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“I Hope Nobody Feels Harassed”

Teacher Complicity in Gender Inequality in a Middle School

Susan McCullough

ABSTRACT

In this article, based on an ethnographic study conducted at a New York City public middle school during the 2013 to 2014 school year, I examine gender relations between early adolescent girls and boys, and between them and their teachers. The data—interviews and focus groups with girls, as well as observations—reveals girls’ perceptions of the boys’ dominance in the school and the ways in which boys used symbolic violence and sexual harassment to maintain their social, emotional, and physical power over the girls. Also, I discuss teacher denial of, and complicity in, these structures of power between students. Teachers normalized the hegemonic masculine practices as typical adolescent behavior and the school was deemed to be a gender equitable site by students and teachers. Furthermore, I consider questions regarding the role of teachers in this institutional violence against girls, as well as in relation to my role as researcher.