Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

is revealed mainly in genderized displays of activity using a challenging "macho" style of action-filled play themes such as, "hunting" for bunnies, singing about "working" and "walking" in a loud voice and marching to the singing tempo. The initial style of their attempts at entrance into the girls' territorial domain in a rear section of the large classroom seems to be more of a bid for a take-over than an accommodation. Not surprisingly, no interactive themes are established across the gender groups by the boys who continue to show their awareness of the girls by challenging themes and activities that keep them in close physical proximity. At the end of the play session the girls give up their efforts to maintain their play and leave the scene. As they do so, the boys' group also abandons the block structure they have been building and move off. Perhaps most revealing of the power of the group creation of a gendered identity is the fact that as Jennifer, the final girl to quit the play area leaves, she looks over to the lone boy, James, who has resumed his play nearby and says: "We don't need this any more, you can have it." James's identity as just a "person" not a member of a gendered group is maintained by his single status.

The dynamics of the play sequences analyzed here shows how the organizational power of the children's "hidden agenda" of gender is manifested in their free play activities. Gender becomes an active part of the children's discursive practice in a preschool setting and enters into all their activities. It is when gender neutrality operates as an official curricular ideology in an attempt to ensure gender equity in school settings, that the organizational force of gender can be hidden, continuing to exercise influence in many unnoticed peer interactional discursive practices. The children's interest in, and need to use gender as a category in the realization of a personal social self may become neglected. Because the young child's notion of gender does not coincide with the adult ideological world view it tends to be ignored. Yet the notion of gender remains important to children and often emerges in forms that are not subject to adult supervision, as we described in the young girls adoption of her play symbolic play roles as "supercat and superdog." Through their own construction of gender roles and gender categories, children, in their play activities, may interactionally realize a view of gender that will both challenge the older ideas of gender determinism and at the same time, make possible the creation of new gendered scenarios.


REFERENCES

Carey, S. ( 1987). Conceptual change in childhood. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chodorow, N. J. ( 1989). Feminism and psychoanalytic theory. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Connell, R. W. ( 1987). Gender and power: Society, the person, and sexual politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Cook-Gumperz, J., & Corsaro, W. ( 1977). Socio-ecological constraints on children's communicative strategies. Sociology, 11, 411-435.

Cook-Gumperz, J., & Scales, B. ( 1986). Gender in the nursery school: Final report to the Chancellor's Committee on Women. Berkeley, CA: University of California at Berkeley.

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