Boys and Girls Gender, Normativity and Violence Emma Renold, Cardiff University, WALES, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)
UK Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) • 2008 - ‘Prejudice-driven’ bullying AND types of bullying • Protection (victim) V Pathologisation (bully) • Individualization of conflict and violence
Hard-wiring aggression! “Bullying tendency wired in brain” Bullies' brains may be hardwired to have sadistic tendencies, US imaging research suggests. An area of the brain associated with reward lit up in scans when aggressive boys watched a video of someone inflicting pain” "This work will help us better understand ways to work with juveniles inclined to aggression and violence." (BBC NEWS, 7 Nov 2008)
GENDER NORMS Gender only exists as a norm to the extent that it is enacted in social practice and reidealized and reinstituted in and through the daily social rituals of bodily life” (Butler 2004:48).
Everyday violence of gender norms • Violence as Regulation • How violence becomes non-violence through everyday regulation of gender/sexual norms. • Violence as Resistance • How violence is invoked in resistance to regulatory norms • Regulation and resistance subvert and reinforce hierarchical gender/sexual norms
Theorising gender and sexuality ROSI BRAIDOTTI Judith Butler
Norms in new times …. • Schizoid Neo-liberal societies • Individualisation (flattens and erases difference, depoliticizes gender cultures with focus on self) AND • Social cohesion (recognizes ‘difference’ but without troubling the centre, the norm)
The notion of gender as ‘illusory’ is a valuable theoretical resource resonating not only with children’s reiterative gendered performances as they struggle to project a coherent “abiding gendered self” (Butler 1990: 140).
Intelligible genders and the hegemonic heterosexual matrix I use the term heterosexual matrix ... to designate that grid of cultural intelligibility through which bodies, genders, and desires are naturalized ... a hegemonic discursive/epistemological model of gender intelligibility that assumes that for bodies to cohere and make sense there must be a stable sex expressed through a stable gender (masculine expresses male, feminine expresses female) that is oppositionally and hierarchically defined through the compulsory practice of heterosexuality (Butler 1990:151). Monique Wittig (1992) ‘The Straight Mind’ Adrienne Rich ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ (1983)
Braidotti: ‘Schizoid double pull’ • Deleuze and Guatarri ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ • Simultaneous displacement and refixing of gender norms “it engenders, propels and contains simultaneously opposite effects, degrees of gender equality with growing segregation of the sexes; gender trouble on the one hand and polarized sexual difference on the other” (Braidotti 2006: 49).
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BRATZ DOLLS Forever Diamondz Yasmin Bratz World London Pretty n' Punk Meygan (left) and Cloe (right) Schizoid dynamic: girls can invest in culturally diverse femininities so long as they project heterosexualized bodies
Non-sexual heterosexualities, heternormativity and sexual diversity “… pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children … therefore pupils should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society”. “This guidance is not about the promotion of sexual orientation” (yet ‘heterosexuality’ ‘promoted throughout) (Sex and Relationship Education, DfEE 2000)
Heteronormativity (Sex and Relationship Education) AND Celebration of sexual diversity! (homophobic bullying) “Create an inclusive environment” “Do not assume all young people in class are or will be heterosexual” (‘Homophobic Bullying’ DCSF 2007)
Schizoid dynamics: micro-social world of schooling Regulation of and resistance to gender norms through violence as part of the process of becoming an ‘intelligible’ subject (Renold and Ringrose 2008)
Boys will be boys: Boys and the normalisation of physical violence ER: So what sort of things are you playing? Ryan: Lift ‘em up or trip em up. ER: Lift them up or trip em up? Jake: Right, it’s like squint and you’ve got to run across and there’s two people there and you’ve got to lift them up and most people trip them / up. Sean: Ryan got me yesterday and he stuck his foot out ER: So you literally lift people up or you trip them over? All: Yeah. (Later, that year ….) ER: What about in the playground, do you still play that tripping up game? All: Yeah. Jake: I got this massive black eye and it was all swollen. ER: With that game? David: No, we were playing ‘granny bashers’.
Blurred boundaires and ‘gaming’ violence Rick: You used to beat me up Ryan: No I didn’t/ Rick: Yes you did, you did body slams on me Ryan: That was because we were playing fights Rick: Were we? (sounds unsure) Ryan: Yeah
Teaching staff and playground monitors ER: What about the dinner ladies? Can you tell them? Neil: They’re not bothered, they’re not bothered […] Simon: Yeah because if someone kicks you or something, they/ Neil: You /need to be crying before they take any notice Graham: They call you a wimp Simon: You have to be either crying or lying on the floor with loads of people round you ER: For?/ Simon: To get any attention
PARENTS AND FAMILIES ER: Can you tell them (your parents), would they come up to the school if they found out you’d been hit and teased? Graham: No probably not … my dad told me to stick up for myself, but he doesn’t know them like I do (almost in tears) ER: I know it’s very difficult (he nods) Simon: If I do tell my mum and dad, what happens, coz my dad, he teaches me some moves, he teaches me how to block, by putting two arms in front of me (...) and if I do get into a fight and I tell my mum and dad and say “well I just thumped them and I just ran off, so and my dad says “so you won the fight then” and I go “yeah” (unconvincingly) and my mum and dad go “good for you”. Schizoid dynamic: using gender norms to combat violent effects of ‘gender norming’!!
Being a ‘girl’: sexual objects, sexual subjects and sexual harassment
Beyond the school gates: blurred boundaries Trudy: Once when me and Debbie went to the park right and these boys were on these swings, I think we were about nine and I had these short jeans on and this boy (she starts laughing) and this boy goes, “I want your body” and once/ Debbie: Right OK, then, me and Michele and Trudy were on the landing at the park and these boys were walking past and suddenly stopped and pulled their pants down (they laugh) ER: How did you feel? Debbie: Horrible/ Hannah: Well erm this boyfriend er we met him at Godfrey Lane park and he started, on the way back coz we wanted to get away from him because we didn’t really know him. He kept pinching my bum (the others laugh) and I was trying to run away and he kept pinching my bum. […] Trudy: It’s nice getting all the attention but/ Hannah: You hear these stories of getting raped and stuff and I’d be really scared “oh what’s going to happen” and you here these stories about people dying, well not dying but ... (school bell rings and the interview is cut short).
Heterosexual harassment of young girls is increasingly being recognised as a normalising feature of the social world of primary schooling as research problematizes assumptions that connect sexuality with adolescence.
‘We’re used to it’: normalisation of sexual harassment ER: Do boys pick on you like they do their friends? All: No. [...] Trudy: They punch you in the boobs. Annabel: Yeah they punch you in the boobs sometimes and pull your bra and that really kills. Trudy: Yeah, they go like that (shows me) ER: So what do you do to that Annabel: Nothing, we just walk away going like this (hugging chest), ‘ don't touch me’ … but/we don’t tell ER: You don't tell anyone? Annabel and Carla: No. ER: Why not? Kate: Because you ... they might think it’s a big deal Trudy: Because we're used to it.
Annabel: No, we do think it’s a big deal, but if we told someone like Miss Wilson, she’d just say ‘oh don't be so silly’ Trudy: They'd laugh. [...] Carla: And I'd be too embarrassed Annabel and Kate: Yeah. Trudy: Yeah and we don't like causing an argument, we don't … I don't like causing an argument. [...] ER: Don't you punch him back? (when he hits you) Trudy: No, coz you can't really Annabel: You don’t … Carla: They hurt you. ER: Sometimes/ Trudy: Girls really don't fight boys
Girls as subjects and objects of sexual desire & sexual violence • Presumed Innocence (compulsory non-sexual heterosexuality, intensified within primary school) • Normalisation of sexual agency (shift from sexual objects to sexual subjects, increasingly compulsory performance to signify as ‘girls’) • Normalisation of sexual harassment SCHIZOID DYNAMIC • Compulsory sexy femininities (‘pleasure’ and ‘power’) • Compulsory danger and risk (intensified by ‘sexy’?)
Norms may or may not be explicit, and when they operate as the normalizing principle in social practice, they usually remain implicit, difficult to read, discernible most clearly and dramatically in the effects they produce (Butler 2004: 41).
Effects … Policy is consistent in its failure to acknowledge how normative gender and developmental discourses (e.g. ‘play’, ‘innocence’) operate to: • naturalize gender/sexual violence (non-violence) • Undermine/silence claims of gender/sexual violence both at the level of disclosure and at the level of intervention
‘They call us girls’: boys as abject subjects • Intelligible masculinity: • football, fighting, emotionally-resilient (‘hard’), hyper-competitive (work and play), recognisable heterosexual (desiring and objectifying girls/women) • Unintelligible masculinity: • binary opposite or absence of these practices aligned boys with ‘girl-ness’ (misogyny) and ‘gay-ness’ (homophobia)
Boys and the schizoid tweenage heterosexual matrix Masculinity confirming (heterosexualizing) Masculinity denying (feminizing) Boys proximity to girls
‘It’s not fair on us, just because we’re not girls’ On gendered music tastes: Simon: The girls act differently, they kind of make fun of you/ Jay: The girls/ Toby: The girls like the music/ we like ER: So they like the stuff you like? Toby: Yeah. Simon: Precisely. Jay: And just because they’re girls and we’re boys doesn’t make us any different. Why can’t we support, like erm lets say I like Boyzone or something like that, why can’t we like them? ... It’s not fair on us/ just because we’re not girls, then we can’t like it Doing ‘boy’ through the subordination and objectification of girls and women.
Struggle to sustain non-normative masculinities The more boys were positioned as ‘feminine’, as ‘failed boys’, and ‘failed hetero-boys’ the more they seemed to traduce the feminine and reinstate the symbolic power, which as white middle-class boys, they felt entitled too.
Schizoid queering and norming?: heterosexual violence and homoeroticism Toby and Steven tell me that some of their favourite games when they were in Year 4 (age 9) were fantasy games and they still play them today. I ask them what did they used to play when they were younger. Steven replies: "Well we used to play one game where we were in my bedroom and we made a van out of stuff. We used to pretend that we broke into the school using the van and drove into the playground to kidnap the girls we used to fancy at the time ... after we got them into the van we pretended to have it off with them on the bed". Steven then continues to describe that they used to act 'having it off' with each other. One of them would pretend to be the girl and one the kidnapper. At this point, Simon interjects with "so did I" and informs the group that he and his best friend used to play the same game at home. They all fall about laughing.
Phallogocentric norms Undoing gender: The pain and powerlessness of gender troubling (social punishments of transgressing gender norms) and gender bending (investing in non-normative masculinities) work to undo gender (unintelligible subject). Fixing gender: To reinstate boy-ness (intelligibility) involved reconfiguring the subordinated relational Other (the girl/woman – the feminine).
Just bad-girl-bullies? Hayley: Kirsty just went up to Harriet and hit her on the back just because she was getting on her nerves and we were only laughing ER: In P.E.? All: Yeah/ Harriet: In our changing rooms ER: Kirsty went to hit Harriet All: Yeah/ Amanda: And I said no-one hits my friends so I had to/because no-one hits my friend Harriet: No and then you [Hayley] hit Kirsty as well didn't you/ Hayley: We beat her up in the playground didn't we (half-smiling, victorious) Amanda: No she came, you know she's tall, and she thinks she's really big and everything, she walks up to you like that and then she goes 'did you swear at me' or something like that/ Hayley: So we pushed her against the wall … we pushed her against the wall behind the bike sheds and we started hitting her.
Media moral panics: the rise of the girl bully Girls are now bigger bullies than boys (Guardian 2002) 40 girls suspended for mass intimidation (Telegraph, 2004) Rise of the bully girls (Daily Mail, 2005) Girls are the biggest bullies (Liverpool Echo 2007)
Violence as/of resistance to hyper-sexualised femininities Contrary to the boys assumptions that girls are free ‘to do what they want’ and transgress symbolic gender boundaries, to signify as ‘intelligible girls’ involved significant investments in cultural markers that signify dominant notions of heterosexual femininity (sexual subjects & sexual objects). - from the heterosexualization of boy- girl interactions (e.g. friendship, borrowing a pencil) - to the production and policing of their own and other bodies as heterosexual desirable commodities (‘sexy but not too sexy’)
Recouping sexualized/classed Others Harriet: Yeah, they all wear like mini-skirts to disco’s, but I don’t want to, I’m wearing my shorts-dungarees to the discos (laughs) ... and they’re (Kirsty and two friends) all wearing these mini- skirts. [...] Amanda: I’m just wearing my check T-shirt/ and shorts. Harriet: Yeah. Amanda: They wear, they wear like mini-skirts to impress the boys. ER: Do you think so? Amanda: Yeah and we, I’m just going in something that is comfortable, not so that boys’ll go out with me. [...] Harriet: She (Kisrty) likes to impress the boys, but me and Amanda aren’t, don’t really care. Amanda: Some people like something that’s comfy and then some people think ‘oh I’ve got to look like tarty/ Harriet: Yeah going around and getting all the boys around you. ER: So you don’t feel like that at all? Harriet: No, if boys like you then they like you for the way you are not coz of how you look or how fashionable you are.
No simple bad-girl bully/girl power discourse Both groups of girls are negotiating the classed dynamic of girls’ subjectification to the violence of regulatory norms. Violence’ invoked by girls as survival and resistance to being positioned within regulatory and punishing heterosexual matrix and its schizoid demands (sexual subject, sexual object and sexually innocent).
Resistance, Normativity and Otherization • Resistance operates to consolidate and reterritorialize other forms of dominance, differentiation and otherization. • Power and privilege in sustaining queer practices.
Normative Violence • Gender/sexual norms reconfigure some violences as non-violence. • Resistance and intervention to normative violence can consolidate other norms • Violence as performative effect of negotiating increasingly schizoid gender/sexual norms?
Schizoid subjects and ethical relationality Ethics of relationality: This would involve understanding and addressing the flows of power and the very real and symbolic violence embedded in how boys and girls negotiate the schizoid nature of being, doing and becoming gendered/classed/racialised/aged etc.
Multiple belongings • Children provide frequently compelling critical commentaries upon the struggles of living and being in the social. • On challenging heteronormativity: Julia: If it was sort of really weird for a girl to go out with a boy, what would you feel like if you wanted to go out with a boy? It wouldn’t be very nice would it if everyone was saying to you “urgh, that’s so disgusting”. You should let them do what they want to do.
There is a very strong case for anchoring the subject in an ethical and dialogic bond of its relation to others if we are to create a sustainable project of change to the many violences invoked and re-invoked in the making of gendered subjectivities within childhood and over the life course.
Publications • Renold, E. (2005) Girls, Boys and Junior Sexualities: exploring gender and sexual relations in the primary school (London: RoutledgeFalmer). • Renold, E. (2008) Beyond masculinity?: Re-theorising contemporary tomboyism in the schizoid space of innocent/(hetero)sexualized femininities, International Journal ofGirlhood Studies, 1 (2) • Renold, E. and Ringrose, J. (2008) Regulation and Rupture: mapping tween and teenage girls’ ‘resistance’ to the heterosexual matrix, Feminist Theory: An International Interdisciplinary Journal 9 (3): pp. 335-360 • Ringrose, J. and Renold, E. (under review for British Journal of Education Research) Normative cruelties and gender deviants: The performative effects of bully discourses for girls and boys in school.