“Only What’s Right”: Normalising Children’s Gender Discourses in Kindergarten (The Case of Montenegro)
Keywords:Gender stereotypes, heteronormativity, feminine kindergarten culture, children's gender discourses
This article presents results from qualitative research on children’s dominant gender discourses in kindergarten and the influence of the socio-pedagogical aspects of kindergarten culture, transmitted via teachers’ gender discourses and personal epistemologies, on the construction of children’s gender discourses and identities. The main questions guiding our research were: What gender stories are narrated in a group, and under which influences do these stories become established as norms? Our understanding of gender is based on the feminist poststructuralist perspective. Our research in two Montenegrin kindergartens with 54 children and four teachers during a two-week period showed a dominance of the binary opposition discourse of “hegemonic masculinity” and “emphasised femininity”, with an emphasis on gender-stereotyped toys, games, role-play, and professions. Additionally, it has been found that the kindergarten culture strongly shapes and “normalises” children’s perception of “right” gender practices, by reflecting and mirroring teachers’ gender-typed expectations and a value system based on an objectivist personal epistemology that implicitly promotes “feminine” values of subordination, peace, silence and obedience. The findings suggest the need for research focusing particularly on the relationship between teachers’ epistemological theories and the dominant gender discourses in kindergarten. It is also recommended that Montenegro’s early childhood education policy and strategy documents consider and elaborate more thoroughly the concept of gender identity and gender-flexible pedagogies.
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