Ethnographic study of how teenage girls accommodate or resist emphasized femininities in a progressive Scottish Secondary School
Roberts, Jennifer Suzanne
This thesis is an ethnographic study of how gender inequalities are reproduced in the spaces of a progressive Secondary School in the UK. It explores how knowledge is constructed in a school committed to diversity and equality, and considers how and when gender becomes an obscured but pivotal point in the negotiation of power. Through observations of student and staff in lessons, focus groups and interviews, this research contributes to the understanding of how girls are expected to perform femininities in pedagogic spaces. Focusing on how girls read and make meaning of local knowledge I explore how their choices of accommodation or resistance to traditional femininities are shaped. Through a detailed ethnographic narrative of the girls’ lived experiences, this thesis maps the ways and the extent to which girls are willing to step outside traditional gender expectations. Mapping this movement highlights the girls’ enactment of agency and resistance to gender limitations in pedagogy that historically conflate masculinities with spaces such as science and athletics, naturalizing gender inequalities in the classroom. In doing so, this study contributes to the growing body of literature regarding the relevance of gender in pedagogic spaces and how it informs social status and power. Central to this argument is how girls work within and across different sets of competing discursive narratives as their intersectionalities create multiple and often conflicting expectations. As these multiplicities are revealed, the girls develop an awareness of the contradictions of traditional binary beliefs allowing them to deconstruct dominant gender narratives. Highlighting the girls’ alternative positional choices troubles normalizing gender notions exposing the schools’ taken-for-granted knowledge. In viewing the schools’ normalizing discourses as remarkable this thesis furthers the understanding of how schools become sites for the production of gender. By exploring how girls make meaning of their daily gendered experiences and how they conceptualize and navigate the successes or sacrifices of their actions, this research suggests further focus on girls’ empowerment with the goal of decreasing pedagogic inequalities.