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Study Notes

Pereira ‘Girls Feel They Must "Play Dumb" To Please Boys’ (2014)


Last updated 24 Aug 2020

Overview of this contemporary sociological research, including how it can be linked to the A Level specification.

Brief summary of research methods:

  • Dr Maria do Mar Pereira lived three full months as a teenaged girl in order to gain valid insight into the behaviours of boys and girls.
  • She became a Year 8 student for three months and participated in all daily activities, e.g. taking part in classes, eating lunch in the cafeteria, etc.

Key findings:

  • Boys aged 14 had acquired the belief that girls their age should be less intelligent.
  • Gender norms on masculine and feminine behaviour are restrictive and unnatural, e.g. boys constantly experience the pressure to dominate and prove their power by fighting, drinking, sexually harassing, refusing to ask for help and repressing their emotions.
  • Girls must not engage in activities which might seem unfeminine, e.g. pretending to be less intelligent, not speaking out against sexual harassment and not engaging in ‘masculine’ sports and hobbies.

Link to specification:

Link to Education:

  • Links to the construction of pupil identities through peer interactions: stereotypical and harmful notions of what constitutes ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ behaviour is reinforced through informal social control. If these notions are not challenged from an early age, then boys and girls can grow up with these embedded ideas and deem them as normal.
  • Can highlight a factor which can explain why some girls do not do as well as their peers; they ‘downplay’ their intelligence or do not want to make boys feel inferior.
  • Can explain why boys underachieve as they may not feel education and academic success is a true expression of their masculinity.
  • Feminists may argue that the findings from Pereira’s research highlight how the role of education is to perpetuate gender inequalities and patriarchy: female pupils ‘downplay’ their abilities and accept male superiority in educational spheres.

Link to Families and Households:

  • Can be linked to how primary socialisation is less important as children grow and enter secondary school. Whilst parents may raise their children with ‘healthy’ norms and values to equip them with confidence and self-esteem, children may struggle to uphold these values as their peers may attempt to steer them in a different direction and encourage them to develop their sense of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’.

Link to Crime and Deviance:

  • Some sociologists may argue that women may express their frustration with patriarchy and male subordination by engaging with ‘male crimes’ etc. These findings can therefore be linked with the growth in female gangs and female violence.

Link to Media:

  • Sociologists may argue that young children obtain their notions of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ through social media which is heavily consumed by children today than ever before.
  • Can be linked to the concept of ‘toxic childhood’ whereby pupils are heavily exposed to stereotypical notions of gender and what is appropriate via the media and develop concrete gendered beliefs on intelligence and success.

Link to original article:

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