Children Constructing Gender
MICHAEL A. MESSNER
University of Southern California
Recent research on children's worlds has revealed how gender varies in salience across social contexts. Building on this observation, the author examines a highly salient gendered moment of group life among four- and five-year-old children at a youth soccer opening ceremony, where gender boundaries were activated and enforced in ways that constructed an apparently “natural” categorical difference between the girls and the boys. The author employs a multilevel analytical framework to explore (1) how children “do gender” at the level of interaction or performance, (2) how the structured gender regime constrains and enables the actions of children and parents, and (3) how children's gendered immersion in popular culture provides symbolic resources with which children and parents actively create (or disrupt) categorical differences. The article ends with a discussion of how gendered interactions, structure, and cultural meanings are intertwined, in both mutually reinforcing and contradictory ways.