Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School

By Barrie Thorne | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 8
Lip Gloss and "Goin' With": Becoming Teens

Firecracker, firecracker, boom, boom, ba boom.
Boys got the muscles, Teachers got the brains.
Girls got the sexiness, so they win the game
.

--Chanted by a group of Oceanside kindergarten girls

Thus far, my analysis of kids' gender relations has relied on spatial metaphors, showing how kids mark, cross, undermine, and challenge boundaries between girls and boys. This chapter, which examines fluctuating and uneven transitions from "child" to "teen," adds temporal and bodily dimensions. The transition--for some, it starts as young as fourth grade--not only involves dramatic bodily change, but also entails striking shifts in kids' gender relations and systems of meaning. Kids mark teen meanings through modes of dress and adornment, and through group-mediated pairing that they call "goin' with" ("Judy and Nick are goin' with each other"). I conclude by assessing the shift from the relatively asexual gender system of childhood to the overtly sexualized gender systems of adolescence and adulthood. Symbolically, older girls, as the kindergarten ditty observes, may have "got the sexiness," but there is ample evidence that they hardly "win the game."

-135-

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