Heteronormativity in school

It’s commonly thought that teenagers these days are so much more hip about gender and sexuality than their parents ever more. But this perception can obscure the facts that concepts of “normality” and  “fitting in” still drive much of the culture of the young, As discussed today in Huffington Post:

“Popularity in middle and high school operates as a heterosexist reward system. Who “fits in” and who does not has a great deal to do with heterosexuality and gender conformity, which makes it difficult for LGBTQ kids to engage in the school social scene. For adolescents, school is (significantly) about social connections, social possibilities, social hierarchies and navigating through them. A great deal of school social life is about reinforcing the “normalcy” of heterosexuality and marking those considered to not measure up as “weird” or “less than” in some way. For example, making new friends, avoiding insults and isolation, and being considered an important person in the school can be difficult for the girl who doesn’t get dates with boys because she is not thought attractive, the boy uninterested in dating who focuses his time on academics, and anyone else who is either uninterested or cannot compete in the “heterosexual marketplace” (Eckert, in Payne 2007) of high school. This experience is true for both boys and girls, but can be particularly salient for girls whose “worth” in high school is often evaluated by the boys they attract.

“For adolescent girls, heterosexuality and a traditional presentation of femininity are the foundation of the high school social hierarchy. Attaining status requires dedication to the attraction of boys and this is often a primary topic of conversation in peer groups as is achieving a desirable feminine “look.” Time spent developing individual skills and excellence in the arts, athletics, and academics gain less attention and validation for young women than does feminine attractiveness. This reinforces the idea that how a girl “looks” is more important than what she accomplishes. These cultural values are often supported by high schools through traditions and rituals such as “cutest couple” competitions, school dances, gendered dress codes, and election of popular girls to school titles such as “queen” where beauty and femininity are anointed with a rhinestone crown. So where does this leave adolescent lesbian and queer girls?”

 

More at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabethe-c-payne/popularity-heterosexism-a_b_2784039.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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