Date of Degree

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Urban Education

Advisor(s)

Ofelia Garcia

Subject Categories

Education

Keywords

feminism; gender; middle school girls; postfeminism

Abstract

This dissertation, based on an ethnographic case study conducted in the 2013-14 school year, examines early adolescent girls and their teachers and the way in which they experience gender and gender relations in the public middle school context in New York City. Current research into schools in the United States tends to focus on the experience of those students who are in crisis. For the most part, girls are not considered to be a demographic in crisis in public schools in the United States today. Because research on gender and schooling that highlights the success of girls is based on their scores on standardized tests and their high school graduation and college matriculation rates, research into the actual experiences of girls in school is lacking, and necessary. This dissertation discusses, through data gathered in interviews and focus groups, how girls think, feel and act in reaction to their experiences in school.

Specifically this dissertation examines the experience of girls in middle school in the context of postfeminism. Postfeminist ideology emphasizes the notion that, because of anti-discriminatory legislation and the dominant narrative of competition, individuality and meritocracy in schools, feminism and advocacy for girls and women is no longer needed. Findings reveal the ways in which girls make meaning of gender relations in their school environment and the postfeminist practices they employ in order to exert control over their school experiences. Findings also suggest the ways in which teachers, administrators and school policies are complicit in the development of these practices.

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