Gendering in one Icelandic preschool
The aim of this article is to shed light on gendering in preschool. It analyzes the opinions and beliefs of preschool teachers with regard to boys and girls in one Icelandic preschool, and how gender performative acts are manifested in the preschool’s children. The preschool, which was observed for one school year, comprised 60 children, aged 18 months to five years, and 20 employees, of which eight were qualified teachers. The research material is analyzed in terms of Judith Butler’s gender constructivism. Butler contends that gender is constituted by, and is a product of, society, and that the individual’s empowerment is therefore limited in relation to society, with individuals typically seeking to identify themselves with the dominant norms concerning gender. The main conclusions suggest that “gendering” is prominent within the preschool. There is a strong tendency among the preschool teachers to classify the children into categories of boys/masculine and girls/feminine, and specific norms direct the children into the dominant feminine and masculine categories, thus maintaining and reinforcing their gender stereotypes. The children used symbols such as colors, locations and types of play as means to instantiate the “girling” and the “boying”. These findings are consistent with previous Nordic research and indicate a prevailing essentialist perspective towards both girls and boys. The originality of the research, however, lies in focusing on children’s gender from the individual’s perspective and how the individual child generally enacts gender performatively within the confines of society’s norms.