Reactions to Thorne, 9/4/05

 

 

1. For many of you, Thorne’s observations about childhood and education really resonated.  A couple of you find her unconvincing…does she place too much emphasis on the power of teachers to shape gender socialization? Is some of what they are doing just “realistic,” “efficient,” common sense?  If so, does this diminish the validity of her arguments re: the construction of gender in schools?

 

Orah:  I appreciate Thorne’s attempt to pinpoint the origins of this inequality in childhood. Probably because I do not have those memories of childhood, however, I am not convinced and am looking forward to hearing if others, with more vivid memories, are convinced.

 

Alex:  on page 34 thorne says, "other teachers also peppered their classroom language with gendered terms of address ('you boys be quiet;' 'girls, sit down;' 'ladies, this isnt a tea party'), implying that gender defined both behavior and social ties"-- it seems to me that using gendered terms to keep kids in line simply suggests that a group of kids from one gender is misbehaving-- if there are three girls standing up, it would be silly for the teacher to say "you people there, sit down," and if some boys are being rowdy, telling them specifically to be quiet seems more effective to me than directing a general "be quiet" to the entire classroom. i think perhaps thorne was reading too much into gendered terms in situations like this.

Talya:  I think that this was a rather silly article because the majority of people who would read this are most likely the choir that she is already preaching to. She made a conscious effort to raise her children in the most gender neutral way, at the same time, might that have given them a heightened sense of the importance of gender and therefore negated the whole process?

I don’t know whether I am writing this as a devil’s advocate, whether I believe it, or whether I don’t really know what I believe. I simply don’t think that it’s as easy as she’s making it. Not all that is going on with children and the idea of gender is negative. I don’t think that the idea of gender is bad if people are aware and able to move fluidly throughout the confines of those specific genders.

My Q: can we take a step back and consider what her argument is?  To my mind, perhaps the most key point:  ą  gender as not just a “category of individual identity,” but a “dimension of social relations” that comes in and out of focus/relevance.  I’m not sure she wants to call it wholly negative or that classrooms are the reason why gender categories exist. Rather, that she is trying to draw attention to the relatively quiet ways in which gender is naturalized – not really as a characteristic of persons so much as an aspect of a social context: how does gender become what a situation is “about?”

ą I really like her observation that “gender” is produced often in the service of some other activity:  the teachers wield these categories for the purposes of social control. It helps them organize an otherwise unwieldy group of children.  *So sometimes appearances are deceiving – a situation that seems to be “about” gender is also “about” something else entirely, and vice versa!  (see theme #4, Patricia)  This seems like something important for us to keep in mind...



2.  Roles:  what do we mean when we talk about gender “roles?”  Are they rigid, or fluid?  Binding, or voluntary? When individuals occupy different roles in relation to one another, does this inevitably mean a relationship of hierarchy/ domination-submission? 

 

Orah:  I think of a role as something that is set, a solid. The unchanging, chained quality of any role bothers me. Is there such a thing as an unbinding role? Being bound seems implicit in the term role. Unless! We are role playing, if we are actors in our roles.

 

Samantha:  Orah asked a great question about power in sexual relationships and I don't know if there ever is real fluidity of power in sexual relationships. I think even if two people discuss the roles they wish to play in a relationship and if equity of power (the question is, what does power mean?) is important, other factors can strengthen and diminish this.

Amy Phillips: I want to also respond briefly to Orah’s comment on the dominant and submissive nature of homosexual relationships, which would be cool to talk about in class at some point. What does it mean to be dominant or submissive in a relationship? Is the more masculine of the pair the dominant one? What if both parties are girly or manly (which happens!)? Why does it seem that this is set? I think it was something in the lesbian feminist movement that tried to push for more equality in their relationships: androgyny and such. And then we can always talk about organized dominance and submission, which is consensual, rather than the implicit dominance and submission in most relationships, and, therefore, in my mind, groovy and hot.

 

 

This seems like a pretty meaty question to discuss.  Perhaps the point I wanted to emphasize re: “boundary-work” fits in here –

ąBoundary-work: mark this anthropological point from Barth.  Categories are formed not around a bunch of cultural “stuff,” really, but as a process of boundary-making, where meaning of each group derives from its not being the other.  As we can see in Thorne, what this implies is that maintaining boundaries as separate takes work.  So that if roles seem rigid, that is partly explained by the way in which their interrelationship is continually being marked, defined, sustained…a process more dynamic, perhaps more tenuous, than it would seem? 

(Also, that boundaries provoke intense emotions (b/c of that tenuousness), suppressing awareness of cross-cutting phenomena.)

 

 

3. Gender asymmetry:  why is “tomboy” different from “sissy?”

 

Amy Phillips: Why is it that the boys only have references to sexual orientation, and not the tomboys, since tomboy is a gender commentary rather than sexual orientation? Does this again have to do with one of the advantages women have over men in somewhat greater flexibility in gender expression? I mean, we get to wear pants. I think it’s also interesting and problematic how she seems to exclusively use the word “gender” rather than “sex.” I agree with her in that what the children are expressing is the social construction of gender, but she doesn’t really seem to separate the two.

Amy Pennington:  In general, I think I found Thorne's analysis of gender asymmetry most interesting. That girls are so unevenly defined as the source of 'contamination' is really interesting, and disturbing. I really agree with Thorne's conclusion that "the culture of heterosexual romance needs fundamental reconstruction so that it no longer overshadows other possibilities for intimacy and sexuality."

 

Anna:  What stuck out most for me in her writing was at the very end where she draws a line between the teachers and parents of boys and the teachers and parents of girls. "Perhaps because no specter comparable to 'sissy' and 'fag' reins in imagined alternatives for girls, teachers and parents of young children seem far less ambivalent abut encouraging androgynny in their young daughters than in their sons" (169). This sentence comes after a section on "the problems of aggressive masculinity" and how we, as a society, attempt to not only build up the strong elements in males, but also encourage the more sensitive. We do not as easily do this with our females.

 

4.  Thinking about the relationship of gender to other categories…

 

Patricia:  I was extremely intrigued by the anthropologists' claim that female contamination can be used as a source of power. "Male susceptability to female pollution can be experienced as a source of vulnerability; if a girl is designated as having cooties or threatens to plant a dangerous kiss, it is the boy who has to run." (182) I loved it! I think that it's very symbolic of the fluidity of power and gender which is central to Thorne's argument. It's not so much that it's all about gender, but rather that gender is among many other things that make up power relationships. I feel like looking at gender dynamics this way yields positive effects because it doesn't seem so overwhelming and makes change a realistic goal.

 

Samantha:  I also wanted to highlight something Thorne noted that states, "The topic of children and gender should be considered in close connection with social class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality and not artificially stripped from these other contexts." (pg. 9)


 

reactions to thorne
Name: Orah Minder (ominder@bmc)
Date: 09/03/2005 09:12
Link to this Comment: 15970


I am having a hard time recalling ‘memories of gender’ from my childhood. I don’t have many vivid/specific memories of childhood. Most of my childhood memories are of myself and my younger brother. As Thorne points out, “in our culture the model of sisters and brothers offers one of the few powerful images of relatively equal relationships” (172). I realize, however, that an instance of gender is not implicitly negative. I demand change only when gender is used as a restriction, a handicap, when gender is pivotal point of power distribution.

Personally, I do not have memories from childhood in which gender was taught as method of social stratification. Since childhood, however, I have experienced (and do experience) gender as a key in power distribution. I appreciate Thorne’s attempt to pinpoint the origins of this inequality in childhood. Probably because I do not have those memories of childhood, however, I am not convinced and am looking forward to hearing if others, with more vivid memories, are convinced.

I am intrigued by this statement of Thorne’s about sisters and brothers. It leads me to think that the inequality in relation comes when sex comes into the picture. Since sex plays much less of a role (or, such a different role) between siblings, I am not surprised by Thorne’s statement that this may be the best model of equal relation.

I am thinking about sex as struggle for power. The problem is the heterosexual assumption in our society that skews the power distribution even before the act. The act is inconsequential. The act is hidden and, therefore, is left to society’s imagination (which is guided so carefully by the media? Humm…) and created by these imaginings. Even in homosexual relations there is a heterosexual assumption that one party is dominant and one submissive. The roles are set. I wonder if there is such a thing as sex between equal parties … or, more realistically, if there is such a thing as a sexual relationship in which the distribution of power is absolutely fluid. This brings me to question the nature of roles. I think of a role as something that is set, a solid. The unchanging, chained quality of any role bothers me. Is there such a thing as an unbinding role? Being bound seems implicit in the term role. Unless! We are role playing, if we are actors in our roles.


Female Contamination as Power!
Name: Patricia Flaherty (pflahert@haverford.edu)
Date: 09/03/2005 15:58
Link to this Comment: 15971


I thoroughly enjoyed Thorne's ideas. It was very relevant to many experiences that I had and vividly remember from my childhood or days as a "kid"--a word that seems to be less derogatory according to Thorne's observations.

I distinctly remember one time when I was being chased by a bunch of my girl friends. I had proudly told my friends at the lunch table that I knew where babies came from and they all were very jealous. My mom had given me "the talk" that night prior while I was taking a tub. The "talk" involved the real process of "baby-making" and left me feeling a bit scared by it all, but I also felt very cool being privy to information of the "grown-up world" at the age of 11. The chase ensued after lunch since I wouldn't tell my friends what I knew, but it only included girls. The boys at the table rolled their eyes and said that they already knew how it happened although I'm not sure if that was actually the truth. But, similar to Thorne's analysis, the all-female chase ended only because I got tired and didn't involve any aggressive activity.

In addition to being entertained by Thorne's ideas by connecting them with my memories of the past, I was extremely intrigued by the anthropologists' claim that female contamination can be used as a source of power. "Male susceptability to female pollution can be experienced as a source of vulnerability; if a girl is designated as having cooties or threatens to plant a dangerous kiss, it is the boy who has to run." (182) I loved it! I think that it's very symbolic of the fluidity of power and gender which is central to Thorne's argument. It's not so much that it's all about gender, but rather that gender is among many other things that make up power relationships. I feel like looking at gender dynamics this way yields positive effects because it doesn't seem so overwhelming and makes change a realistic goal.

Gender dynamics is maleable and, as she cites from the teachers that have implemented positive change, is able to be worked with.


Boys in skirts
Name: Sarah Halter (shalter@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/03/2005 17:07
Link to this Comment: 15972


I really enjoyed Thorne's piece. I think I got a little overzealous in my highlighting, however.

I've never spent much time thinking back to my elementary school days with an adult mind. When I think of those days, I think with a child's mind, the mind that I had during those days. I think Thorne's piece was good for making me think in an analytical way about what teachers or peers did. For example, I never gave much thought to why teachers assigned seats to us. I was just annoyed that I couldn't sit with friends. But the more I think about our assigned seats now, I more I realize that I can't remember a single time I wasn't seated next to a boy. During lower grades (3rd to 5th grade), we'd sit in groups of four - two tables facing two other tables. And I always ended up next to a boy. I remember this being an ... exhilarating? feeling. I say “exhilarating” because I didn't interact with boys very much, so it was strange and exciting to sit next to them in class. It was weird to talk to them. (However, I definitely played chasing games during recess. My three friends and I would chase a group of three boys, and then they’d chase us). Now I realize that the teachers must have arranged our seating in order to encourage gender mixing.

I have to mention this one anecdote now, and I think you will see why. In fifth grade, a group of boys started raising hell with our administration. You see, from October to April, shorts weren't allowed in school. But girls could always wear skirts, so on warm days, we'd wear our skirts and be comfortable, but boys would still be smothering in long pants. So, one day, this group of boys .... I think there were five of them … came to school in skirts they had borrowed from their sisters. It caused a HUGE FIT. The class was absolutely disrupted because, wow, boys in skirts. I don't know if we learned anything during that day because we were all so excited.

Near the end of the day, the lower-school principal came into our class to talk to us. I don't remember most of what she said, but I do remember that she said the word "disrespectful" in relation to why the boys shouldn't wear skirts. She said something along the lines of, "It's disrespectful toward their sisters, their females classmates, and their female teachers for the boys to dress like this." I remember thinking it was a weird thing to say then, and it still seems weird to me now. I’m not exactly sure what conclusion this brings me to. I guess this is an example of the principle clearly stating what boys did and what girls did. There was no gray area, only black and white. Boys didn’t wear clothing – period. And the reason that boys didn’t wear girls’ clothing was that it was Anti-Respectable.

I also remember that the boys didn’t get a lot of flack from the other boys for wearing the skirts, but I still have the image of one of the boys leaving for the day after the principle talked to us. He looked so ashamed. So that was interesting.


Can we play with gender?
Name: Samantha ()
Date: 09/04/2005 08:13
Link to this Comment: 15973


This piece left me with more questions than with a true understanding gender as it is played out in the playground or school. I found it difficult to get past certain thoughts, like, are children still so separated on the playground? Do these gendered roles still occur in classrooms with large numbers of boys versus girls and vice versa?

Orah asked a great question about power in sexual relationships and I don't know if there ever is real fluidity of power in sexual relationships. I think even if two people discuss the roles they wish to play in a relationship and if equity of power (the question is, what does power mean?) is important, other factors can strengthen and diminish this.

I also kept thinking about children who for some reason or another are left out of gender play and how that affects their life as "girl" and "boy." I can recall from my own experience in grammar school not wanting to do the things girls did (Barbies, make-up, boyfriends) and how no matter how hard I tried to do what was considered "boy" activities (playing baseball/basketball, skateboarding, Legos) someone would "correct" my behavior by admonishing me to act more like a girl. Also, my best friend has been a boy for a very long time, since grade school, and that was also very taboo.

I also wanted to highlight something Thorne noted that states, "The topic of children and gender should be considered in close connection with social class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality and not artificially stripped from these other contexts." (pg. 9)

Are gender roles something you are born with? What happens when you defy what gender roles are prescribed by your culture/society/family? How does someone deal with this conflict?


Little eyes...
Name: Lindsay (lupdegro@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 13:21
Link to this Comment: 15976


I shared Sarah’s experience of viewing my Osh Kosh B’Gosh-wearing days in a new way now that I’m somewhat more grown-up. When I was in kindergarten and first grade, the power that the teacher held over me and my classmates was so prevailing that there was simply no questioning it. Everything that the teacher did or said seemed to have been so carefully thought out; after all, it was she (and it was a she for me all the way through elementary school) who got to make all the decisions in the classroom. I even remember thinking as a 5-year-old that my teacher had chosen to be “mean”, and I suppose that even from an early age we think of the teacher as a purely rational being. I took it for granted that there was a good reason for each of her actions.

It seems that the teachers in Thorne’s article, however, were not the least bit aware of the actions they were taking in sorting children into groups of “boys” and “girls.” The teachers didn’t have explanations or reasons for the separation, maybe because they were all grown-up women, and even a child can see how different they are from grown-up men.

In my memory, one day I am in the yard with my Dad wearing pants low on my would-be hips and no shirt helping pick weeds. Then all of the sudden I am in first grade and a boy is making fun of the way I sit with my legs crossed, so ladylike.
I think the child’s capacity to observe and imitate probably accounts for the rapid change. But why in kindergarten and not preschool or seventh grade? Is kindergarten when we start putting pressure on children to start acting more grown up, to become little versions of men and women?


models for future behavior, unfortunately
Name: em (emadsen@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 14:50
Link to this Comment: 15980


this article resonated with a lot of my experiences on the playground--especially on the kickball field. i remember my third grade teacher, a curly-haired woman with an upturned nose and a shrill voice, urging me to go play kickball with the boys. for a long time i was the only girl out there. i don't know to this day why she wanted me to go play kickball--perhaps i did not get along with the other girls as well as she would have liked? i do remember some arguments over what i perceived as injustices on the playground, come to think of it. i tended to form intense alliances, and became rather hot-blooded when i felt they were being violated. however, sometimes i spent all recess reading, so perhaps my teacher just wanted me to be more active? i do remember playing every day, and getting better, so soon the boys actually wanted me on their teams, and gave me a nickname: tiny. i was never captain, but i was a contributor, and soon i began to spit and hike up my pants when i came up to the plate to kick, just like the boys did. it was an interesting period for me, and i remember sometimes being amused because i had short hair, and if i was standing around with a group of boys, i generally was addressed as a boy...as in "you boys better come in now, recess is over."
cut ahead to last night on the steps of brecon: i had been thinking about the idea of the male intruding on the territory of the female, disrupting foursquare and jumprope. my friend maria joked that it was a variation on the hunter gatherer theme--the men ran out into the grass and traveled far and wide while the women stayed home near the hearth (or the asphalt, in this case) until the men returned home to bother them for attention, sex, food, etc....we were all sitting outside, enjoying the saturday night air. a group of older guys, i'd say in their late twenties, were sitting outside as well. there were some incredibly attractive women out there on the steps with me, and the guys noticed this after a short while and began showing off--their intrusion into our conversation about the nature of relationships (ironically) took the form of racist and sexist jokes, told louder and louder until finally, one of my friends stood up and remarked that we'd be better off inside. the self-righteous part of me wishes i'd stood up with my arms akimbo and said something to the effect of "get the hell off our steps," but i realized in retrospect, it would not have been helpful or productive. (oh, but it would have felt so good...). the real issue was that these guys were still modeling (in an even more intense form) the same patterns that the article discusses. these guys were just as clueless as fourth-graders on the playground when it came to how to interact with the opposite gender.
just some observations.



Name: alex (aheilbro@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 16:37
Link to this Comment: 15982


a week or so before i left for school i was at a friend's house, and his little cousins (between 2 and 8 years old) were there visiting.
"what's your name?" the six year old asked me.
"alex," i told him.
"alex? that's a boys name!!!" he said without even thinking. this young boy's immediate reaction to learning my name was hilarious to me, though i was not surprised that he had not learned of the concept of unisex names yet.
changing gears completely...
on page 34 thorne says, "other teachers also peppered their classroom language with gendered terms of address ('you boys be quiet;' 'girls, sit down;' 'ladies, this isnt a tea party'), implying that gender defined both behavior and social ties"-- it seems to me that using gendered terms to keep kids in line simply suggests that a group of kids from one gender is misbehaving-- if there are three girls standing up, it would be silly for the teacher to say "you people there, sit down," and if some boys are being rowdy, telling them specifically to be quiet seems more effective to me than directing a general "be quiet" to the entire classroom. i think perhaps thorne was reading too much into gendered terms in situations like this.

one thing i remember clearly from my few years at public elementary school was the assigned seating extravaganza. assigned seating was always a big deal, but the moving of unruly students was even more major. however, in my second grade class, reassignment of seats usually involved moving a well behaved girl to the desk next to a poorly behaved boy, as if her good manners would rub off on him. my teacher seemed to think that if she mixed boys and girls, they would be less disruptive while sitting next to each other. of course, boys werent the only unruly kids, but my teacher never moved a boy next to a misbehaving girl... im not quite sure what that means, except that i ended up getting moved around a lot. that may have somehting to do with why i switched to private school after 2nd grade (hmm...) anyway...

another small anecdote... when i was in 6th and 7th grade i played on a coed soccer team. except i was the only girl in the league (ive always thought it was weird that most soccer leagues for younger kids are divided into all girl's and coed teams, though there isnt an all boy's league). as a 12 year old girl, i was taller and more powerful than most boys, who hadnt really started to develop. this one time i was about to run up to a boy on the opposing team and steal the ball from him when i heard a man on the sidelines yell "come on, dont get beat by a girl!" so of course i got the ball, and knocked him over in the process. i dont think i would have been as offended had another team member shouted this, but hearing a father, presumably the father of the boy who i just slide tackled, yelling gender biased comments across a soccer field really struck me. the basic fact is that there is a period in life when girls have developed and boys havent, making them able to jump higher, run faster, or charge with more force, and i guess that father had simply forgotten that.im not sure what aspect of gender roles i feel is biologically there from the beginning, and what is learned, but i do feel like it is a mixture of both, and i think that the stereotype of boys being bigger and stronger than girls is part of the learned group.


the first of many long winded posts
Name: Amy (aphillips@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 16:43
Link to this Comment: 15983


I definitely identified with a lot of what Thorne had to say about how boys and girls pit against one another and found these chapters enlightening, confirming and funny. I was relieved that she didn’t quantify her research (at least in the portions that we read) but rather used specific examples to explain larger themes.
What struck me the most is how important this stage of children’s lives is in forming their gender identities. My friends say that I have it in for anything with a permanently attached penis, but really I dislike how socialized males turn out, rather than the men themselves. I think that until there is liberation for men from what Thorne calls “aggressive masculinity” women can not truly be equal. She illustrates this by explaining that as the boys are lumped into “naughty” groups, they “define themselves in opposition to girls” and with the pitting of gender against gender, these qualities become associated with boys being superior to girls (p 169). It’s so frustrating and appalling that some people see boy’s disruptive behavior as normal, whereas girls can never be disruptive, because it’s already unladylike (a word which I can’t believe passed my spell checker). She says that some parents worry that their sons “will be taunted by other kids” for being too feminine (p 168). Well, to these parents I say two things. 1) Oh, heaven forbid that your male child show some sign that he does not conform to the gender stereotype and might actually just be a nice person and 2) often times when parents try to shoo away their children from things because they are afraid it will be hard on the child only end up messing the child up even more because they don’t have the support of their parents and they have to go through years of therapy to be ok with being themselves again.
Thorn brings up the problem of “heterosexualized femininity,” the labeling of “tomboys”, “sissies” and “fags”, and trans people who don’t stay in their assigned gender category, but, as a glaring omission in my mind, she does not address homosexuals (maybe she does this in another chapter). This probably harkens back to adults being afraid of turning kids gay or addressing children’s sexuality, I would argue that children address their own sexuality in defining their relationships between each other as mortal enemies or potential mates. Boys are called “fags” sometimes if they like to play “girl” games, which is a very interesting link between gender and sexual orientation. Why is it that the boys only have references to sexual orientation, and not the tomboys, since tomboy is a gender commentary rather than sexual orientation? Does this again have to do with one of the advantages women have over men in somewhat greater flexibility in gender expression? I mean, we get to wear pants. I think it’s also interesting and problematic how she seems to exclusively use the word “gender” rather than “sex.” I agree with her in that what the children are expressing is the social construction of gender, but she doesn’t really seem to separate the two.
This study also elucidates for me what is wrong with heterosexual relationships today. From the very beginning, males and females are pitted against one another. It’s no wonder with the war of the sexes that couples often cannot get along. We are supposedly so different that we cannot understand each other. But maybe if more teachers did exercises like Porro and Karkau to bridge the gap between boys and girls, heterosexuality would be more successful in areas other than procreation. I really wish teachers would realize their immense power in this situation and do something with it.
I want to also respond briefly to Orah’s comment on the dominant and submissive nature of homosexual relationships, which would be cool to talk about in class at some point. What does it mean to be dominant or submissive in a relationship? Is the more masculine of the pair the dominant one? What if both parties are girly or manly (which happens!)? Why does it seem that this is set? I think it was something in the lesbian feminist movement that tried to push for more equality in their relationships: androgyny and such. And then we can always talk about organized dominance and submission, which is consensual, rather than the implicit dominance and submission in most relationships, and, therefore, in my mind, groovy and hot. On that note…!



Name: kelsey gaynier (kgaynier@haverford.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 16:48
Link to this Comment: 15984


Definitely Kudos to Thorne. It is pointless to just say: "well sex is biological and gender is socially constructed" and then proceed to to have some type of "intellectual" conversation about how to change the next generation's outcome. Here is a female anthropologist, and lets not forget a mother, who sees this problem...most likely worries because her children are facing these issues, and actually does something about it. Action kids, its all about action. Academia tends to theorize too much...we should act more.

Because Thorne is right...kids are programed by adults to "behave" within either a "male" or "female" role...and this is a major issue. Social acceptance...but more importantly social appearance...is so ingrained in american society that to go against whatever social norm you are currently in is a "sin," right? But we must remember that all kids are not entirely impressionable...and that when they grow up...they will change. Love her anti-Durkheim stance...but...her arguement still assumes the very theory that he claims: Social norm will prvail. Maybe if she were to conduct multiple studies...like...lets say one at an arts-geared school, one at a public school, and maybe one at a catholic school....probably one at an inner city school too....then she wouldnt have written from such a one-dimensional viewpoint...that is really the only criticism i have...

Its hard for me to compare her observation to my own cause they vary so much. I went to three different middle schools in the time span of two years. One was catholic, one was public, and the other was a prep-school. Highschool is kinda a blur too...i spent my first two years at a small catholic highschool...where yes, i was a cheerleader...and the last two years at a boarding highschool for the arts...where is wove kimono's on a loom...BIG CHANGE. And now im back here. The methods of gender construction Thorne was talking about definitely shone through to me as a kid...but thats only because i spent my entire grade school years at a Catholic school. See...the problem i have is that she only writes to people to are from middle to upper middle classes....and yes...this is why we get so excited reading her. But if we were less fortunate....lets say like...we didnt go to haverford and bryn mwar and spent out childhoods not in school too much because we had to take care of drunken relatives or something....and when we were in school the teachers didnt care about creating a gendered environment...cause most public schools teachers care more about the kids actually attending...then...yeah...we probably wouldnt understand her as much. But she is right...whatever economic,religious, or ethnic education environment you are in, gender is always there...like a big cloud. And the teachers/administration would be like...the rain. From the cloud.

I guess her work reminded me of the family dinner metaphor...


Thorne's "Gender Play"
Name: Talya (tgatesmo@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 16:56
Link to this Comment: 15985


I’ve been debating how to express my views on this article. In many ways, I agreed with Thorne: gender is socialized, age is constructed, etc. However, I do also feel that she is creating a world that she wants to see and ignoring vital aspects of reality.

I am all about being an empowered woman, at the same time I ask my Daddy to come kill a spider for me; I am more than willing to do hard physical labor and yet I can not imagine ever proposing to a man: I want him to propose to me. Part of the reason that I am who I am is because I’m a girl. I am more socially conventional than many people in the Bi-Co which is often hard because I am labeled as anti-feminist and so on (which, by the true definition of a feminist is about as far from the truth as possible).

I think that this was a rather silly article because the majority of people who would read this are most likely the choir that she is already preaching to. She made a conscious effort to raise her children in the most gender neutral way, at the same time, might that have given them a heightened sense of the importance of gender and therefore negated the whole process?

I don’t know whether I am writing this as a devil’s advocate, whether I believe it, or whether I don’t really know what I believe. I simply don’t think that it’s as easy as she’s making it. Not all that is going on with children and the idea of gender is negative. I don’t think that the idea of gender is bad if people are aware and able to move fluidly throughout the confines of those specific genders.

My one main question about this article is about children in religious or magnet schools of sorts. Are there different effects and different perspectives depending on where the school is and what kind of school it is?


Thorne's Analysis
Name: Amy Pennington ()
Date: 09/04/2005 16:56
Link to this Comment: 15986


While Thorne's analysis did remind me of some of my own childhood experiences, I found her more brief thoughts on "the fall" which occurs in girls in adolescence and on the dominating role of romantic heterosexual relationships in the lives of college-aged women most relevant to my own life. I would love to read more about "the fall" that she mentions, as it affected me immensely in middle school. Up through fifth grade, I was the kind of girl always crossing the gender lines, standing up for the kids who got teased, and speaking my mind without a second thought. Then I hit sixth grade and became, in hindsight, an almost completely different person. I have wondered a bit about this before, and to what extent I have recovered from that 'fall,' but Thorne's analysis really pinned down a lot of my feelings and thoughts on that time of life. I also realize what a dominant role my romantic relationships used to and still do play in my social life, to the extent that I am still working on developing a group of close female friends--does that mean that I still haven't recovered from that fall? And is it possible to make some kind of compromise between forsaking romantic relationships and submitting completely to them, while still building lasting, deep connections with other women?

I am interested in the extent to which other women in this class feel that what Thorne refers to as "emphasized feminity" on page 170 has an effect on their own behavior and feelings towards themselves. I know it has a huge effect on my life, and I wonder how I got socialized into the perception that women out to work hard to please their men. I remember thinking, when watching shows on tv in like 3rd or 4th grade, and when my friends began dating in seventh, whenever I would see a couple fighting over something, or a woman not doing what a man would want, I would think, "I'll never have that problem, because I'll be a better girlfriend/wife/etc. than that." What led me to conclude as a kid that the evasion of all conflict was the job of a woman in her relationship to men?

In general, I think I found Thorne's analysis of gender asymmetry most interesting. That girls are so unevenly defined as the source of 'contamination' is really interesting, and disturbing. I really agree with Thorne's conclusion that "the culture of heterosexual romance needs fundamental reconstruction so that it no longer overshadows otherpossibilities for intimacy and sexuality." What I want to think about, and hear from others, is how we can go about changing the ways in which this faulty culture pervades our own lives, our behaviors and our self-perceptions.


Thorne Post
Name: Anna (amazzari@brynmawr.edu)
Date: 09/04/2005 17:23
Link to this Comment: 15987


Thorne's words bring forth many memories of recess and in-class situations where I was faced with the opposite sex. Chasing games, though mine never ended in a kiss, and classroom activities of "boys-against-the-girls" or "girls-against-the-boys" were common. Though I was always the girl desperate to be playing football with the boys during recess, I can still remeber the sting of being picked last - thinking to myself "I can catch better than some of those guys, how is it I didn't get picked before they did?!"

Through my growing up years, my mother has done a very good job keeping me aware and conscious of everything from gender-based-separation/segregation at recess to sexism in the classroom and everything in between. Though I can recognize with ease Thorne's observations of classroom "happenings" where teachers favor boys over girls, I can't help but take a step back and think about what kind of information these kids are receiving at home. What are the messages their parents are sending them about what it means to be a "boy" or a "girl"?

I was always encouraged to be playing sports, painting, playing dress-up, shaving my barbies' heads, and reading. I'm not the "average" girl (but what BMC/HC woman is - let's get real here!). I grew up assuming I would always be horseback riding AND putting on makeup because it was fun turning my face into a canvas - even if all I was going to do was wash the makeup off and go to sleep.

What stuck out most for me in her writing was at the very end where she draws a line between the teachers and parents of boys and the teachers and parents of girls. "Perhaps because no specter comparable to 'sissy' and 'fag' reins in imagined alternatives for girls, teachers and parents of young children seem far less ambivalent abut encouraging androgynny in their young daughters than in their sons" (169). This sentence comes after a section on "the problems of aggressive masculinity" and how we, as a society, attempt to not only build up the strong elements in males, but also encourage the more sensitive. We do not as easily do this with our females.

Over the summer, I worked at a co-ed, horseback-riding summercamp, teaching lessons. My students all happened to be girls (though I called them "ladies" and told them never to use "guys" as a sexless group term) ranging in age from about 8-13. My biggest frustration was their lack of aggression. I can remember taking riding lessons when I was 8 and feeling hungry, determined, strong, and aggressive. I didn't care about falling off - I wanted to RIDE! Everyday at camp, some girl didn't "want to", they were "scared", they "didn't feel well", their horse was "too big", their horse "had ugly teeth", their horse "was mean" or "looking at [her] funny"...the list never ceased. I couldn't figure out (even after 8 weeks of working there) how to get my girls to be more aggressive - to somehow communicate to them that it was a good thing to be strong. It was even a good thing to fall off and realize you were ok and get back on - that the gritty, scrappy attitude would be what would eventually make them better riders. I didn't get through to all of them, but it's something I think about often and Thorne's words hit me in the face. We don't always raise our girls to be tough. We raise them to be smart, beautiful, delicate beings - but strong isn't always on the list...and it (duh) should be.

So what I came away with was this: if I decide to have children I need to be as awake as possible when I raise them. There can be no naps for the mom who wants her son to be strong and sensitive, smart and funny, intense and relaxed or her daughter to be strong and sensitive, smart and funny, intense and relaxed. I read Thorne's article almost as an advertisement or plea for better parenting - that in order to have wonderful women and men/men and women we need to start with them as thoughts in our brains or ripples in our ovaries (what a concept!). That it's just as important to raise wonderful men as it is to raise wonderful women and it's our job to do just that.

I feel like I could write forever...but I've already written a lot...