Masculinity and Femininity
on the Playground
The playground practices and folklore texts of Belfast primary school children reveal much about their perceptions and representations of family and domestic life. Such practices and representations are highly gendered: domestic and family roles are omnipresent in girls' play, but conspicuously absent in that of boys. Likewise, family references in folklore texts, such as the rhymes that accompany clapping and skipping games, are regularly chanted or sung by girls, but are seldom if ever engaged in by boys. When boys do enter the domestic sphere of the playground, it is to disrupt or to mock. What do these representations say about the domestic realities of these Belfast children? How literally can we take them? What can an examination of the domestic as enacted on the playground tell us about gender identity among Belfast boys and girls?
On the playground, notions of gender are situated in two particular spheres: in that of spatial delineation and the practices of their performances, and in the folklore texts themselves. As in other ritual social dramas, the action of gender requires a performance that is repeated. This repetition is at once a reenactment and [a] reexperiencing of a set of meanings already socially established; and it is the mundane and ritualized form of their legitimization…this “action” is public action.…Gender [is]…