Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools

by Karin A. Martin
Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools
Karin A. Martin
American Sociological Review
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Karin A. Martin

University of Michigan

Many feminist scholars argue that the seeming naturalness of gender differ- ences, particularly bodily difference, underlies gender inequality. Yet few researchers ask how these bodily differences are constructed. Through semistructured observation in five preschool classrooms, I examine one way that everyday movements, comportment, and use of physical space become gendered. I find that the hidden school curriculum that controls children S bodily practices in order to shape them cognitively serves another purpose as well. This hidden curriculum also turns children who are similar in bodily comportment, movement, and practice into girls and boys-children whose bodily practices differ I identify five sets of practices that create these dif-

ferences: dressing up, permitting relaxed behaviors or requiring formal be- haviors, controlling voices, verbal and physical instructions regarding children Sbodies by teachers, and physical interactions among children. This hidden curriculum that (partially) creates bodily differences between the genders also makes these physical differences appear and feel natural.

Social science research about bodies of- (Birdwhistell 1970; Henley 1977; Young ten focuses on women's bodies, particu- 1990). Some of these differences, particu- larly the parts of women's bodies that are larly differences in motor skills (e.g., jump- most explicitly different from men's-their ing, running, throwing) are seen in early reproductive capacities and sexuality (E. childhood (Thomas and French 1985).l Of Martin 1987; K. Martin 1996; but see course, within gender, we may find indi- Connell 1987, 1995). Men and women in the vidual differences, differences based on race, United States also hold and move their bod- class, and sexuality, and differences based on ies differently (Birdwhistell 1970; Henley size and shape of body. Yet, on average, men 1977; Young 1990); these differences are and women move differently. sometimes related to sexuality (Haug 1987) Such differences may seem trivial in the and sometimes not. On the whole, men and large scheme of gender inequality. However, women sit, stand, gesture, walk, and throw theoretical work by social scientists and differently. Generally, women's bodies are feminists suggests that these differences may confined, their movements restricted. For ex- be consequential. Bodies are (unfinished) re- ample, women take smaller steps than men, sources (Shilling 1993:103) that must be sit in closed positions (arms and legs crossed

There is little research on differences in things

across the body), take up less physical space

like step size and sitting positions among children;

than men, do not step, twist, or throw from

most of the traditional developmental research on

the shoulder when throwing a ball, and are

children looks at motor skills and the outcomes of generally tentative when using their bodies those skills. "Although the outcome reflects the movement process, it does not do so perfectly and

' Direct correspondence to Karin A. Martin, does not describe this process" (Thomas and Department of Sociology, 3012 LSA Building, French 1985:277). I am just as interested in dif- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-ferences in the process as the outcome (also see 1382 ( I am grateful for Young 1990). For a review of the developmental comments, insights, and assistance from Howard psychology literature on gender differences in Kimeldorf, Laurie Morgan, Adam Smargon, motor skills see Thomas and French 1985; for Emily Stenzel, and three anonymous ASR review-more recent examples in this literature, see ers, and for support from a Rackham Faculty Fel- Butterfield and Loovis 1993, Plimpton and lowship at the University of Michigan. Regimbal 1992, and Smoll and Schutz 1990.

American Sociological Review, 1998, Vol. 63 (August:494-5 1 1)

"trained, manipulated, cajoled, coaxed, orga- nized and in general disciplined" (Turner 1992: 15). We use our bodies to construct our means of living, to take care of each other, to pleasure each other. According to Turner, ". . . social life depends upon the successful presenting, monitoring and interpreting of bodies" (p. 15). Similarly, according to Fou- cault (1979), controlled and disciplined bod- ies do more than regulate the individual body. A disciplined body creates a context for social relations. Gendered (along with "raced" and "classed") bodies create particu- lar contexts for social relations as they sig- nal, manage, and negotiate information about power and status. Gender relations depend on the successful gender presentation, moni- toring, and interpretation of bodies (West and Zimmerman 1987). Bodies that clearly delin- eate gender status facilitate the maintenance of the gender hierarchy.

Our bodies are also one site of gender. Much postmodern feminist work (Butler 1990, 1993) suggests that gender is a perfor- mance. Microsociological work (West and Zimmerman 1987) suggests that gender is something that is "done." These two con- cepts, "gender performance" and "doing gen- der," are similar-both suggest that man- aged, adorned, fashioned, properly comported and moving bodies establish gender and gender relations.

Other feminist theorists (Connell 1987, 1995; Young 1990) argue that gender rests not only on the surface of the body, in per- formance and doing, but becomes embod- ied-becomes deeply part of whom we are physically and psychologically. According to Connell, gender becomes embedded in body postures, musculature, and tensions in our bodies.

The social definition of men as holders of power is translated not only into mental body- images and fantasies, but into muscle tensions, posture, the feel and texture of the body. This is one of the main ways in which the power of men becomes naturalized. . . . (Connell 1987:85)

Connell (1995) suggests that masculine gender is partly a feel to one's body and that bodies are often a source of power for men. Young (1990), however, argues that bodies serve the opposite purpose for women- women's bodies are often sources of anxiety and tentativeness. She suggests that women's lack of confidence and agency are embodied and stem from an inability to move confi- dently in space, to take up space, to use one's body to its fullest extent. Young (1990) sug- gests "that the general lack of confidence that we [women] frequently have about our cognitive or leadership abilities is traceable in part to an original doubt of our body's ca- pacity" (p. 156). Thus, these theorists sug- gest that gender differences in minute bodily behaviors like gesture, stance, posture, step, and throwing are significant to our under- standing of gendered selves and gender in- equality. ~hls feminist theory, however, fo- cuses on adult bodies.

Theories of the body need gendering, and feminist theories of gendered bodies need "childrening" or accounts of development. How do adult gendered bodies become gen- dered, if they are not naturally so? Scholars run the risk of continuing to view gendered bodies as natural if they ignore the processes that produce gendered adult bodies. Gen- dering of the body in childhood is the foun- dation on which further gendering of the body occurs throughout the life course. The gendering of children's bodies makes gender differences feel and appear natural, which al- lows for such bodily differences to emerge throughout the life course.

I suggest that the hidden school curriculum of disciplining the body is gendered and con- tributes to the embodiment of gender in childhood, making gendered bodies appear and feel natural. Sociologists of education have demonstrated that schools have hidden curriculums (Giroux and Purpel 1983; Jack- son 1968). Hidden curriculums are covert lessons that schools teach, and they are often a means of social control. These curriculums include teaching about work differentially by class (Anyon 1980; Bowles and Gintis 1976; Carnoy and Levin 1985), political socializa- tion (Wasburn 1986), and training in obedi- ence and docility (Giroux and Purpel 1983). More recently, some theorists and research- ers have examined the curriculum that disci- plines the body (Carere 1987; Foucault 1979; McLaren 1986). This curriculum demands the practice of bodily control in congruence with the goals of the school as an institution. It reworks the students from the outside in on the presumption that to shape the body is to shape the mind (Carere 1987). In such a curriculum teachers constantly monitor kids' bodily movements, comportment, and prac- tice~.~

Kids begin their day running wildly about the school grounds. Then this hidden curriculum funnels the kids into line, through the hallways, quietly into a classroom, sitting upright at their desks, focused at the front of the room, "ready to learn" (Carere 1987; McLaren 1986). According to Carere (1987), this curriculum of disciplining the body serves the curriculums that seek to sha~e the mind and renders children physically ;ady for cognitive learning.

I suggest that this hidden curriculum that controls children's bodily practices serves also to turn kids who are similar in bodily comportment, movement, and practice into girls and boys, children whose bodily prac- tices are different. Schools are not the only producers of these differences. While the process ordinarily begins in the family, the schools' hidden curriculum further facilitates and encourages the construction of bodily differences between the genders and makes these physical differences appear and feel natural. Finally, this curriculum may be more or less hidden depending on the particular preschool and particular teachers. Some schools and teachers may see teaching chil- dren to behave like "young ladies" and "young gentlemen" as an explicit part of their curriculums.

The data for this study come from extensive and detailed semistructured field observa- tions of five preschool classrooms of three to five-year-olds in a midwestern city.3 Four of the classrooms were part of a preschool (Preschool A) located close to the campus of a large university. A few of the kids were children of faculty members, more were chil- dren of staff and administrators, and many

I use "kids" and "children" interchangeably; children themselves prefer the term "kids" (Thorne 1993:9).

There were three physical locations for the classrooms, but two of the classrooms had both morning and afternoon sessions with a different teacher and different student composition, result- ing in five sets of teachers and students.

were not associated with the university. Many of the kids who attended Preschool A attended part-time. Although teachers at this school paid some attention to issues of race and gender equity, issues of diversity were not as large a part of the curriculum as they are at some preschools (Jordan and Cowan 1995; Van Ausdale and Feagin 1996). The fifth classroom was located at Preschool B, a preschool run by a Catholic church in the same city as Preschool A. The kids who at- tended Preschool B were children of young working professionals, many of whom lived in the vicinity of the preschool. These chil- dren attended preschool "full-timen-five days a week for most of the day.

The curriculums and routines of the two preschools were similar with two excep- tions. First, there was some religious in- struction in Preschool B, although many of the kids were not Catholic. Preschool B required children to pray before their snack, and the children's activities focused more on the religious aspects of Christian holi- days than did the activities of children in Preschool A. For example, at Christmas, teachers talked to the kids about the birth of baby Jesus. At Preschool A there was little religious talk and more talk about decorat- ing Christmas trees, making cards, and so on. The second difference between the two preschools is that Preschool B had some ex- plicit rules that forbade violent actions at school. Posted on the wall of the playroom was the following sign (which few of the preschoolers could read)

    No wrestling.

    No violent play, killing games, kicking, ka- rate, etc.

    Bikes belong on the outside of the gym.

    No crashing bikes.

    Houses are for playing in not climbing on.

    Older children are off bikes when toddlers arrive.

    Balls should be used for catching, rolling, tossing-not slamming at people.

    Adults and children will talk with each other about problems and not shout across the room.

    Use equipment appropriately.

Such rules were usually directed at boys, al- though they were not enforced consistently.

Preschool A also had some of these rules, but they were not as explicit or as clearly out- lined for the teachers or the kids. For ex- ample, teachers would usually ask kids to talk about their problenls or disputes (rule 8) at both schools. However, rule 2 was not in effect at Preschool A unless a game got "out of controln-became too loud, too disrup- tive, or "truly" violent instead of "pretend" violent. The data from these preschools rep- resent some ways that schools may discipline children's bodies in gendered ways. As Suransky's (1982) study of five preschools suggests, the schools' and teachers' philoso- phies, and styles, and cultural context make dramatic differences in the content and ex- perience of a day at preschool.

A total 112 children and 14 different teachers (five head teachers and nine aides) were observed in these classroom^.^ All teachers were female. Forty-two percent of the kids were girls and 58 percent were boys, and they made up similar proportions in each classroom. There were 12 Asian or Asian American children, 3 Latinola chil- dren, and 4 African American children. The remaining children were white. The children primarily came from middle-class families.

A research assistant and I observed in these classrooms about three times a week for eight months. Our observations were as unobtrusive as possible, and we interacted little with the kids, although on occasion a child would ask what we were doing or would sit next to us and "write" their own "notes." We varied our observation tech- niques between unstructured field observa- tion, in which we observed the classroom in a holistic manner and recorded everyday be- havior, and more structured techniques, in which we observed one part of the classroom (the block area, the dress-up area), one par- ticular child (25 children were observed this way), one particular teacher (seven teachers were observed this way), or one set of chil- dren (boys who always play with blocks, the kids that play with the hamsters, the kids that played at the water table a lot-most chil-

Classrooms usually contained 15 to 18 children on a given day. However, since some kids came to preschool five days a week, some three, and some two, a total of 112 different kids were observed.

dren were observed this way). We observed girls and boys for equal amounts of time, and we heeded Thorne's (1993) caution about the "big man bias" in field research and were careful not to observe only the most active, outgoing, "popular" kids.

We focused on the children's physicality- body movement, use of space, and the physi- cal contact among kids or between kids and teachers. Our field notes were usually not about "events" that occurred, but about ev- eryday physical behavior and interaction and its regulation. Field notes were coded using the qualitative software program Hyper- Research. Categories that were coded emerged from the data and were not prede- termined categories. Excerpts from field notes are presented throughout and are ex- amples of representative patterns in the data. Tables presenting estimates of the numbers of times particular phenomena were observed provide a context for the field note excerpts. The data are subject to the observ- ers' attention and accurate descriptions in the field notes. For instance, most micro and "neutral" physical contact between kids or among teachers and kids is probably under- estimated (e.g., shoulders touching during circle time, knees bumping under the snack table). Future research might use video re- cordings to assess such micro events.

Children's bodies are disciplined by schools. Children are physically active, and institu- tions like schools impose disciplinary con- trols that regulate children's bodies and pre- pare children for the larger social world. While this disciplinary control produces doc- ile bodies (Foucault 1979), it also produces gendered bodies. As these disciplinary prac- tices operate in different contexts, some bod- ies become more docile than others. I examine how the following practices contribute to a gendering of children's bodies in pre- school: the effects of dressing-up or bodily adornment, the gendered nature of formal and relaxed behaviors, how the different re- strictions on girls' and boys' voices limit their physicality, how teachers instruct girls' and boys' bodies, and the gendering of physi- cal interactions between children and teach- ers and among the children themselves.
Bodily Adornment: Dressing Up

Perhaps the most explicit way that children's bodies become gendered is through their clothes and other bodily adornments. Here I discuss how parents gender their children through their clothes, how children's dress- up play experiments with making bodies feminine and masculine, and how this play, when it is gender normative, shapes girls' and boys' bodies differently, constraining girls' physicality.

Dressing up (I). The clothes that parents send kids to preschool in shape children's experiences of their bodies in gendered ways.5 Clothes, particularly their color, sig- nify a child's gender; gender in preschool is in fact color-coded. On average, about 61 percent of the girls wore pink clothing each day (Table 1). Boys were more likely to wear primary colors, black, florescent green, and orange. Boys never wore pink.

The teacher is asking each kid during circle (the part of the day that includes formal in- struction by the teacher while the children sit in a circle) what their favorite color is. Adam says black. Bill says "every color that's not pink." (Five-year-olds)

Fourteen percent of three-year-old girls wore dresses each day compared to 32 percent of five-year-old girls (Table 1).Wearing a dress limited girls' physicality in preschool. However, it is not only the dress itself, but knowledge about how to behave in a dress that is restrictive. Many girls already knew that some behaviors were not allowed in a dress. This knowledge probably comes from the families who dress their girls in dresses.

Vicki, wearing leggings and a dress-like shirt, is leaning over the desk to look into a "tunnel" that some other kids have built. As she leans, her dresslshirt rides up exposing her back. Jen- nifer (another child) walks by Vicki and as she does she pulls Vicki's shirt back over her bare skin and gives it a pat to keep it in place. It looks very much like something one's mother might do. (Five-year-olds)

Parents are not solely responsible for what their children wear to preschool, as they are con- strained by what is available and affordable in children's clothing. More important, children, es- pecially at ages three to five, want some say in what they wear to preschool and may insist on some outfits and object to others.

Table 1. Observations of Girls Wearing Dresses and the Color Pink: Five Preschool
Observation     N     Percent
Girls wearing something pink     54     61
Girls wearing dresses     2 1     24
3-year-old girls     6     14
5-year-old girls     15     32
Number of observations     89     100
3-year-old girls     42     47
5-year-old girls     47     53

Note: In 12 observation sessions, what the chil- dren were wearing, including color of their clothing, was noted. The data in Table 1 come from coded field notes. There were no instances of boys wear- ing pink or dresses, and no age differences among girls in wearing the color pink.

Four girls are sitting at a table-Cathy, Kim, Danielle, and Jesse. They are cutting play money out of paper. Cathy and Danielle have on overalls and Kim and Jesse have on dresses. Cathy puts her feet up on the table and crosses her legs at the ankle; she leans back in her chair and continues cutting her money. Danielle imi- tates her. They look at each other and laugh. They put their shoulders back, posturing, hav- ing fun with this new way of sitting. Kim and Jesse continue to cut and laugh with them, but do not put their feet up. (Five-year-olds)

Dresses are restrictive in other ways as well. They often are worn with tights that are ex- perienced as uncomfortable and constrain- ing. I observed girls constantly pulling at and rearranging their tights, trying to untwist them or pull them up. Because of their dis- comfort, girls spent much time attuned to and arranging their clothing andlor their bodies.

Dresses also can be lifted up, an embar- rassing thing for five-year-olds if done pur- posely by another child. We witnessed this on only one occasion-a boy pulled up the hem of a girl's skirt up. The girl protested and the teacher told him to stop and that was the end of it. Teachers, however, lifted up girls' dresses frequently-to see if a child was dressed warmly enough, while reading a book about dresses, to see if a child was wet. Usually this was done without asking the child and was more management of the child rather than an interaction with her. Teachers were much more likely to manage girls and their clothing this way-rearranging their clothes, tucking in their shirts, fixing a ponytail gone a~tray.~

Such management of- ten puts girls' bodies under the control of an- other and calls girls' attentions to their ap- pearances and bodily adornments.

Dressing up (2). Kids like to play dress-up in preschool, and all the classrooms had a dress-up corner with a variety of clothes, shoes, pocketbooks, scarves, and hats for dressing up. Classrooms tended to have more women's clothes than men's, but there were some of both, as well as some gender-neu- tral clothes-capes, hats, and vests that were not clearly for men or women-and some items that were clearly costumes, such as masks of cats and dogs and clip-on tails. Girls tended to play dress-up more than boys-over one-half of dressing up was done by girls. Gender differences in the amount of time spent playing dress-up seemed to in- crease from age three to age five. We only observed the five-year-old boys dressing up or using clothes or costumes in their play three times, whereas three-year-old boys dressed up almost weekly. Five-year-old boys also did not dress up elaborately, but used one piece of clothing to animate their play. Once Phil wore large, men's winter ski gloves when he played monster. Holding up his now large, chiseled looking hands, he stomped around the classroom making mon- ster sounds. On another occasion Brian, a child new to the classroom who attended only two days a week, walked around by himself for a long time carrying a silver pocketbook and hovering first at the edges of girls' play and then at the edges of boys' play. On the third occasion, Sam used ballet slippers to animate his play in circle.

6All of my observations of this uninteractional management were with three-year-olds. Teachers seemed to manage children's bodies more di- rectly and with less interaction at this age than with the five-year-olds, perhaps because they could. Five-year-olds demanded explanations and interaction. This result may also be confounded with race. On at least two occasions when teach- ers treated girls this way, the girls were Asian stu- dents who understood little English. The teachers generally tended to interact less with non-English speaking kids and to talk about them as if they were not there more than they did with those who spoke English.

When kids dressed up, they played at be- ing a variety of things from kitty cats and puppies to monsters and superheroes to "fancy ladies." Some of this play was not ex- plicitly gendered. For example, one day in November I observed three girls wearing "turkey hats" they had made. They spent a long time gobbling at each other and playing at being turkeys, but there was nothing ex- plicitly gendered about their play. However, this kind of adornment was not the most fre- quent type. Children often seemed to experi- ment with both genders when they played dress-up. The three-year-olds tended to be more experimental in their gender dress-up than the five-year-olds, perhaps because teachers encouraged it more at this age.

Everett and Juan are playing dress-up. Both have on "dresses" made out of material that is wrapped around them like a toga or sarong. Everett has a pocketbook and a camera over his shoulder and Juan has a pair of play binoculars on a strap over his. Everett has a scarf around his head and cape on. Juan has on big, green sunglasses. Pam (teacher) tells them, "You guys look great! Go look in the mirror." They shuffle over to the full-length mirror and look at themselves and grin, and make adjustments to their costumes. (Three-year-olds)

The five-year-old children tended to dress-up more gender normatively. Girls in particular played at being adult women.

Frances is playing dress-up. She is walking in red shoes and carrying a pocketbook. She and two other girls, Jen and Rachel, spend between five and ten minutes looking at and talking about the guinea pigs. Then they go back to dress-up. Frances and Rachel practice walking in adult women's shoes. Their body movements are not a perfect imitation of an adult woman's walk in high heels, yet it does look like an attempt to imitate such a walk. Jen and Rachel go back to the guinea pigs, and Frances, now by herself, is turning a sheer, frilly laven- der shirt around and around and around trying to figure out how to put it on. She gets it on and looks at herself in the mirror. She adds a sheer pink and lavender scarf and pink shoes. Looks in the mirror again. She walks, twisting her body-shoulders, hips, shoulders, hips- not quite a (stereotypic) feminine walk, but close. Walking in big shoes makes her take little bitty steps, like walking in heels. She shuffles in the too big shoes out into the middle of the classroom and stops by a teacher. Laura (a teacher) says, "don't you look fancy, all pink and purple." Frances smiles up at her and walks off, not twisting so much this time. She's goes back to the mirror and adds a red scarf. She looks in the mirror and is holding her arms across her chest to hold the scarf on (she can't tie it) and she is holding it with her chin too. She shuffles to block area where Jen is and then takes the clothes off and puts them back in dress-up area. (Five-year-olds)

I observed not only the children who dressed up, but the reactions of those around them to their dress. This aspect proved to be one of the most interesting parts of kids' dress-up play. Children interpreted each others' bodily adornments as gendered, even when other in- terpretations were plausible. For instance, one day just before Halloween, Kim dressed up and was "scary" because she was dressed as a woman:

Kim has worn a denim skirt and tights to school today. Now she is trying to pull on a ballerina costume-pink and ruffly-over her clothes. She has a hard time getting it on. It's tight and wrinkled up and twisted when she gets it on. Her own clothes are bunched up un- der it. Then she puts on a mask-a woman's face. The mask material itself is a clear plastic so that skin shows through, but is sculpted to have a very Anglo nose and high cheek bones. It also has thin eyebrows, blue eye shadow, blush, and lipstick painted on it. The mask is bigger than Kim's face and head. Kim looks at herself in the mirror and spends the rest of the play time with this costume on. Intermittently she picks up a plastic pumpkin since it is Hal- loween season and carries that around too. Kim walks around the classroom for a long time and then runs through the block area wearing this costume. Jason yells, "Ugh! There's a woman!" He and the other boys playing blocks shriek and scatter about the block area. Kim runs back to the dress-up area as they yell. Then throughout the afternoon she walks and skips through the center of the classroom, and every time she comes near the block boys one of them yells, "Ugh, there's the woman again!" The teacher even picks up on this and says to Kim twice, "Woman, slow down." (Five-year- olds)

The boys' shrieks indicated that Kim was scary, and this scariness is linked in their comments about her being a woman. It seems equally plausible that they could have interpreted her scary dress as a "trick-o- treater," given that it was close to Halloween and she was carrying a plastic pumpkin that kids collect candy in, or that they might have labeled her a dancer or ballerina because she was wearing a tutu. Rather, her scary dress- up was coded for her by others as "woman."

Other types of responses to girls dressing up also seemed to gender their bodies and to constrain them. For example, on two occa- sions I saw a teacher tie the arms of girls' dress-up shirts together so that the girls could not move their arms. They did this in fun, of course, and untied them as soon as the girls wanted them to, but I never witnessed this constraining of boys' bodies in play.

Thus, how parents gender children's bod- ies through dressing them and the ways chil- dren experiment with bodily adornments by dressing up make girls' and boys' bodies dif- ferent and seem different to those around them. Adorning a body often genders it ex- plicitly-signifies that it is a feminine or masculine body. Adornments also make girls movements smaller, leading girls to take up less space with their bodies and disallowing some types of rnovement~.~
Formal and Relaxed Behaviors

Describing adults, Goffman (1959) defines front stage and backstage behavior:

The backstage language consists of reciprocal first-naming, co-operative decision making, profanity, open sexual remarks, elaborate grip- ing, smoking, rough informal dress, "sloppy" sitting and standing posture, use of dialect or substandard speech, mumbling and shouting, playful aggressivity and "kidding," inconsider- ateness for the other in minor but potentially symbolic acts, minor physical self-involve- ments such as humming, whistling, chewing, nibbling, belching, and flatulence. The front stage behavior language can be taken as the absence (and in some sense the opposite) of this. (P. 128)

Thus, one might not expect much front stage or formal behavior in preschool, and often, especially during parents' drop-off and pick-up time, this was the case. But a given region of social life may sometimes be a

'Although girls could take up more space with their dressing up-by twirling in a skirt or wear- ing large brimmed hats or carrying large pocket- books-we did not observe this behavior at either preschool.
Type of Behavior Formal Relaxed     N     Boys Percent     N     Girls Percent     N     Total Percent

Note: Structuredlformal behaviors were coded from references in the field notes to formal postures, po- lite gestures, etc. Relaxedlinformal behaviors were coded from references to informal postures, backstage

demeanors. etc.

backstage and sometimes a front stage. I identified several behaviors that were ex- pected by the teachers, required by the insti- tution, or that would be required in many in- stitutional settings, as formal behavior. Rais- ing one's hand, sitting "on your bottom" (not on your knees, not squatting, not lying down, not standing) during circle, covering one's nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, or sitting upright in a chair are all formal be- haviors of preschools, schools, and to some extent the larger social world. Crawling on the floor, yelling, lying down during teach- ers' presentations, and running through the classroom are examples of relaxed behaviors that are not allowed in preschool, schools, work settings, and many institutions of the larger social world (Henley 1977). Not all behaviors fell into one of these classifica- tions. When kids were actively engaged in playing at the water table, for example, much of their behavior was not clearly formal or relaxed. I coded as formal and relaxed be- haviors those behaviors that would be seen as such if done by adults (or children in many cases) in other social institutions for which children are being prepared.

In the classrooms in this study, boys were allowed and encouraged to pursue relaxed behaviors in a variety of ways that girls were not. Girls were more likely to be encouraged to pursue more formal behaviors. Eighty-two percent of all formal behaviors observed in these classrooms were done by girls, and only 18 percent by boys. However, 80 percent of the behaviors coded as relaxed were boys' behaviors (Table 2).

These observations do not tell us why boys do more relaxed behaviors and girls do more formal behaviors. Certainly many parents and others would argue that boys are more predisposed to sloppy postures, crawling on the floor, and so on. However, my observa- tions suggest that teachers help construct this gender difference in bodily beha~iors.~ Teachers were more likely to reprimand girls for relaxed bodily movements and comport- ment. Sadker and Sadker (1994) found a similar result with respect to hand-raising for answering teachers' questions-if hand rais- ing is considered a formal behavior and call- ing out a relaxed behavior, they find that boys are more likely to call out without rais- ing their hands and demand attention:

Sometimes what they [boys] say has little or nothing to do with the teacher's questions. Whether male comments are insightful or irrel- evant, teachers respond to them. However, when girls call out, there is a fascinating occurrence: Suddenly the teacher remembers the rule about raising your hand before you talk. (Sadker and Sadker 1994:43)

This gendered dynamic of hand-raising ex- ists even in preschool, although our field notes do not provide enough systematic re- cording of hand-raising to fully assess it. However, such a dynamic applies to many bodily movements and comportment:

The kids are sitting with their legs folded in a circle listening to Jane (the teacher) talk about dinosaurs. ("Circle" is the most formal part of their preschool education each day and is like sitting in class.) Sam has the ballet slippers on his hands and is clapping them together really

Throughout the paper, when I use the term "constructed," I do not mean that preschools cre- ate these differences or that they are the only ori- gins of these differences. Clearly, children come to preschool with some gender differences that were created in the family or other contexts out- side of preschool. My argument is that preschools reinforce these differences and build (construct) further elaborations of difference upon what chil- dren bring to preschool.

loudly. He stops and does a half-somersault backward out of the circle and stays that way with his legs in the air. Jane says nothing and continues talking about dinosaurs. Sue, who is sitting next to Sam, pushes his leg out of her way. Sam sits up and is now busy trying to put the ballet shoes on over his sneakers, and he is looking at the other kids and laughing, trying to get a reaction. He is clearly not paying at- tention to Jane's dinosaur story and is distract- ing the other kids. Sam takes the shoes and claps them together again. Jane leans over and tells him to give her the shoes. Sam does, and then lies down all stretched out on the floor, arms over his head, legs apart. Adam is also lying down now, and Keith is on Sara's (the teacher's aide) lap. Rachel takes her sweater off and folds it up. The other children are fo- cused on the teacher. After about five minutes, Jane tells Sam "I'm going to ask you to sit up." (She doesn't say anything to Adam.) But he doesn't move. Jane ignores Sam and Adam and continues with the lesson. Rachel now lies down on her back. After about ten seconds Jane says, "Sit up, Rachel." Rachel sits up and lis- tens to what kind of painting the class will do today. (Five-year-olds)

Sam's behavior had to be more disruptive, extensive, and informal than Rachel's for the teacher to instruct him and his bodily move- ments to be quieter and for him to comport his body properly for circle. Note that the boys who were relaxed but not disruptive were not instructed to sit properly. It was also common for a teacher to tell a boy to stop some bodily behavior and for the boy to ignore the request and the teacher not to en- force her instructions, although she fre- quently repeated them.

The gendering of body movements, com- portment, and acquisitions of space also hap- pens in more subtle ways. For example, of- ten when there was "free" time, boys spent much more time in child-structured activities than did girls. In one classroom of five-year- olds, boys' "free" time was usually spent building with blocks, climbing on blocks, or crawling on the blocks or on the floor as they worked to build with the blocks whereas girls spent much of their free time sitting at tables cutting things out of paper, drawing, sorting small pieces of blocks into catego- ries, reading stories, and so on. Compared to boys, girls rarely crawled on the floor (ex- cept when they played kitty cats). Girls and boys did share some activities. For example, painting and reading were frequently shared, and the three-year-olds often played at fish- ing from a play bridge together. Following is a list from my field notes of the most com- mon activities boys and girls did during the child-structured activity periods of the day during two randomly picked weeks of ob- serving:

Boys: played blocks (floor), played at the wa- ter table (standing and splashing), played superhero (running around and in play house), played with the car garage (floor), painted at the easel (standing).

Girls: played dolls (sitting in chairs and walking around), played dress-up (stand- ing), coloring (sitting at tables), read sto- ries (sitting on the couch), cut out pic- tures (sitting at tables).

Children sorted themselves into these ac- tivities and also were sorted (or not unsorted) by teachers. For example, teachers rarely told the three boys that always played with the blocks that they had to choose a different activity that day.9 Teachers also encouraged girls to sit at tables by suggesting table ac- tivities for them-in a sense giving them less "free" time or structuring their time more.

It's the end of circle, and Susan (teacher) tells the kids that today they can paint their dino- saur eggs if they want to. There is a table set up with paints and brushes for those who want to do that. The kids listen and then scatter to their usual activities. Several boys are playing blocks, two boys are at the water table. Several girls are looking at the hamsters in their cage

Once a teacher put a line of masking tape on the floor to show where the "block corner" ended because the boys playing with the blocks took up one whole end of the classroom. However, this did not work. As the teacher was making the line on the floor, the boys told her to extend it further outward (which she did) so they could have room to play in an area in which they did not usually play, and in the end the line was ignored. The same teacher tried on another occasion to tell the boys who played with the blocks that they had to play with Legos instead. They did this, and two girls began playing with the blocks; but in short order two of the boys who were supposed to be playing Legos asked the girls if they could play with them, instead of asking the teacher. There was about 10 minutes of mixed gender play be- fore the girls abandoned the blocks.

and talking about them, two girls are sitting and stringing plastic beads. Susan says across the classroom, "I need some paintcrs, Joy, Amy, Kendall?" The girls leave the hamster cage and go to the painting table. Susan pulls out a chair so Joy can sit down. She tclls them about the painting project. (Five-year-olds)

These girls spent much of the afternoon en- joying themselves painting their eggs. Simon and Jack joined them temporarily, but then went back to activities that were not teacher- structured.

Events like these that happen on a regular basis over an extended period of early child- hood serve to gender children's bodies-boys come to take up more room with their bodies, to sit in more open positions, and to feel freer to do what they wish with their bodies, even in relatively formal settings. Henley (1977) finds that among adults men generally are more relaxed than women in their demeanor and women tend to have tenser postures. The looseness of body-fo- cused functions (e.g., belching) is also more open to men than to women. In other words, men are more likely to engage in relaxed de- meanors, postures, and behaviors. These data suggest that this gendering of bodies into more formal and more relaxed moLements, postures, and comportment is (at least par- tially) constructed in early childhood by in- stitutions like preschools.
Controlling Voice

Speaking (or yelling as is often the case with kids) is a bodily experience that involves mouth, throat, chest, diaphragm, and facial expression. Thorne (1993) writes that an el- ementary school teacher once told her that kids "reminded her of bumblebees, an apt image of swarms, speed, and constant mo- tion" (p. 15). Missing from this metaphor is the buzz of the bumblebees, as a constant hum of voices comes from children's play and activities. Kids' play that is giggly, loud, or whispery makes it clear that voice is part of their bodily experiences.

Voice is an aspect of bodily experience that teachers and schools are interested in disciplining. Quiet appears to be required for learning in classrooms. Teaching appro- priate levels of voice, noise, and sound dis- ciplines children's bodies and prepares them

Table 3. Observations of Teachers Telling Chil- dren to Be Quiet, by Gender of Child:
Five Preschool Classrooms
Gender     N     Percent
Girls     45     73
Boys     16     26
Total     61     100

Note: Coded from references in the field notes to instances of teachers quieting children's voices.

"from the inside" to learn the school's cur- riculums and to participate in other social institutions.

The disciplining of children's voices is gendered. I found that girls were told to be quiet or to repeat a request in a quieter, "nicer" voice about three times more often than were boys (see Table 3). This finding is particularly interesting because boys' play was frequently much noisier. However, when boys were noisy, they were also often doing other behaviors the teacher did not allow, and perhaps the teachers focused less on voice because they were more concerned with stopping behaviors like throwing or running.

Additionally, when boys were told to "quiet down" they were told in large groups, rarely as individuals. When they were being loud and were told to be quiet, boys were of- ten in the process of enacting what Jordan and Cowan (1995) call warrior narratives:

A group of three boys is playing with wooden doll figures. The dolls are jumping off block towers, crashing into each other. Kevin de- clares loudly, "I'm the grown up." Keith re- plies, "I'm the police." They knock the figures into each other and push each other away. Phil grabs a figure from Keith. Keith picks up two more and bats one with the other toward Phil. Now all three boys are crashing the figures into each other, making them dive off towers. They're having high Tun. Two more boys join the group. There are now five boys playing with the wooden dolls and the blocks. They're breaking block buildings; things are crashing; they're grabbing each other's figures and yell- ing loudly. Some are yelling "fire, fire" as their figures jump off the block tower. The room is very noisy. (Five-year-olds)

Girls as individuals and in groups were fre- quently told to lower their voices. Later that same afternoon:

During snack time the teacher asks the kids to tell her what they like best in the snack mix. Hillary says, "Marshmallows!" loudly, vigor- ously, and with a swing of her arm. The teacher turns to her and says, "I'm going to ask you to say that quietly," and Hillary repeats it in a softer voice. (Five-year-olds)

These two observations represent a promi- nent pattern in the data. The boys playing with the wooden figures were allowed to ex- press their fun and enthusiasm loudly whereas Hillary could not loudly express her love of marshmallows. Girls' voices are dis- ciplined to be softer and in many ways less physical-toning down their voices tones down their physicality. Hillary emphasized "marshmallows" with a large swinging ges- ture of her arm the first time she answered the teacher's question, but after the teacher asked her to say it quietly she made no ges- tures when answering. Incidents like these that are repeated often in different contexts restrict girls' physicality.

It could be argued that context rather than gender explains the difference in how much noise is allowed in these situations. Teachers may expect more formal behavior from chil- dren sitting at the snack table than they do during semistructured activities. However, even during free play girls were frequently told to quiet down:

Nancy, Susan, and Amy are jumping in little jumps, from the balls of their feet, almost like skipping rope without the rope. Their mouths are open and they're making a humming sound, looking at each other and giggling. Two of them keep sticking their tongues out. They seem to be having great fun. The teacher's aide sitting on the floor in front of them turns around and says "Shhh, find something else to play. Why don't you play Simon Says?" All three girls stop initially. Then Amy jumps a few more times, but without making the noise. (Five-year-olds)

By limiting the girls' voices, the teacher also limits the girls' jumping and their fun. The girls learn that their bodies are supposed to be quiet, small, and physically constrained. Although the girls did not take the teacher's suggestion to play Simon Says (a game where bodies can be moved only quietly at the order of another), they turn to play that explores quietness yet tries to maintain some of the fun they were having:

Nancy, Susan, and Amy begin sorting a pile of little-bitty pieces of puzzles, soft blocks, Legos, and so on into categories to "help" the teacher who told them to be quiet and to clean up. The three of them and the teacher are stand- ing around a single small desk sorting these pieces. (Meanwhile several boys are playing blocks and their play is spread all over the middle of the room.) The teacher turns her at- tention to some other children. The girls con- tinue sorting and then begin giggling to each other. As they do, they cover their mouths. This becomes a game as one imitates the other. Su- san says something nonsensical that is sup- posed to be funny, and then she "hee-hees" while covering her mouth and looks at Nancy, to whom she has said it, who covers her mouth and "hee-hees" back. They begin putting their handslfingers cupped over their mouths and whispering in each others' ears and then gig- gling quietly. They are intermittently sorting the pieces and playing the whispering game. (Five-year-olds)

Thus, the girls took the instruction to be quiet and turned it into a game. This new game made their behaviors smaller, using hands and mouths rather than legs, feet, and whole bodies. Whispering became their fun, instead of jumping and humming. Besides requiring quiet, this whispering game also was gendered in another way: The girls' be- havior seemed to mimic stereotypical female gossiping. They whispered in twos and looked at the third girl as they did it and then changed roles. Perhaps the instruction to be quiet, combined with the female role of "helping," led the girls to one of their under- standings of female quietness-gossip-a type of feminine quietness that is perhaps most fun.

Finally, by limiting voice teachers limit one of girls' mechanisms for resisting others' mistreatment of them. Frequently, when a girl had a dispute with another child, teach- ers would ask the girl to quiet down and solve the problem nicely. Teachers also asked boys to solve problems by talking, but they usually did so only with intense disputes and the instruction to talk things out never car- ried the instruction to talk quietly.

Keith is persistently threatening to knock over the building that Amy built. He is running around her with a "flying" toy horse that comes dangerously close to her building each time. She finally says, "Stop it!" in a loud voice. The teacher comes over and asks, "How do we say that, Amy?" Amy looks at Keith and says more softly, "Stop trying to knock it over." The teacher tells Keith to find some place else to play. (Five-year-olds)

Cheryl and Julie are playing at the sand table. Cheryl says to the teacher loudly, "Julie took mine away!" The teacher tells her to say it more quietly. Cheryl repeats it less loudly. The teacher tells her, "Say it a little quieter." Cheryl says it quieter, and the teacher says to Julie, "Please don't take that away from her." (Three- year-olds)

We know that women are reluctant to use their voices to protect themselves from a va- riety of dangers. The above observations suggest that the denial of women's voices be- gins at least as early as preschool, and that restricting voice, usually restricts movement as well.

Finally, there were occasions when the quietness requirement did not restrict girls' bodies. One class of three-year-olds included two Asian girls, Diane and Sue, who did not speak English. Teachers tended to talk about them and over them but rarely to them. Al- though these girls said little to other children and were generally quiet, they were what I term body instigators. They got attention and played with other children in more bodily ways than most girls. For example, Sue de- veloped a game with another girl that was a sort of musical chairs. They'd race from one chair to another to see who could sit down first. Sue initiated this game by trying to squeeze into a chair with the other girl. Also, for example:

Diane starts peeking into the play cardboard house that is full of boys and one girl. She looks like she wants to go in, but the door is blocked and the house is crowded. She then goes around to the side of the house and stands with her back to it and starts bumping it with her butt. Because the house is cardboard, it buckles and moves as she does it. The teacher tells her, "Stop-no." Diane stops and then starts doing it again but more lightly. All the boys come out of the house and ask her what she's doing. Matt gets right in her face and the teacher tells him, "Tell her no." He does, but all the other boys have moved on to other ac- tivities, so she and Matt go in the house to- gether. (Three-year-olds)

Thus, Diane and Sue's lack of voice in this English-speaking classroom led to greater physicality. There may be other ways that context (e.g., in one's neighborhood instead of school) and race, ethnicity, and class shape gender and voice that cannot be deter- mined from these data (Goodwin 1990).
Bodily Znstructions

Teachers give a lot of instructions to kids about what to do with their bodies. Of the explicit bodily instructions recorded 65 percent were directed to boys, 26 percent to girls, and the remaining 9 percent were di- rected to mixed groups (Table 4). These numbers suggest that boys' bodies are being disciplined more than girls. However, there is more to this story-the types of instruc- tions that teachers give and children's responses to them are also gendered.

First, boys obeyed teachers' bodily instruc- tions about one-half of the time (48 percent), while girls obeyed about 80 percent of the time (Table 4).1° Boys may receive more in- structions from teachers because they are less likely to follow instructions and thus are told repeatedly. Frequently I witnessed a teacher telling a boy or group of boys to stop doing something-usually running or throw- ing things-and the teacher repeated these instructions several times in the course of the session before (if ever) taking further action. Teachers usually did not have to repeat in- structions to girls-girls either stopped on their own with the first instruction, or be- cause the teacher forced them to stop right then. Serbin (1983) finds that boys receive a higher proportion of teachers' ". . . loud rep- rimands, audible to the entire group. Such patterns of response, intended as punish- ment, have been repeatedly demonstrated to reinforce aggression and other forms of dis- ruptive behavior" (p. 29).

Second, teachers' instructions directed to boys' bodies were less substantive than those directed to girls. That is, teachers' instruc- tions to boys were usually to stop doing something, to end a bodily behavior with little suggestion for other behaviors they might do. Teachers rarely told boys to change a bodily behavior. A list of teachers'

''There were several cases for boys and girls in which the observer did not record the child's response.

Table 4. Observations of Teachers Giving Bodily Instructions to Children, by Gender of Child: Five Preschool Classrooms

Boys Girls Mixed Groups Teacher's Instruction/Child's Response N Percent N Percent N Percent
Bodily instructions from teachers"     94     65     39     26     13     9
Child obeys instructionsh     45     48     31     80     -c     -C
Undirected bodily instructions from teachersh     54     57     6     15     5     55

Note: Bodily instructions are coded from references in the field notes to instances of a teacher telling a child what to do with his or her body. " Percentages based on a total of 146 observations. Percentages based on a total of 94 observations for boys and 39 observations for girls. " In the observations of mixed groups of girls and boys, usually some obeyed and some did not. Thus an accurate count of how the groups responded is not available.

instructions to boys includes: stop throwing, stop jumping, stop clapping, stop splashing, no pushing, don't cry, blocks are not for bopping, don't run, don't climb on that. Fifty-seven percent of the instructions that teachers gave boys about their physical be- haviors were of this undirected type, com- pared with 15 percent of their instructions to girls (Table 4). In other words, teachers' in- structions to girls generally were more sub- stantive and more directive, telling girls to do a bodily behavior rather than to stop one. Teachers' instructions to girls suggested that they alter their behaviors. A list of instruc- tions to girls includes: talk to her, don't yell, sit here, pick that up, be careful, be gentle, give it to me, put it down there. Girls may have received fewer bodily instructions than did boys, but they received more directive ones. This gender difference leaves boys a larger range of possibilities of what they might choose to do with their bodies once they have stopped a behavior, whereas girls were directed toward a defined set of op- tions.
Physical Interaction between Teachers and Children

Teachers also physically directed kids. For example, teachers often held kids to make them stop running, tapped them to make them turn around and pay attention, or turned their faces toward them so that they would listen to verbal instructions. One- fourth of all physical contacts between teachers and children was to control children's physicality in some way, and 94 percent of such contacts were directed at boys.

Physical interaction between teachers and children was coded into three categories: positive, negative, or neutral. Physical inter- action was coded as positive if it was com- forting, helpful, playful, or gentle. It was coded as negative if it was disciplining, as- sertive (not gentle), restraining, or clearly unwanted by the child (e.g., the child pulled away). Physical interaction was coded as neutral if it seemed to have little content (e.g., shoulders touching during circle, legs touching while a teacher gave a group of kids directions for a project). About one-half of the time, when teachers touched boys or girls, it was positive. For example, the teacher and child might have bodily contact as she tied a shoe, wiped away tears, or tick- led a child, or if a child took the teacher's hand or got on her lap. For girls, the remain- ing physical interactions included 15 percent that were disciplining or instructing the body and about one-third that were neutral (e.g., leaning over the teacher's arm while looking at a book). For boys, these figures were re- versed: Only 4 percent of their physical in- teractions with teachers were neutral in con- tent, and 35 percent were negative and usu- ally included explicit disciplining and in- structing of the body (see Table 5).

This disciplining of boys' bodies took a particular form. Teachers usually attempted to restrain or remove boys who had "gone too far" in their play or who had done some- thing that could harm another child:

Table 5. Observations of Physical Interaction between Teachers and Children, by Gender of Child: Five Preschool Class- rooms

Boys Girls

Type of Contact N Percent N Percent
Positive     41     60     21     54
Negative     24     35     6     15
Neutral     3     4     12     31

Total 68 99 39 100

Note: Coded from references in field notes to bodily contact between teachers and children. Per- centages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

Irving goes up to Jack, who is playing dress- up, and puts his arms up, makes a monster face and says, "Aaarhhh!" Jack looks startled. Irv- ing runs and jumps in front of Jack again and says "Aaaarrhh!" again. Marie (teacher) comes from behind Irving and holds him by the shoul- dcrs and arms from behind. She bends over him and says, "Calm down." He pulls forward, and eventually she lets him go. He runs up to Jack again and growls. Marie says, "He doesn't want you to do that." (Three-year-olds)

Jane (teacher) tells Jeff to pick up the blocks. He says, "I won't." She catches him and pulls him toward her by the arm. She holds him by the arm. He struggles and gets away. He jumps up and down. Other kids put the blocks away. Jane ignores Jeff. (Several minutes later:) Jeff has been throwing the blocks and now Jane pries the blocks from him and grabs him by the wrist and drags him away from the blocks by his shirt arm. He is looking up at her and point- ing his finger at her and saying, "No, cut it out!" in a mocking tone. Jane is angry, but she talks to him calmly but sternly telling him he can't throw the blocks. Jeff is struggling the entire time. Jane lets go of his arm, and Jeff runs right back to the block area and walks on the blocks that are still on the floor. (Five-year- olds)

As Serbin (1983) suggests, frequent loud reprimands of boys may increase their dis- ruptive behavior; more frequent physical disciplining interactions between teachers and boys may do so as well. Because boys more frequently than girls experienced inter- actions in which their bodies were physically restrained or disciplined by an adult who had more power and was angry, they may be more likely than girls to associate physical interaction with struggle and anger, and thus may be more likely to be aggressive or dis- ruptive.
Physical Interaction among Children

Thorne (1993) demonstrates that children participate in the construction of gender dif- ferences among themselves. The preschool brings together large groups of children who engage in interactions in which they cooper- ate with the hidden curriculum and discipline each others bodies in gendered ways, but they also engage in interactions in which they resist this curriculum.

Girls and boys teach their same-sex peers about their bodies and physicality. Children in these observations were much more likely to imitate the physical behavior of a same- sex peer than a cross-sex peer. Children also encourage others to imitate them. Some gendered physicality develops in this way. For example, I observed one boy encourag- ing other boys to "take up more space" in the same way he was.

James (one of the most active boys in the class) is walking all over thc blocks that Joe, George, and Paul have built into a road. Then he starts spinning around with his arms stretched out on either side of him. Hc has a plastic toy cow in one hand and is yelling, "Moo." He spins through half of the classroom, other children ducking under his arms or walking around him when he comes near them. Suddenly he drops the cow and still spinning, starts shouting, "I'm a tomato! I'm a tomato!" The three boys who were playing blocks look at him and laugh. James says, "I'm a tomato!" again, and Joe says, "There's the tomato." Joe, George, and Paul continue working on their block road. James then picks up a block and lobs it in their direction and then keeps spinning throughout this half of the classroom saying he's a tomato. Joe and George look up when the block lands near them and then they get up and imitate James. Now three boys are spinning through- out much of the room, shouting that they are tomatoes. The other children in the class are trying to go about their play without getting hit by a tomato. (Five-year-olds)

The within-gender physicality of three- year-old girls and boys was more similar than it was among the five-year-olds. Among the three-year-old girls there was more rough and tumble play, more physical fighting and arguing among girls than there was among the five-year-old girls.

During clean up, Emily and Sara argue over putting away some rope. They both pull on the ends of the rope until the teacher comes over and separates them. Emily walks around the classroom then, not cleaning anything up. She sings to herself, does a twirl, and gets in line for snack. Sara is behind her in line. Emily pushes Sara. Sara yells, "Aaahh," and hits Emily and pushes her. The teacher takes both of them out of line and talks to them about get- ting along and being nice to each other. (Three- year-olds)

Shelly and Ann have masks on. One is a kitty and one is a doggy. They're crawling around on the floor, and they begin play wrestling- kitties and doggies fight. The teacher says to them, "Are you ok?" They stop, lift up their masks, and look worried. The teacher says, "Oh, are you wrestling? It's ok, I just wanted to make sure everyone was ok." The girls nod; they're ok. Then, they put their masks back on and crawl on the floor some more. They do not resume wrestling. (Three-year-olds)

From lessons like these, girls have learned by age five that their play with each other should not be "too rough." The physical en- gagement of girls with each other at age five had little rough-and-tumble play:

Three girls leave the dress-up corner. Mary crawls on the floor as Naomi and Jennifer talk. Jennifer touches Naomi's shoulder gently as she talks to her. They are having quite a long con- versation. Jennifer is explaining something to Naomi. Jennifer's gestures are adult-like except that she fiddles with Naomi's vest buttons as she talks to her. Her touching and fiddling with Naomi's clothes is very gentle, how a child might fiddle with a mom's clothing while talk- ing to her-doing it absent-mindedly. Mary, on the floor, is pretending to be a kitty. Then Jen- nifer gets on the floor and is a kitty too. They are squeaking, trying to mimic a cat's meow. Naomi then puts her arm around Susan's shoul- der and leads her to play kitty too. Naomi seems to be a person still, not a kitty. She is in charge of the kitties. (Five-year-olds)

Two girls are playing with thc dishes and sit- ting at a table. Keisha touches Alice under the chin, tickles her almost, then makes her eat something pretend, then touches the corners of her mouth, telling her to smile. (Five-year- olds)

I do not mean to suggest that girls' physi- cal engagement with each other is the oppo-

site of boys' or that all of boys' physical con- tacts were rough and tumble. Boys, espe- cially in pairs, hugged, gently guided, or helped each other climb or jump. But often, especially in groups of three or more and es- pecially among the five-year-olds, boys' physical engagement was highly active, "rough," and frequent. Boys experienced these contacts as great fun and not as hostile or negative in any way:

Keith and Lee are jumping on the couch, div- ing onto it like high jumpers, colliding with each other as they do. Alan watches them and then climbs onto the back of the couch and jumps off. Keith takes a jump onto the couch, lands on Lee, and then yells, "Ouch, ouch-I hurt my private," and he runs out of the room holding onto his crotch. The teacher tells them to stop jumping on the couch. (Five-year-olds)

A group of boys is building and climbing on big, hollow, tall blocks. They're bumping into each other, crawling and stepping on each other and the blocks as they do it. They begin yell- ing, "Garbage can," and laughing. They put little blocks inside the big hollow ones, thus "garbage can." Mike pushes Steve away from the "garbage can" and says, "No that's not!" because he wanted to put a block that was too big into the "can." Steve quits trying and goes to get another block. (Five-year-olds)

The physical engagement of boys and girls with each other differed from same-sex physical engagement. Because girls' and boys' play is semi-segregated, collisions (lit- eral and figurative) in play happen at the bor- ders of these gender-segregated groups (Maccoby 1988; Thorne 1993). As Thorne (1993) demonstrates, not all borderwork is negative-40 percent of the physical interac- tions observed between girls and boys were positive or neutral (Table 6).

Ned runs over to Veronica, hipchecks her and says "can I be your friend?" and she says "yes." Ned walks away and kicks the blocks again three to four times. (Five-year-olds)

However, cross-gender interactions were more likely to be negative than same-sex in- teractions. In fact, physical interactions among children were twice as likely to be a negative interaction if they were between a girl and boy than if they were among same- gender peers. Approximately 30 percent of the interactions among girls and among boys

Table 6. Observations of Physical Interactions among Children, by Gender of Children: Five Pre- school Classrooms

Interactions between:
Tv~eof Interactio n     N     Boys Percent     N     Girls Percent     Boys and Girls " N Percent
Negative Neutral                     

Total 66 101 64 100 114 101

Note: Physical interaction was coded from references in the field notes to bodily interaction between children. Bodily contact that was minor and seemingly meaningless was not recorded in field notes. For example, children brushing against each other while picking up toys was not recorded if both children ig- nored the contact and did not alter their actions because of it. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to


were negative (hostile, angry, controlling, hurtful), whereas 60 percent of mixed-gen- der physical interactions were negative. Sixty percent of 113 boy-girl physical inter- actions were initiated by boys, 39 percent were initiated by girls, and only 1 percent of these interactions were mutually initiated.

At the borders of semi-segregated play there are physical interactions about turf and toy ownership:

Sylvia throws play money on the floor from her play pocketbook. Jon grabs it up. She wrestles him for it and pries it from his hands. In doing this she forces him onto the floor so that he's hunched forward on his knees. She gets behind him and sandwiches him on the floor as she grabs his hands and gets the money loose. Then, two minutes later, she's giving money to kids, and she gives Jon somc, but apparently not enough. He gets right close to her face, inches away and loudly tells her that he wants more. He scrunches up his face, puts his arms straight down by his sides and makes fists. She steps back; he steps up close again to her face. She turns away. (Five-year-olds)

Negative interactions occur when there are "invasions" or interruptions of play among children of one gender by children of another:

Courtney is sitting on the floor with the girls who are playing "kitties." The girls have on their dress-up clothes and dress-up shoes. Phil puts on big winter gloves and then jumps in the middle of the girls on the floor. He lands on their shoes. Courtney pushes him away and then pulls her legs and clothes and stuff closer to her. She takes up less spacc and is sitting in a tight ball on the floor. Phil yells, "No! Aaarrhh." Julie says, "'It's not nice to yell." (Five-y ear-olds)

As Thorne (1993) suggests, kids create, shape, and police the borders of gender. I suggest that they do so physically. In this way, they not only sustain gender segrega- tion, but also maintain a sense that girls and boys are physically different, that their bod- ies are capable of doing certain kinds of things. This sense of physical differences may make all gender differences feel and ap- pear natural.

Children also sometimes resist their bodies being gendered. For example, three-year-old boys dressed up in women's clothes some- times. Five-year-old girls played with a re- laxed comportment that is normatively (hegemonically) masculine when they sat with their feet up on the desk and their chairs tipped backward. In one classroom when boys were at the height of their loud activ- ity-running and throwing toys and blocks- girls took the opportunity to be loud too as the teachers were paying less attention to them and trying to get the boys to settle down. In individual interactions as well, girls were likely to be loud and physically assertive if a boy was being unusually so:

JosC is making a plastic toy horse fly around the room, and the boys playing with the blocks are quite loud and rambunctious. JosC flies the toy horse right in front of Jessica's face and then zooms around her and straight toward her again. Jessica holds up her hand and waves it at him yelling, "Aaaarrrh." JosC flies the horse in another direction. (Five-year-olds)

These instances of resistance suggest that gendered physicalities are not natural, nor are they easily and straightforwardly acquired. This research demonstrates the many ways that practices in institutions like pre- schools facilitate children's acquisition of gendered physicalities.

Men and women and girls and boys fill so- cial space with their bodies in different ways. Our everyday movements, postures, and ges- tures are gendered. These bodily differences enhance the seeming naturalness of sexual and reproductive differences, that then con- struct inequality between men and women (Butler 1990). As MacKinnon (1987) notes, "Differences are inequality's post hoc excuse . . ." (p. 8). In other words, these differ- ences create a context for social relations in which differences confirm inequalities of power.

This research suggests one way that bod- ies are gendered and physical differences are constructed through social institutions and their practices. Because this gendering oc- curs at an early age, the seeming naturalness of such differences is further underscored. In preschool, bodies become gendered in ways that are so subtle and taken-for-granted that they come to feel and appear natural. Pre- school, however, is presumably just the tip of the iceberg in the gendering of children's bodies. Families, formal schooling, and other institutions (like churches, hospitals, and workplaces) gender children's physicality as well.

Many feminist sociologists (West and Zimmerman 1987) and other feminist schol- ars (Butler 1990, 1993) have examined how the seeming naturalness of gender differ- ences underlies gender inequality. They have also theorized that there are no meaningful natural differences (Butler 1990, 1993.) However, how gender differences come to feel and appear natural in the first place has been a missing piece of the puzzle.

Sociological theories of the body that de- scribe the regulation, disciplining, and man- aging that social institutions do to bodies have neglected the gendered nature of these processes (Foucault 1979; Shilling 1993; Turner 1984). These data suggest that a sig- nificant part of disciplining the body consists of gendering it, even in subtle, micro, every- day ways that make gender appear natural. It is in this sense that the preschool as an insti- tution genders children's bodies. Feminist theories about the body (Bordo 1993; Connell 1995; Young 1990), on the other hand, tend to focus on the adult gendered body and fail to consider how the body be- comes gendered. This neglect may accentu- ate gender differences and make them seem natural. This research provides but one ac- count of how bodies become gendered. Other accounts of how the bodies of children and adults are gendered (and raced, classed, and sexualized) are needed in various social con- texts across the life course.

Karin A. Martin is Assistant Profe.ssor of Sociol- ogy and Women's Studies at the Urliversity of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her re.5earch interests in- clude exploring the relatior~ships between gender, body, sexual it^^, arzcl psyche. She is author of Puberty, Sexuality, and the Self: Boys and Girls at Adolescence (Routledge, 1996).

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