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McGuffey & Rich- Transgression Zone

McGuffey & Rich- Transgression Zone - McGuffey Rich...

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GENDER & SOCIETY / October 1999 McGuffey, Rich / GENDER TRANSGRESSION ZONE PLAYING IN THE GENDER TRANSGRESSION ZONE Race, Class, and Hegemonic Masculinity in Middle Childhood C. SHAWN M C GUFFEY University of Massachusetts, Amherst B. LINDSAY RICH Transylvania University This research focuses on how children negotiate gender boundaries in middle childhood play. Over a nine-week period, children were observed creating, defining, and altering gender codes in a summer day camp. When girls and boys disregarded pre-described boundaries, they entered an area we refer to as the gender transgression zone. This area of activity, where boys and girls conduct heterosocial relations in hopes of either maintaining or expanding gender boundaries in child culture, is where gender trans- gression takes place. The study revealed that high-status boys used hegemonic masculinity to regulate both girls’and boys’boundaries by reserving the authority to sanction all gender transgressions. While race and class were salient for girls’homosocial organization and behavior, within this age group they did not appear to influence the boys’status system. B y now, R. W. Connell’s concept of “hegemonic masculinity” has wide currency among students of gender. 1 The concept implies that there is a predominant way of doing gender relations (typically by men and boys, but not necessarily limited to men and boys) that enforces the gender order status quo: It elevates the general social status of masculine over feminine qualities and privileges some masculine qualities over others. The notion that “masculinities” and “femininities” exist and can be interrogated as negotiated realities allows us to further our understanding about the larger gender order in which they are embedded. We want to caution, however, against the temptation to overgeneralize the con- cept of hegemonic masculinity. To do so runs the risk of glossing the modalities, both historical and social-spatial (in terms of class, ethnoracial, sexual, and age variations), in which hegemonic masculinity emerges. We believe that hegemonic masculinity, while having general qualities as a form of social power, may take on 608 AUTHORS’NOTE: We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of Gender & Society , Beth Schnei- der, Neil Quisenberry, and Naomi Gerstel for helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article. REPRINT REQUESTS: C. Shawn McGuffey, Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Thompson Hall, Amherst, MA 01003-7525; e-mail: [email protected] GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 13 No. 5, October 1999 608-627 © 1999 Sociologists for Women in Society
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many valences and nuances, depending on the social setting and the social actors involved. Connell (1987, 1995, 36-37) is himself careful to make the sorts of quali- fications we make here while similarly claiming the general analytic utility of the concept. We agree with advocates of the concept that it indeed gives us great theo- retical leverage and explanatory power toward clarifying and refining how and why
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