An exploration of boy's and girl's responses to dominant gender identity constructions in a primary school : a case study in a rural school in KwaZulu-Natal.
Malinga, Millicent Ntombizodwa.
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Gender is a social construction. Society presents us with acceptable models of masculinity and femininity, and these teach us how to be masculine or feminine in a sense. We learn how to be as women and men through some sort of social conditioning, although we have some agency to resist such normative constructions. This study sets to explore how boys and girls responded to dominant constructions of gender in a rural primary schooling context. The idea was to explore ways in which boys and girls colluded with and/or challenged constructions that "boxed‟ them into particular versions and constructions of feminity and masculinity. A qualitative case study located within the critical paradigm was used. Poststructural feminist theory was used as a lens to understand how participants responded to the dominant constructions of gender. Participatory methods of generating data were used to address the key research questions, namely, transect walks, mapping, non-participant observations, and document analysis. The existence of alternative discourses in the voices of participants helped us to understand how boys and girls constructed, negotiated and performed gender in the context of the research study. Findings revealed that participants' views represented processes of constructing, reconstructing and negotiating their gendered social identities. This was not a static process. It was a confluence of fluid processes of pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes and coded messages characterising dominant definitions and expectations of femininity and masculinity. However, on the other hand, it was a mixture of interrelated acts of submitting and colluding with dominant constructions of femininity and masculinity. In essence, with regards to participants' responses to dominant gender constructions, there existed a criss-crossing of competing discourses some of which had more powerful influences on participants, making the act of challenging dominant gender discourses a complex affair to construe.