nor defend Australia from potential invaders. The ideal of manliness was thus gradually reworked to focus more on physical strength, courage, chivalry, patriotism, and military capability. Masculine qualities were lauded rather than suppressed. Feminine qualities were increasingly despised, and the model of manliness promoted in elite secondary schooling, juvenile literature, and youth groups in the early twentieth century was a vastly more masculine, anti-domestic and muscular construct than that which had predominated fifty years earlier.
Keywordsmasculinity; Australia; middle-class youth; feminism
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