ERG SES C 10, Gender and Education
Over the past three decades, gender studies have demonstrated, in different ways, that there is not just one form of masculinity and femininity, but several, diverse versions of the sex life. Womanman dualism is not, therefore, the only existing model. It is nevertheless the basis for heteronormativity. It established heterosexuality as a social norm of gender relations. Heteronormativity is embedded in everyday social practices, which is why heterosexual orientations are perceived as 'normal', nonheterosexual as 'deviant'. Individuals are always divided into groups, first girls and boys, and later men and women, that is, sexually categorised.
In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler describes how children have to constantly examine their femininity or masculinity so they can act "properly" with playmates and others. In spite of all this, the cultural system of gender binarism and heteronormativity is far from being the only option available. Butler asserts that the alternative cultural configurations of gender identity (Butler, 1990) are only maintained and concealed by the prevailing heteronormative discourse in the background.
Certainly early childhood education teaching and learning materials are available that refer to changes in family structures – selectively including the single mothers/fathers or samesex parents. Strikingly, however, gender diversity is almost never discussed with children. Gender studies emphasise all the more how important it is to address diversity in children's institutions and to strive for new perspectives in pedagogy. This implies finding new ways of interacting and communicating with children, which may be able to question and undermine the prevailing powerful dualistic model.
In my research, I examine how the nonconforming configurations of gender identity in children (Butler, 1990) should be presented through the new perspectives of a viable pedagogy, and how the latter is able to respond to, resist, and overcome experimentally the dominant cultural system of two sexes and heteronormativity. Through ethnographic field studies, I was able to carefully observe the experience of children in kindergartens. Is it really heteronormative? I sought to address the question of how heteronormativity materialises at the level of social practices and performance. In other words what physical, emotional and intellectual patterns of behaviour are unveiled. Finally, I will highlight the performances that, in contrast to those, either reject dualism or indicate compromises.
The research question is therefore divided in two phases:
⁃ 1a) Do kindergarten and preschool aged children endeavour to behave according to heterosexual norms? If so, how?
⁃ 1b) Are children able to challenge gender norms? How do they do that?
⁃ 2a) Can the use of picture books in kindergartens and preschool facilities help soften existing categories? If so, how? (Davies, 1989, 2002; Keuneke, 2000)
⁃ 2b) Do picture books that I read aloud and showed to the children help them to question heteronormativity, or in other words, create new ways of shaping the social gender?
The starting point of my research is the firm belief that children represent independent actors and are to be respected as such. For this reason, I believe it is a major concern to recognise their rights, interests and views in the research process. Children are actors in designing their own lives and their opinions and wishes must be heard and taken into account (Chowns, 2008; Liebel, 2007). The decisive approach in this context is to let them have their say and thus highlight their perspectives. That is the basis of the qualitatively oriented methods of data collection and analysis of my project.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble. Routledge. Chowns, G. (2008). „No - You Don’t Know How We Feel!“: Collaborative Inquiry Using Video with Children Facing the Life-threatening Illness of a Parent. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury-Huang (Hrsg.), The SAGE Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice (S. 562 – 572). Sage Publications Ltd. Davies, B. (1989). Frogs and snails and feminist tales : preschool children and gender. Sydney : Allen & Unwin. Davies, B. (2002). Shards of glass : children reading and writing beyond gendered identities. Cresskill, NJ; First Edition: St Leonards, NSW: Hampton Press; First Edition: Allen & Unwin. Denzin, N. K. (2009). The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods. Aldine Transaction. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (2010). Grounded Theory: Strategien qualitativer Forschung (3., unveränderte Auflage.). Huber, Bern. Hausser, K. (1982). Forschungsinteraktion und Forschungskonzeption. In G. L. Huber & H. Mandl (Hrsg.), Verbale Daten: Eine Einführung in die Grundlagen und Methoden der Erhebung und Auswertung (S. 61 – 78). Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag. Keuneke, S. (2000). Geschlechtserwerb und Medienrezeption: zur Rolle von Bilderbüchern im Prozess der frühen Geschlechtersozialisation. Opladen: Leske + Budrich. Liebel, M. (2007). Wozu Kinderrechte: Grundlagen und Perspektiven. Beltz Juventa. Marzano, M. (2015). Papà, mamma e gender. UTET. Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken (Neuausgabe, 12., vollständig überarbeitete und aktualisierte Aufl.). Beltz. Norton, J. (1999). Transchildren and the Discipline of Children’s Literature. The Lion and the Unicorn, 23/3, 415 – 436. Pardi, F., & Altan, F. T. (2011). Piccolo Uovo. Milano: Lo Stampatello. Parnell, P., & Richardson, J. (2011). E con Tango siamo in tre. Azzano San Paolo: Junior. Rendtorff, B., & Moser, V. (1999). Geschlecht und Geschlechterverhältnisse in der Erziehungswissenschaft: Eine Einführung. Leske + Budrich. Robinson, K., & Diaz, C. J. (2006). Diversity and Difference in Early Childhood Education: Issues for Theory and Practice. Open University Press. Robinson, K. H. (2005). „Queerying“ gender: Heteronormativity in early childhood education. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 30(2), 19 – 28.
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