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Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools

Karin A. Martin
American Sociological Review
Vol. 63, No. 4 (Aug., 1998), pp. 494-511
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657264
Page Count: 18
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Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools
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Abstract

Many feminist scholars argue that the seeming naturalness of gender differences, particularly bodily difference, underlies gender inequality. Yet few researchers ask how these bodily differences are constructed. Through semistructured observation in five preschool classrooms, I examine one way that everyday movements, comportment, and use of physical space become gendered. I find that the hidden school curriculum that controls children's bodily practices in order to shape them cognitively serves another purpose as well. This hidden curriculum also turns children who are similar in bodily comportment, movement, and practice into girls and boys-children whose bodily practices differ. I identify five sets of practices that create these differences: dressing up, permitting relaxed behaviors or requiring formal behaviors, controlling voices, verbal and physical instructions regarding children's bodies by teachers, and physical interactions among children. This hidden curriculum that (partially) creates bodily differences between the genders also makes these physical differences appear and feel natural.

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