Tomboy tales: The rural, nature and the gender of childhood
Jones, O. (1999) Tomboy tales: The rural, nature and the gender of childhood. Gender, Place & Culture, 6 (2). pp. 117-136. ISSN 0966-369X
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09663699925060
By following and connecting certain well-trodden routes through constructions of childhood, it is possible to arrive at a point at which the ‘natural’ gender of childhood is apparently male. This is indicated by the fact that girls are often termed ‘tomboys’ in both popular and lay discourses, even when they are partaking in what are seen to be the purest, most ideal childhoods which are present in notions of country childhood idylls. Children, nature, and the countryside as surrogate nature, are all seen as innocent, and thus notions of idyllic ‘natural’ country childhoods become a powerful force. Heavily influenced by romantic constructions of, and connections between, childhood, nature and the countryside, such views, it will be shown, leave little space for girl children to adopt female identities. The author suggests that this ideal association of male children and nature, and the accompanying notion that it is the development of female sexuality which in particular marks a departure from the natural state of childhood, and thus ends childhood, merits consideration. This is particularly so in the contexts of various discourses, such as romanticism, feminism and ecofeminism, which have explored links between the female and the natural. The aim is not to challenge these constructions and theorisations of gender and nature directly, but rather to show how the introduction of the notion of childhood might cross-cut, problematise and even illuminate them to some degree.
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