Recess at Holy Name of Jesus School

Today in class I asked students to think about how we do gender as children in elementary school. Our reading talked about the ways that teachers enforce sex segregation in the classroom and on the playground–making teams of girls and boys for spelling contests, having girls and boys stand in separate lines, telling the boys to quiet down, “like the girls.” Schools teach all kinds of skills, but also how to be boys and girls. And yet boys and girls certainly play together. Our dodgeball games, school plays, reading groups, and more have boys and girls playing together. And some games pitch boys against girls in heterosexualized “rituals of pollution,” to use Barrie Thorne’s phrase–think cooties, chase and kiss, and those mock marriages so many of us took part in on the blacktop. So today when I rode my bike home for lunch, passing Holy Name of Jesus School on Calhoun St., I was struck by the sex segregation I saw on their playground. The school uniforms provide a number of choices. There’s the dress on the lone girl seemingly waiting for the soccer ball. Other girls wear the same uniform as the boys–khaki or navy shorts and red polo shirts. Marking sex difference seems important but not imperative. But the boys and girls do seem to have shaken themselves out according to gender, with the boys taking up the bulk of playground space while many girls were sitting and talking in the much smaller auxiliary playground on the other side of the school. I’ve been out of elementary school for a long, long time, but at first glance it doesn’t look like much has changed.

2 thoughts on “Recess at Holy Name of Jesus School

  1. “I’ve been out of elementary school for a long, long time, but at first glance it doesn’t look like much has changed.”

    And, it won’t. Boys and girls are simply made differently. As much as we guys wanted the girls to watch us play football during recess, they weren’t interested. And, it was absolutely too rough for them to consider playing. For me, personally, that’s o.k.


  2. I have been thinking lately about the game The Farmer and the Dell, which we used to play in kindergarten at the direction of the teacher. Do you know the game? It goes through the entire farm hierarchy, starting with the farmer, who picks a wife, and goes all the way down to the lowly mouse who gets to pick the cheese (aka the loser). I would always wait to get picked as the wife by the kid who was my sort of kindergarten boyfriend, the cutest kid in the class (who came out later on in college) and now I just think wtf?

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