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Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes

Confessions from the Classroom


Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

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.


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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 gen- der 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 col- league and scholar, and leading a School of Education where my work is valued. Julia Curry-Rodríguez and Kathryn Blackmer Reyes, for their continued encour- agement 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...

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