‘Real’ boys, sissies and tomboys: exploring the material-discursive intra-actions of football, bodies, and heteronormative discourses

Journal article

Kostas, M. 2021. ‘Real’ boys, sissies and tomboys: exploring the material-discursive intra-actions of football, bodies, and heteronormative discourses. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 43 (1), pp. 63-83. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2021.1999790
AuthorsKostas, M.

School playgrounds are critical arenas wherein children’s gender performances unfold, and ‘games’ of gender subordination or domination transpire. Theoretically predicated on Butlerian and Baradian gender performativity approaches, this qualitative study analyses how children negotiate and perform gender, exploring the material-discursive effects of human and non-human agents (e.g. football, sartorial elements) in their intra-actions with the body. Data were collected through observations and semi-structured interviews with 80 pupils from two Athenian elementary schools.

Findings showed that playgrounds were dichotomised into rigid gender zones, and the children reaffirmed their gender allegiances by forming gender-homogeneous playgroups and engaging in diametrical activities. Gender-zone transgressions were frequent, albeit with high social and emotional cost, especially for boys who were uninterested in football and lacked athletic dexterity. Finally, the results highlighted the effects of material-discursive forces in gender identity development and, specifically, how ‘successful’ masculinity, girly femininity, sissies, and tomboys emerged through the material-discursive intra-actions of playgrounds, bodies, football, and heteronormative discourses.

KeywordsSociology and Political Science; Education
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Journal citation43 (1), pp. 63-83
PublisherInforma UK Limited
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2021.1999790
Official URLhttps://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01425692.2021.1999790
Publication dates
Online11 Nov 2021
Print02 Jan 2022
Publication process dates
Accepted15 Oct 2021
Deposited12 Nov 2021
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Output statusPublished

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