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Unformatted text preview: 68 JUST GIRLS: HIDDEN LlTERACIES AND LIFEIN JUNIOR HIGH V) ~ ing for position was no longer an option for gaining status or entry into the social queens' network. Note-passing was clearly a gendered activity. It functioned to con- trol male voices and to tryout women's voices. Circulation of notes was controlled exclusively by girls. Girls decided who was entitled to see, receive, or write a note. Boys did not write notes to boys, and they wrote to girls only when they were invited or instructed to do so by a girl directly or through a channeling system, where one girl wrote to another girl who would then write to a boy, thereby granting him per- mission to write to the first girl. This act of literacy bestowed power and control of romantic interactions exclusively to females. The hierarchical arrangement placed power firmly in the hands of the social queens, who controlled and regulated which boys wrote or received notes. To guard the circulation of messages, the queens informed me that learning to fold a note properly was vital to ensure that it would not open if it are dropped. Notes were folded into small triangles or squares with edges tucked in, serving as a lock to protect messages from unau- thorized eyes. Such skill in intricate folding was also used to gain status within the inner circle. One's knowledge of elaborate folds signaled one as a member in good standing. Again, literacy served to document sta- tus within this circle of friends. If one queen learned a new and ex- tremely complex fold, she received high praise and then attained the honored position of teacher, instructing others in how to fold. Note-folding was a crucial skill because passing the note was a fine game that required a small, streamlined object. A note could have no rough edges to catch in a pocket lining, and it must be easily manipu- lated in the palm of one hand in order to avoid detection as it slipped from hand to hand boldly under the nose of a teacher. Passing notes from one of the social queens to another under the sharp scrutiny of a teacher was seen by these girls as an act of defiance and a behavior to be admired. Girls wrote, circulated, and respor.ded to notes while reading aloud, participating in classroom discussions, and completing written work. A girl, for instance, could participate in a large-group discussion while writing and then passing notes without skipping a beat as she actively engaged in the classroom discussion. Designed to fool the teacher into thinking one was paying attention, such a game docu- mented allegiance to peers. Ironically, a queen had to pay extremely close attention to keep the game going in her favor; yet this game was played to make the teacher appear foolish and the teen powerful....
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This note was uploaded on 04/12/2008 for the course COMP 105 taught by Professor Bidell during the Winter '07 term at University of Michigan.
- Winter '07