Talking Food, Doing Gender: The Social Construction Of Femininity Among Sixth-Grade Girls

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103rd Annual Meeting Of The American Psychological Association


Two questions serve as the focus in this study on factors affecting perception of femininity among pre-adolescent girls: (1) What are the meanings that girls themselves invested in gender and feminity? and (2) Through what social processes do girls negotiate meanings of gender and femininity? Researchers used a participant-observation study in which they could step into the world of those girls under consideration. Observations centered on sixth-grade girls (ages 11 and 12) in a public middle school in a middle-class community. All observations took place in school, primarily during lunch time, health class, gym class, and those times when girls were likely to discuss food, eating, weight, and dieting. Several themes arose from these conversations: (1) the significance and meaning of restrictive eating; (2) ways in which eating practices served to reinforce gender difference and gender segregation; and (3) the high effort girls invest in the heterosexual world. Some generalizations taken from these themes included the belief that girls fashion shared meaning of femininity through mundane conversations about everyday matters, that girls regulated one another's socialization, and that social relations and collective practices were important in shaping the meanings of gender and the conceptions of masculinity and femininity that children hold. (RJM)


Children, Dietetics, Females, Femininity, Food, Gender Issues, Grade 6, Group Dynamics, Intermediate Grades, Peer Groups, Peer Influence, Sex Role, Student Attitudes, Student Behavior, Student Subcultures


103rd Annual Meeting Of The American Psychological Association

Conference Dates

August 11-15, 1995

Conference Location

New York, NY