The Feminist Boys Studies Research Group took its first form in mid-2019, at a meeting to discuss emerging research interests in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney and quickly expanded to include six members of the department and a colleague at UTS. Our aim was to explore and develop a distinctive affirmative research approach to work on boys, boyhood, and the conjunction of youth and masculinity more broadly. Across a conference panel and symposium in December 2019 this group developed and elaborated our approach as follows. While there was already a significant amount of feminist research on boys, if still relatively little compared to feminist research on women, girls, or men, we felt a pressing need for more research that not only drew on the tools and the knowledge of feminist cultural and gender studies but did so to engage with boys as the subjects of feminism rather than as objects of feminist concern. In particular, we aimed to move beyond seeing boys and boyhood as problems or obstacles to be addressed in the development of a more gender equal future. We aim to be able to critically inquire into the experiences and representations of boys, certainly without homogenising what boy or boys means, but also without reducing them to a problem space.
In 2020 our group successfully applied for ARC funding to explore representations of Australian boys along these lines, and we have at the same time also been working on other related lines of research. We’ve also published a number of sole- and co-authored articles since our formation and expanded our membership to now include twelve researchers at senior, mid-career, early-career and HDR levels, and to begin to reach beyond the university and academia.