Edited By Elizabeth J. Meyer and Dennis Carlson
27. Girls Minus Boys: Heteronormative Discourses of Protection in Single-Gender Schools
Girls Minus Boys
Heteronormative Discourses of Protection in Single-Gender Schools
Stephanie D. McCall
Gender is a salient organizing feature of the norms and policies that govern social life, curricular activity, and academic knowledge in single-sex schools. It cannot be assumed, however, that gender is a conscious feature of everyday practices in these schools simply because the student body has been organized by the assumptions about a particular gender. Single-gender schools are critical discursive spaces for exploration, because discourses of gender and sexuality are often taken for granted as being explicit and therefore most supportive and sensitive for the assumed gender of the entire student body. Furthermore, discourses of gender and sexuality have meaning for the conditions of school through which students negotiate meaning about gender, sexuality, and themselves.
Mainstream discourses of single-gender schooling steadfastly invoke girls and boys as heterosexual subjects who can optimize their future success by learning apart, by minimizing sexual tension in school. Boys and girls together are viewed as constructing a teenage coed subculture that emphasizes hypersexuality and distracts students from academics. Some advocates draw from a belief in biologically determined differences between boys and girls to make a case that boys’ and girls’ learning needs and cognitive development are not well matched to learn together (Sax, 2005). A reliance on the fixed, biological categories of “girls” and “boys” produces logic about settled categories of gender. This logic informs expectations for how sexuality should...
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