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Tsvetana Boncheva

The article deals with the institution of ‘village nuns’, a form of religious celibacy among Bulgarian Catholics in the Plovdiv region during the first half of the twentieth century. The primary concern of this article is the structuring and functioning of the institution of village nuns, viewed from the perspective of the fractal dichotomy strategy–tactics, belonging to the paradigm of fractal dichotomies including religious culture–traditional culture, clergy/male celibacy-–nuns/female celibacy, masculinity–femininity. The sources used in the research are of different types: census registers, parochial books, civil registers of births and deaths, household registers, property tax registers, various publications of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria, and ethnographic field material collected by the author. The methodology employed combines various qualitative methods: the gatekeeper and snowball methods, structured and semi-structured interviews, the biographical method and the comparative method. The analysis shows that the nuns’ institution can be treated as a turning point at which female tactics turn into strategies and bring about certain power shifts affecting gender relations.

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Performing Masculinity

Adolescent African American Boys' Response to Gender Scripting

Lionel C. Howard

This article focuses on the ways in which a select group of adolescent African American males respond to gender scripts. Drawing on interview and focus group data, the article describes four different responses to messages they receive from peers and significant adults about socio-culturally appropriate behaviors and characteristics of masculinity: 1) adapting or modifying their presentations of self, 2) internalizing ascribed gender scripts, 3) resisting, and 4) remaining conflicted about an appropriate response. Narratives highlight the complexity of gender identity development and active participation of African American boys in the construction of a masculine identity that feels most authentic, as well as the role of agents of socialization on identity.

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Gust A. Yep, Sage E. Russo and Ryan M. Lescure

Offering a captivating exploration of seven-year-old Ludovic Fabre’s struggle against cultural expectations of normative boyhood masculinity, Alain Berliner’s blockbuster Ma Vie en Rose exposes the ways in which current sex and gender systems operate in cinematic representations of nonconforming gender identities. Using transing as our theoretical framework to investigate how gender is assembled and reassembled in and across other social categories such as age, we engage in a close reading of the film with a focus on Ludovic’s gender performance. Our analysis reveals three distinct but interrelated discourses—construction, correction, and narration—as the protagonist and Ludovic’s family and larger social circle attempt to work with, through, and against transgression of normative boyhood masculinity. We conclude by exploring the implications of transing boyhood gender performances.

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Martha Kamwendo

This article examines a group of Malawian teachers' views of the relationship between gender and achievement in order to highlight their participation in students' constructions of gendered identities, which in turn have an impact on achievement. Based on a survey with 35 teachers and interviews with 20 of them, the study on which this article is based shows how teachers position boys as high achievers and girls as low achievers. The teachers drew on a number of identity-related concepts that included sexuality, notions of femininity, differential gender socialization in the home, and self image to explain girls' underachievement. I discuss the implications of the findings and suggest how teachers can be encouraged to have a more positive attitude towards girls and their achievement.

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Clifton Edward Watkins

Over the course of the past century, the dominant psychoanalytic paradigm for understanding boyhood and male gender identity development has been grounded in two complementary visions: Freud’s original formulations and, later, the propositions of Ralph Greenson and Robert Stoller. Each of those visions, history suggests, contain a certain harshness, rigidity, and fixity about gender roles and can even be seen as supporting an unhealthy bifurcation between male and female. In the last generation of psychoanalytic scholarship, a viable alternative vision about boyhood and “boys becoming men”—what I term the “post-structuralist psychoanalytic view”—has emerged and increasingly gained structure, definition, and traction. In this paper, I identify some of the important elements of that evolving vision (still very much a work in progress), review briefly three robust areas of current post-structural focus, and consider some of the differences between past and present conceptualizations. While not ignoring pathology and dysfunction, the post-structural psychoanalytic vision also gives voice to health and function, variation and differentiation, creation and construction, and “more life”; it can be seen as a reclamation of the positive and a celebration of the infinite hope, promise, and possibility of all that is boys and boyhood.

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From American Girls into American Women

A Discussion of American Girl Doll Nostalgia

Molly Brookfield

The American Girl brand of historical dolls and books celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2011. The girls who first played with American Girl dolls in the 1980s and 1990s are now grown women; their nostalgia for the brand is passionate and complicated, and reminiscences from nineteen such women are the focus of this study. Their nostalgic responses are thoughtful and reflective, at turns unabashedly admiring and astutely critical. The women fondly recall American Girl whilst simultaneously criticizing the company for its consumerism and its representations of American history and American girlhood. Their memories show how nostalgia can be ambivalent and contradictory, and how adults can use childhood nostalgia to reinforce and construct identity narratives.

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Ana Kolarić

Slobodanka Peković, Časopisi po meri dostojanstvenog ženskinja: Ženski časopisi na početku 20. veka (Journals suited for respectable women: Women’s journals from the early twentieth century), Novi Sad-Beograd: Matica srpska, Institut za književnost i umetnost, 2015, 378 pp., RSD 550 (paperback), ISBN 978-86-7946-154-4.

Stanislava Barać, Feministička kontrajavnost: Žanr ženskog portreta u srpskoj periodici 1920–1941 (The feminist counterpublic: A genre of woman’s portrait in the Serbian periodical press from 1920 to 1941), Beograd: Institut za književnost i umetnost, 2015, 436 pp., RSD 1100 (paperback), ISBN 978-86-7095-224-9.

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Özlem Özmen

Julia Pascal’s The Yiddish Queen Lear, a dramatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, merges racial identity politics with gender politics as the play both traces the history of the Yiddish theatre and offers a feminist criticism of Shakespeare’s text. The use of Lear as a source text for a play about Jews illustrates that contemporary Jewish engagements with Shakespeare are more varied than reinterpretations of The Merchant of Venice. Identity politics are employed in Pascal’s manifestation of the problematic relationship between Lear and his daughters in the form of a conflict between the play’s protagonist Esther, who struggles to preserve the tradition of the Yiddish theatre, and her daughters who prefer the American cabaret. Gender politics are also portrayed with Pascal’s use of a strong woman protagonist, which contributes to the feminist criticism of Lear as well as subverting the stereotypical representation of the domestic Jewish female figure in other dramatic texts.

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The Construction of the Palestinian Girl

Voices from South Lebanon

Kathleen Fincham

This paper examines how specific femininities have been constructed in Palestinian refugee camps in south Lebanon through the intersecting discourses of gender and nation. Through these discourses, Palestinian girls and women have been positioned largely as biological reproducers, gatekeepers, metaphors, ideological reproducers and cultural transmitters of the nation. This has worked to shape Palestinian girls' upbringing in the home and in the community and presented them with limited gender scripts from which to construct their identities and imagine their futures. However, Palestinian females have also exercised agency to gain the most advantageous position available to them at any given time in Palestinian society. Although structural, legal and cultural barriers have severely limited their participation in political activism, education and paid work, Palestinian females in Lebanon have constructed their identities through Islamic feminism, and to a lesser extent, secularism. Moreover, these identities are continually being transformed through the processes of resistance, negotiation and accommodation.

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Teresa Barnes

Contemporary social history is premised on the idea of writing histories of ordinary people. This article reflects critically on the concept of “ordinariness“ as facilitated by the author's brief moment of personal fame and her professional experiences of learning and writing about women's and gender history in and of southern Africa. These perspectives then informed her attempts to write and publish a story of the brief encounter in the late 1930s between a member of her family and the brilliant African-American writer, Richard Wright. The article explores the parameters and definitions of “ordinariness“ in African and American history.