Confessions from the Classroom
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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