Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes

Confessions from the Classroom

by Karleen Pendleton Jiménez (Author)
©2016 Textbook XIV, 160 Pages


Have you ever been told that you’re too girlish or too boyish? We are all potential targets of the gender police, some more so than others. And how did you respond? Did you hide or change or rebel or hurt or gleefully celebrate your style? Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes is a study that brings together gender stories from approximately 600 children and youth. Set in both urban and rural contexts, these young people show how their schools and communities respond to their bodies, passions, and imaginations. As one 13-year-old student expresses, «My flowered jeans make me feel happy because they represent the sort of feminine side to me and at the same time show my masculine side. They also make me feel like I’m a part of a large force that stands up to bullying and criticism, to express themselves and to show the world that our lives have meaning.» In this book, student writings are framed by teaching strategies and gender theory, featuring themes of sports, film, media, landscape, joyfulness, and gender creativity. The research will be of great interest to university students in the fields of education, gender, sexuality and women’s studies, sociology, social work, psychology, counseling, and child development. This book is ideal for teachers, professors, parents, and community members who hope to create accepting environments for gender diversity.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. “Because of the Stuff I Love”: An Introduction to Gender, Place, and Teaching
  • Chapter 2. Off The Script: A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom
  • Chapter 3. The Making of a Queer Latina Cartoon: Pedagogies of Border, Body and Home
  • Chapter 4. “I love Barbies … I am a Boy”: Gender Happiness for Social Justice Education
  • Chapter 5. “When I Play Soccer, I Feel Free, I Feel as if No One Can Harm Me”: Gender Justice and Sports
  • Chapter 6. Manhunt, Joan Jett, and The Bieber: Media and Gender Transgression in Rural Schools
  • Chapter 7. “I Will Whip My Hair” and “Hold My Bow”: Gender Creativity in Rural Ontario
  • Chapter 8. Creating a Gendered Landscape: Recommendations for Practice
  • Lesson Plans
  • Appendices
  • References
  • Resources (a handful of favorites)
  • Series index

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Setting: A cold March morning in 2011. My first day of research. A classroom packed with grade 8 students. An Ontario city of about 75,000 people, tucked between broad expanses of farmland.

A 10 minute free-write. The writing prompt: Choose an object or activity that you think best expresses your gender.

My Object of Expression:

The object I would choose is my flowered jeans, because I normally don’t like jeans but these I thought were different because all along the side of the legs there are rows of string that end up being stems of flowers that are blooming.

These jeans make me feel happy because they represent the sort of feminine side to me and at the same time show my masculine side. They also make me feel like I’m a part of a large force that stands up to bullying and criticism to express themselves and to show the world that our lives have meaning.

If somebody were to tell me that I couldn’t wear my favourite jeans I would stand up to everything they’re trying to criticize and tell them that they had no say in what I wear and certainly have no say in what I believe in.

When people see me they might ask me what I have on my leg and I would clearly say and explain what it was and it’s a horrible thing that I notice them mocking me about ← ix | x → it, but if I were a girl they still might ask me, but they wouldn’t care because to them it would be ok.

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For …

my mother, who told me I was pretty as a tomboy, even though I didn’t believe her. Hilary, for loving feminine guys, butch women, and me in particular.

Lisa Walter, who has guided me through the personal challenges of gender and research.

Heather Algie, Star Davey, and Eleanor Anckaert, for teaching these gender workshops with me, and for offering important insights about the research on the long drives and at the cafés along the road. Alexander Nagthall and Katie Corbett, who chose to do their alternative placements on this research, examining data and writing, and providing me valuable feedback. Hilary Cook and Cynthia Budgell, for reading through my drafts, recognizing both the beauty and the problems, and pushing me forward.

Jackie Muldoon, for supporting my personal and professional growth as a colleague and scholar, and leading a School of Education where my work is valued. Julia Curry-Rodríguez and Kathryn Blackmer Reyes, for their continued encouragement of my creative and scholarly works. Cathy Bruce, for her excitement and resources while I was writing the SSHRC grant. Jaime Garcia, for the cognac and many talks at NACCS about methodologies, education, and designing this research. André Grace, for his strong support of my work through his comments, especially at our annual gatherings at CSSE. Barb Taylor, for her friendship and for producing the film Tomboy, from which this research was built. Loralee Gillis, for personally and professionally supporting my work and connecting me with a community at Rainbow Health Ontario. Marg Hobbs, for her generosity, encouragement, and for offering me a wonderful platform to present and receive ← xi | xii → feedback about my research (an annual lecture in “Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies”). Deborah and Michael Berrill, for their encouragement and advice throughout the research and writing process. Paul Elliott, Blair Niblett, Claire Mooney, Denise Handlarski, Miriam Davidson, Susan Dion, Carla Rice, Joanna Perkins, Celia Haig-Brown, Didi Khayatt, Sandra Schecter, Esther Fine, Veronica Hollinger, Karen Shenfeld, Julie Wong-Barker, Paola Bohorquez, and Joelle Reid for their collegial support, friendship and insightful conversations. Tammy Wheeler, Jess Fudge, Trudy Elmhirst, Mandi Kofira for looking through some of the data with me and sharing their personal interest and knowledge. Peggy Warren for helping me navigate database searches. Tim Foster and Garry Pejski, for technological assistance throughout. Katerina Cook for vital assistance with the proofs. Tracy Holton and Liz Vlietstra, for numerous late afternoon conversations about gender and children.

Trent University, for giving me the position and the home base from which to lead my life as a professor, writer and researcher. Elizabeth Meyer, for her faith in the project, her patience over several years of writing, and her reading and editing through many drafts. The Peter Lang team for their patience and guidance, especially Bernadette Shade, Sophie Appel, Stephen Mazur, Chris Myers, and Phyllis Korper. My family: Carter, Katie, Elena, Garry, Tammy, Matt, Shane, Melissa, David, Rhoda, Brian, Arlene, Dad, Chris, Heather for their love. Finally, for the many teachers who courageously and generously allowed me to work with their students.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Chapter 2, “Off the Script: A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom” was previously published …

Pendleton Jiménez, K. (2014). Off the script: A study of techniques for uncovering gender-bending truths in the classroom. In D. Carlson, & E. J. Meyer (Eds.). Handbook of Gender and Sexuality in Education, (pp. 257–271). NY: Peter Lang.

Chapter 3, “The Making of a Queer Latina Cartoon: Pedagogies of Border, Body, and Home” is reprinted by permission of The Journal of Latino/Latin American Studies, 2014, 6 (2), 125–134.

Chapter 4, “I Love Barbies … I Am a Boy”: Gender Happiness for Social Justice Education” is reprinted by permission of Sex Education. Doi: 10.1080/14681811.2015.1067195. September 2015.

Chapter 7, … was previously published by

Pendleton Jiménez, K. (2014). “I will whip my hair” and “hold my bow”: Gender-creativity in rural Ontario. In E. Meyer & A Pullen Sansfacon (Eds.) Supporting transgender and gender creative youth: Schools, families and communities in action, (pp. 85–96). New York: Peter Lang.


XIV, 160
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (March)
peer group role mode gender
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XIV, 160 pp., num. b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez (Author)

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez is a writer and Associate Professor of Education at Trent University. She publishes academic and creative works on gender, lesbian desire, learning, and Chicana/Latina experience. She wrote Are You a Boy or a Girl? (Lambda Literary Finalist) and the award-winning cartoon Tomboy.


Title: Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes