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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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5. “When I Play Soccer, I Feel Free, I Feel as If No One Can Harm Me”: Gender Justice and Sports


· 5 · “when i play soccer, i feel free, i feel as if no one can harm me” Gender Justice and Sports The park is populated almost exclusively by boys and young men. Girls occasionally skirt the margins, hang on the fences, jump double Dutch in the corner, but rarely enter the main game. I once relished the sight of a particularly fierce girl who hit a line drive and flipped the bird as she rounded second base. (Corbett, 2009, p. 2) (Grade 6) 74 tomboys and other gender heroes Introduction: Girls Football On my first day of research in the spring of 2011, I entered one of several grade 8 classes and was met with a quiet group of students and a friendly, talkative teacher. I showed the film Tomboy and tried to engage the class with ques- tions about their experiences of gender to no avail. Therefore, I began the sticky-note activity (see Lesson Plans for detailed description of assignment), depending as usual on the anonymity of the activity to offer students the sense of safety needed to share their knowledge. When I began reading the notes aloud from the blackboard, I came upon an abundance of comments about a girl’s right to be able to play on the school football team. Out of 40 notes completed, nine addressed sports in general, and seven more focused on the unfairness of a boys’ football team that excluded girls. Females aren’t allowed on the football team because it’s a so-called (boys...

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