Gendered Interactions in School

  • Kristen MyersEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


The typical child in the U.S. spends 13 years in primary and secondary schools. One goal of schools is to standardize students’ knowledge of core subject matter so as to make them responsible and productive citizens when they reach adulthood. In large part, then, schools are designed to inculcate American ideals into members of society, beginning at an early age. Most American ideals are gendered in various ways. As such, schools teach both formal and informal lessons about gender to all students. The gender binary is used to order children’s behavior, and it is built into the curriculum. The school context enables, constrains, and gives meaning to children’s gendered interactions. But children also work together to create their own meanings and to innovate in their negotiations of gender in the school context. This chapter examines the research on gendered interactions at school and explores possibilities of using sociological research for social change.


Gender in schools Gender in education 


  1. Adams, N., & Bettis, P. (2003). Commanding the room in short skirts: Cheering as the embodiment of ideal girlhood. Gender & Society, 17(1), 73–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Archer, L., DeWitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillon, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2013). ‘Not girly, not sexy, not glamorous’: Primary school girls’ and parents’ constructions of science aspirations. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 21, 171–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker-Sperry, L. (2009). Gendered agency: Power in the elementary classroom. Women and Language, 29, 38–46.Google Scholar
  4. Bartholomaeus, C. (2011). ‘I’m not allowed wrestling stuff’: Hegemonic masculinity and primary school boys. Journal of Sociology, 48, 227–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Best, R. (1983). We’ve all got scars: What boys and girls learn in elementary school. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Cervonia, C., & Ivinson, G. (2011). Girls in primary school science classrooms: Theorising beyond dominant discourses of gender. Gender and Education, 23, 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, B., & Shenk, J. (2016). Audrie and daisy. San Francisco, CA: Actual Films.Google Scholar
  9. Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender & power. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Connell, R. W. (1996). ‘Teaching the boys:’ New research on masculinity and gender strategies for schools. Teachers College Record, 98, 206–235.Google Scholar
  11. Connell, R. W. (2000). The men and the boys. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity. Gender & Society, 19, 829–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Corsaro, W. (1997). The sociology of childhood. California: Pine Forge Press.Google Scholar
  14. Deutsch, F. (2007). Undoing gender. Gender & Society, 21, 106–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diprete, T., & Buchanan, C. (2013). The rise of women: The growing gender gap in education and what it means for American schools. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Epstein, D. (1997). Boyz’ own stories. Gender and Education, 9, 105–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fausto-Sterling, A. (1992). Myths of gender. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Fausto-Sterling, A. (2007). Sexing the body. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  19. Ferguson, A. A. (2001). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of black masculinity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  20. Giddens, A. (1986). The constitution of society. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  21. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Gilbert, R., & Gilbert, P. (1998). Masculinity goes to school. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Goar, C., & Sell, J. (2005). Using task definition to modify racial inequality with task groups. The Sociological Quarterly, 46, 525–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grant, L. (1994). Helpers, enforcers, and go-betweens: Black females in elementary school classrooms. In M. B. Zinn & B. T. Dill (Eds.), Women of color in US society (pp. 43–62). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Grindstaff, L., & West, E. (2006). Cheerleading and the gendered politics of sport. Social Problems, 53, 500–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Guiso, L., Monte, F., Sapeinza, P., & Zingales, L. (2009). Culture, gender, & math. Science, 320, 1164–1165.Google Scholar
  27. Holford, N., Renold, E., & Huuki, T. (2013). What (else) can a kiss do? Theorizing the power plays in young children’s sexual cultures. Sexualities, 16, 710–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hyde, J., & Jaffee, S. (2000). Becoming a heterosexual adult. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 283–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jackson, S. (2009). Sexuality, heterosexuality, and gender hierarchy. In A. Ferber, K. Holcomb, & T. Wentling (Eds.), Sex, gender & sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kantor, J. (2013). Harvard business school case study: Gender equity. New York Times. September 7.
  31. Kessler, S., Ashenden, D. J., Connell, R. W., & Dowsett, G. W. (1985). Gender relations in secondary schools. Sociology of Education, 58, 34–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Korobov, N. (2005). Ironizing masculinity. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 13, 225–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Latsch, M., & Hannover, B. (2014). Smart girls, dumb boys!? How the discourse on ‘‘failing boys’’ impacts performances and motivational goal orientation in German school students. Social Psychology, 45, 112–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Litwiller, B., & Brausch, A. (2013). Cyber bullying and physical bullying in adolescent suicide: The role of violent behavior and substance use. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 42, 675–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mark, L., & Ratliffe, K. (2011). Cyber worlds: New playgrounds for bullying. Computers in Schools, 28, 92–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martin, K. (2009). Normalizing heterosexuality. American Sociological Review, 74, 190–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McCoy, S., Byrne, D., & Banks, J. (2012). Too much of a good thing? Gender, ‘concerted cultivation’ and unequal achievement in primary education. Child Indicators Research, 5, 155–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Messner, M. (2011). Gender ideologies, youth sports, and the production of soft essentialism. Sociology of Sport Journal, 28, 151–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Monahan, K., Van Derhei, S., Bechtold, J., & Cauffman, E. (2014). From the school yard to the squad car: School discipline, truancy, and arrest. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 43, 1110–1122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mora, R. (2012). ’Do it for all your pubic hairs!’: Latino boys, masculinity, and puberty. Gender & Society, 26, 433–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Morris, E., & Perry, B. (2016). The punishment gap: School suspension and racial disparities in achievement. Social Problems, 63, 68–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Myers, K. (2012). ’Cowboy Up!’ Non-hegemonic representations of masculinity in children’s television programming. Journal of Men’s Studies, 20, 125–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Myers, K., & Raymond, L. (2010). Elementary school girls and heteronormativity: The girl project. Gender & Society., 24, 167–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Oransky, M., & Maracek, J. (2009). ’I’m not going to be a girl: Masculinity and emotions in boys’ friendships and peer groups. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24, 218–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Paechter, C. (2011). Gender, visible bodies and schooling: Cultural pathologies of childhood. Sport, Education and Society, 16, 309–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Paechter, C. (2012). Bodies, identities and performances: Reconfiguring the language of gender and schooling. Gender and Education, 24, 229–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pascoe, C. J. (2005). Dude, you’re a fag: Adolescent masculinity and the fag discourse. Sexualities, 8, 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pearson, J., Muller, C., & Wilkinson, L. (2007). Adolescent same-sex attraction and academic outcomes: The role of school attachment and engagement. Social Problems, 54, 532–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pomerantz, S., Raby, R., & Stefanik, A. (2013). Girls run the world? Caught between sexism and postfeminism in school. Gender & Society, 27, 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ramlow, T. (2003). Bad boy. GLQ, 9, 107–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Renold, E. (2004). ‘Other’ boys: Negotiating non-hegemonic masculinities in the primary school. Gender and Education, 16, 247–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Renold, E. (2006). ’They won’t let us play. Unless you’re going out with one of them’: Girls, boys and Butler’s ‘heterosexual matrix’ in the primary years. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 27, 489–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Signs, 5, 631–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ridgeway, C. (2009). Framed before we know it. Gender & Society, 23, 145–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ringrose, J., & Renold, E. (2012). Slut-shaming, girl power and ‘sexualisation’: Thinking through the politics of the international SlutWalks with teen girls. Gender and Education, 24, 333–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ringrose, J., & Walkerdine, V. (2008). Regulating the abject: The TV make-over as site of neo-liberal reinvention toward bourgeois femininity. Feminist Media Studies, 8, 227–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Risman, B., Myers, K., & Sin, R. (2018). (Re)Turning to gender as a social structure. Pp. 277-296 in R. Connell, P. Martin, & M. Messner (Eds.), Gender reckonings: New social theory and research. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Risman, B., & Seale, E. (2015). Betwixt and between: Gender contradictons among middle schoolers. In B. Risman & V. Rutter (Eds.), Families as they really are (pp. 570–592). New York: WW Norton.Google Scholar
  59. Sitton, T. (1980). Inside school spaces: Rethinking the hidden dimension. Urban Education, 15, 65–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stacey, J. (1990). Brave new families. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  61. Stout, J., Dasgupta, N., Hunsinger, M., & McManus, M. A. (2011). STEMing the tide: Using ingroup experts to inoculate women’s self-concept in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 255–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Swain, J. (2004). The resources and strategies that 10–11 year old boys use to construct masculinity in the school setting. British Educational Research Journal, 30, 167–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thorne, B. (1993). Gender play. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Thorne, B., & Luria, Z. (1986). Sexuality and gender in children’s daily worlds. Social Problems, 33, 176–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1, 125–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wilson, H. (2014). Turning off the school-to-prison pipeline. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 23, 49–53.Google Scholar
  67. Wohlwend, K. (2012). The boys who would be princesses: Playing with gender identity intertexts in disney princess transmedia. Gender and Education, 24, 593–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Illinois UniversityDekalbUSA

Personalised recommendations