Confessions from the Classroom
4. “I Love Barbies … I am a Boy”: Gender Happiness for Social Justice Education
· 4 · “i love barbies … i am a boy” Gender Happiness for Social Justice Education (Grade 4) When I look at this child’s artwork, I can’t help but smile back at the figure. I feel happy that a young boy can proudly proclaim a “Love” for Barbies in a North American culture that often punishes such affections. It tickles me that he refuses to settle on either a dress or pants for his image, opting instead for 56 tomboys and other gender heroes both (though in fairness, the pants could be leggings, which themselves carry their own set of cultural rules). I am happy that the figure appears confident, feet firm, standing tall, “I am a boy” written in large letters, and a broad smile across their face (I am using a plural pronoun to denote the possibility of either, or both, or some combination of genders—because it may be an image of the boy or the doll or both). My smile mirrors their smile. While I cannot tell whether the figure is the Barbie or the boy, I do believe that the person (artist and figure) is truly enjoying their gender. The “boy who loves Barbies” is one example among hundreds of render- ings of how students have reported their strong connections to gender. I have created broad themes to organize the types of issues, actions, and objects they describe: activities, appearance, freedoms and restrictions, home life, identity, jobs, media, social justice issues, spaces, treatment from others, toys, and...
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