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A Narrative Inquiry of Masculine Girls' Gender Performativity at a Junior High School
Since the enactment of the Gender Equity Education Act in 2004, non-mainstream genders (sissies and tomboys, homosexuals, or the transgendered) at school have seen their rights enjoy clear legal protection. A gender-friendly campus has not only become the right of non-mainstream genders, but also the duty of educators. However, while heterosexual and masculine hegemony continue to dominate the campus gender order, the subjectivity of non-mainstream genders is still oppressed by traditional gender disciplines. As research on feminine male students increase daily, and given the concomitant insufficiency of studies on masculine female students, this study aims to elicit from my personal teaching experiences, through a narrative inquiry methodology, applying the post-structuralism feminist perspective, to better elucidate the life stories of masculine girls in junior high school gender practice and performativity. My main findings include: First, that women ought to possess femininity, men must own masculinity and everyone must be heterosexual is an unbreakable gender constellation. Therefore, masculine girls will be treated as homosexuals in light of their physical appearance or dress and their minority sexual temperament, while the official campus gender regime attempts to embody such students of non-mainstream genders. Secondly, masculine girls regard gender discipline with an obedient but resistant, and resistant yet reproductive multiple process. Through their physical appearance, dress, and masculine gender performativity, they actively resist the stultifying linearity of imposed gender constellations, while also holding to gender perception that it is improper for females to speak swear words, or that long-haired tomboys are frightening, that girls are not as good at basketball as boys, and similar dichotomous gender perceptions. Thirdly, masculine girls’ individual gender spectrum is changeable, subject to the situations they face. When interacting with peers, the masculine girls may enjoy a flexible sex/gender transition. The masculine girls may liberate the female body to be just “one of the boys” when engaged in physical play with male students; while become feminine again in the company of female peers. Fourthly, from the masculine girls’ stories and my own teaching reflections, I recognize that awakening teachers’ gender consciousness is not easy and maintaining such consciousness is even more difficult. Fifthly, the gendered campus space duplicates gender ideology; Sixthly, gender equality sometimes is merely reduced to a politically correct slogan; communities and the greater society maintain considerable effects on gender consciousness in school, which should not be underestimated. In conclusion, I suggest implementing narrative inquiry to liberate teachers’ gender ideology, emphasizing a holistic development; designing a student-centered curriculum which focuses on non-mainstream genders— for example, fashion or dress choices of chest binders— taking the experience of gender minorities as the core focal point of attention. Finally, when designing gender equality activities, the content should extend beyond the campus, to reduce the impact of social gender hegemony on the school ideals of gender equality.
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