Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School / Edition 1

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You see it in every schoolyard: the girls play only with girls, the boys play only with boys. Why? And what do the kids think about this? Breaking with familiar conventions for thinking about children and gender, Gender Play develops fresh insights into the everyday social worlds of kids in elementary schools in the United States. Barrie Thorne draws on her daily observations in the classroom and on the playground to show how children construct and experience gender in school. With rich detail, she looks at the "play of gender" in the organization of groups of kids and activities - activities such as "chase-and-kiss," "cooties," "goin' with," and teasing. Thorne observes children in schools in working-class communities, emphasizing the experiences of fourth and fifth graders. Most of the children she observed were white, but a sizable minority were Latino, Chicano, or African American. Thorne argues that the organization and meaning of gender are influenced by age, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and social class, and that they shift with social context. She sees gender identity not through the lens of individual socialization or difference, but rather as a social process involving groups of children. Thorne takes us on a fascinating journey of discovery, provides new insights about children, and offers teachers practical suggestions for increasing cooperative mixed-gender interaction.
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Editorial Reviews

author of Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory - Nancy J. Chodorow
"A stunning achievement. Through the most careful, finely wrought sociological observation, Thorne transforms our ability to see gender in social life. She demonstrates that every action . . . is worthy of interpretation and infused with social and cultural meaning. We have been hearing from feminist theorists that gender is contingent and constructed, but only Gender Play shows us—in richly complex detail—how. Feminist scholarship takes a major step forward with this book."
author of Gender and Power - Bob Connell
"This is a beautifully observed, as well as deeply reflective book . . . pathbreaking research is combined with vivid and enjoyable writing. Thorne will help teachers and parents, as well as students and researchers, gain a new understanding of issues about gender."
author of The Dynamics of Sex and Gender - Laurel Richardson
"Destined to be a classic . . . a wonderful text—beautifully inflected, reflexive, responsive to diversity and differences, and grounded in careful ethnographic work."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Thorne, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, offers her insightful observations of elementary school students in class and at play. Though, as she admits, her status as an adult and an observer may have affected what happened around her, Thorne presents a fascinating account of how children divide themselves--and how others divide them--along gender lines. Breaking students into teams for contests and the eternal game of ``cooties'' (a contamination attributed more often to girls than boys) reveal much about the microcosm that these students inhabit, and an extensive look at the tomboy, both in literature and in life, compares her ambiguity (sometimes an insult, sometimes a compliment) to the negative attitudes often elicited by gender-crossing in the other direction. Thorne argues convincingly against the theories of scholars like Deborah Tannen and Carol Gilligan that boys and girls have different ``cultures,'' and she attempts to discourage ``gender antagonism.'' A final section offers concrete steps for teachers to take in forming the attitudes--about gender and other topics--of coming generations. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Thorne, well known among educational psychologists for her work in gender studies, presents her findings on gender roles among children and teenagers in school. Using a three-step approach, she describes recent findings in the field, presents her own findings, and then examines the correlations and discrepancies. In her thoughtful interpretation of these findings, Thorne makes a significant contribution. Her study is important not just for her insight into gender but for her explanation of how research itself operates within conventions and traditions. Recognizing that the way students are grouped and segregated is an increasingly important issue in classroom and school management. Thorne suggests a new paradigm for examining how psychologists and teachers deal with gender. Her study is well documented, with meticulous notes and a comprehensive bibliography. For academic and large public libraries.-- Nancy E. Zuwiyya, Binghamton City Sch. Dist., N.Y.
Book Review The New York Times
"Thorne sees the ritualized interactions of boys and girls as power pay and makes it her central issue. She looks across the fun and games as a cycle of domination and subservience... [She] re-examines the gender mystique as it develops through the grades, urging us to understand it as a social process, amenable to change."

- The New York Times Book Review.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813519234
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Barrie Thorne is the Streisand Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society and in the department of sociology at the University of Southern California.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Children and Gender 1
Ch. 2 Learning from Kids 11
Ch. 3 Boys and Girls Together...But Mostly Apart 29
Ch. 4 Gender Separation: Why and How 49
Ch. 5 Creating a Sense of "Opposite Sides" 63
Ch. 6 Do Girls and Boys Have Different Cultures? 89
Ch. 7 Crossing the Gender Divide 111
Ch. 8 Lip Gloss and "Goin' With": Becoming Teens 135
Ch. 9 Lessons for Adults 157
Notes 175
References 215
Index 229
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