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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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6. Manhunt, Joan Jett, and The Bieber: Media and Gender Transgression in Rural Schools


· 6 · manhunt, joan jett, and the bieber Media and Gender Transgression in Rural Schools “But representation and its effects are never so simple.” —Halberstam (1998, p. 179) “If you’re a boy and you like Justin Bieber, you’re gay,” the young grade 5 boy explains earnestly. I had asked the students for data concerning how gender is expressed in their homes, schools, and communities, and students often responded by connecting gender with homophobia, transphobia, and examples from popular culture. The boys spoke freely about their revulsion for Bieber (suspect because of his “high voice”), while girls asserted their love of violent video games as a type of feminist positioning. One grade 5 girl announced that she was “a girl and I like to play video games and see heads blow up.” Media figures served as a shared discourse (Wenger, 1998) and offered tangible material to express nuanced gender pride, hatred, and negotiation (Bociurkiw, 2011). Media figures provided content for developing gender literacy through community dialogue. The students spoke confidently about famous singers and video games; it is knowledge that they owned and for which they possessed expertise (Freire, 1999). While students still expressed hesitation at times in exposing too much affinity for certain performers because the association could result in the critique of the performer being levied against the admirer, I believe the representations also afforded a useful distancing. Students could 94 tomboys and other gender heroes critique and explain gender transgression within the media without endanger- ing themselves, their peers,...

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