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‘I Mean, the Queen’s Fierce and the King’s Not’: Gendered Embodiment in Children’s Drawings

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Abstract

Gender differences in children’s artwork have been the subject of study for over 100 years. The focus of early research was quite narrow, honing in on issues such as children’s gendered subject preferences, or their ability to render spatial relationships or include detail in their artwork. This has led to some stereotypical conclusions about gender with regard to particular aspects of visual representation. This paper speaks back to some of these stereotypes by discussing fundamental principles of meaning-making through drawing, and how the content of children’s artworks should be viewed in relation to their form, and the processes children used as the artworks evolved. Using social-constructivism as a theoretical framework, the methodology involved interlocutor-child dialogic improvisations, on a one-to-one basis, as each child engaged in graphic and body-based action while talking about aspects of the artwork and the processes of its creation through a free-form type of narrative. Semiotics is used as an analytical framework to describe three girls’ drawings (aged 5–8 years) who were selectively sampled from a larger study that involved over 100 children in drawing ‘what the future might be like’. These girls’ graphic-narrative-embodied artefacts are discussed in relation to three key themes: spatial relations and meaning; allegory and fantasy; and metaphor, abstract reasoning and connotation. The findings are discussed in relation social-cultural factors that might influences boys’ and girls’ gendered identities and, in turn, the content, form and processes of their artistic creations.

Résumé

Les différences liées au genre dans la production artistique des enfants sont étudiées depuis plus de 100 ans. La portée des premières recherches était très étroite, se limitant à des questions comme les sujets préférés selon le sexe des enfants ou leur habileté à rendre les relations spatiales ou à inclure des détails dans leurs travaux artistiques. Ces études initiales ont entrainé des conclusions stéréotypées sur le genre particulièrement sur certains aspects de la représentation visuelle. Cette étude revoit certains de ces stéréotypes en discutant de principes fondamentaux de construction de sens à travers le dessin, du contenu des dessins d’enfants qui devrait plutôt être vu en fonction de la forme, et des processus que les enfants utilisent au cours de l’évolution de leurs travaux. Avec le constructivisme social comme cadre théorique, la méthodologie utilise des dialogues improvisés entre l’interlocuteur et l’enfant, individuellement, alors que chacun des enfants s’adonne à des travaux graphiques et à une action corporelle alors que l’on parle d’aspects du travail et des processus employés pour le créer, ceci dans un type de narration libre. Un cadre analytique sémiotique est utilisé pour décrire les dessins de trois petites filles (âgées de 5 à 8 ans) sélectionnées d’une plus grande étude impliquant plus de 100 enfants qui dessinaient « ce à quoi l’avenir pourrait ressembler » . Les objets de narration graphique de ces petites filles sont discutées en fonction de trois thèmes clés: les relations spatiales et le sens; l’allégorie et l’imaginaire; la métaphore, le raisonnement abstrait et la connotation. Les résultats sont discutés par rapport aux facteurs socioculturels qui pourraient influencer l’identité de genre des garçons et des filles et, ensuite, le contenu, la forme et les processus employés dans leurs créations artistiques.

Resúmen

Las diferencias de género en el arte producido por niños/as ha sido sujeto de estudio por más de cien años. El enfoque de las primeras investigaciones fue bastante limitado, concentrándose en temas como las preferencias de temas en niños dependiendo del género, o su habilidad para reproducir relaciones espaciales o incluir elementos detallados en su arte. Esto ha arrojado algunas conclusiones estereotípicas sobre género con relación a aspectos específicos de la representación visual. Esta investigación contra argumenta algunos de aquellos estereotipos, discutiendo principios fundamentales de la creación de significado mediante el dibujo y la manera como el contenido de las obras de arte de niños debe verse en relación con su forma, así como los procesos utilizados por los niños en la medida en que sus obras evolucionan. Mediante el uso del constructivismo social como un marco teórico, la metodología incluyó improvisaciones de diálogo individual entre interlocutor y niño mientras el niño estaba ocupado realizando acciones basadas en trabajo gráfico y corporal y al mismo tiempo hablaba sobre aspectos de su obra y los procesos de su creación mediante una narración libre. Se utilizó la semiótica como marco analítico para describir tres dibujos de niñas (con edades que oscilan entre los 5 y los 8 años), quienes fueron escogidas selectivamente de un estudio más amplio que incluyó a más de cien niños que dibujaron el tema ‘Cómo será el futuro’. Los artefactos gráfico-narrativos de estas niñas se discuten sobre la base de tres temas principales: relaciones espaciales y significado; alegoría y fantasía; y metáfora, razonamiento abstracto y connotación. Los hallazgos se discuten con relación a factores socio-culturales que podrían influenciar las identidades de género de niños y niñas y, a su vez, el contenido, la forma y los procesos de sus creaciones artísticas.

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Notes

  1. A syntagm is a construction or sequence that functions as a relationship (i.e., linguistically, visually, spatially, temporally).

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Wright, S. ‘I Mean, the Queen’s Fierce and the King’s Not’: Gendered Embodiment in Children’s Drawings. IJEC 46, 391–406 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-014-0124-7

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