The Policing of Gender in Middle School

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Title: The Policing of Gender in Middle School
Author: Seale, Elizabeth Kelley
Advisors: Maxine Thompson, Committee Member
Barbara Risman, Committee Chair
Richard L. Della Fave, Committee Member
Abstract: Based on 43 semi-structured interviews with children in grades 6th through 8th, this study examines how heteronormativity, or normative heterosexuality, shapes and reinforces gender stratification among preadolescents. The sample consists of 29 white and 17 non-white children. The author draws from self-evaluation theory, closure theory, and theory on heteronormativity in demonstrating that heteronorms and the use of the gay stigma operate to regulate gender performances and identities. Findings suggest specifically that a) while norms of femininity have altered in response to the feminist movement, norms of masculinity have not; b) male gender nonconformists are harassed through the use of the gay stigma, putting significant pressure on boys to maintain a hegemonic masculine/heterosexual identity; c) openly gay students are not always harassed to the extent suggested by the level of homophobia revealed in interviews with middle school students; d) boys use the gay stigma against other boys in their struggle for dominance over others; and e) white girls are less homophobic than other groups. The strict regulation of self and others reproduces heterosexism and patriarchy in ways profoundly important for understanding the persistence of inequality.
Date: 2005-12-19
Degree: MS
Discipline: Sociology

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