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offer a ready made social psychology.
In our account of the development of social representations of gender we have emphasised
the importance of social identities as the structures differentiating between groupings of
individuals. Within sex groups, social representations of gender offer a variety of possible
gender identities, enabling individuals to position themselves in a number of different ways.
Each type of social identity provides a certain version of femininity or masculinity, and for
the child, different types of social gender identity provide both a means for orienting themselves in the social world of the classroom and a pathway towards the development of their
gender identity in later years. For the positions which children adopt also structure their
experiences in the classroom and beyond.
In one of the classrooms we observed, for example, some girls had elaborated a feminine
identity which excluded boys while others adopted a position in which their femininity could
also encompass relations with boys. These two groups of girls are finding different ways of
being female, and one consequence of this is a differentiation in their practical experiences in
the classroom. Why individual children come to position themselves in different ways may
be an interesting question, but it is not one which our research was designed to address.
What we can see from our research is that the solutions which children find to the problem of
how to position themselves follow patterns which are established within the representational
space of gender. In other words, social representations of gender also mark out positions
which offer viable gender identities. Viability refers to the extent to which positions within
the gender system are consistent with the norms and values of the system. An extreme
example can help to clarify this point. It is possible for a girl to engage consistently with boys
in masculine marked activities. The position of 'tomboy' is a viable identity for a girl. Yet the
reverse, a boy who consistently engages with girls in feminine activities, is an untenable
position. A boy who did this would become the focus for concern on the part of teachers and
The development of social gender identities refers, then, not to the way in which children
negotiate an individual resolution to the question of situating themselves in the world of
gender, but, rather, to their adoption of positions which are more or less clearly marked 3 4 G. Duveen within the social representations of gender. Positioning in this sense has rarely been examined in work on social representations, which have, for the most part, studied the emergence
of divergent representations in different groups. The process through which the same representation gives rise to different social id...
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This note was uploaded on 12/13/2012 for the course PSYCHOLOGY 107 taught by Professor Neascu during the Spring '12 term at UMass (Amherst).
- Spring '12
- Social Psychology