The preschool teacher, gender pedagogy and change : Rethinking the preschool teacher and her work for change from the perspective of sexual difference theory.

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Linköpings universitet/Tema GenusFilosofiska fakulteten

Abstract:

In this thesis I aim to investigate the Swedish preschool teacher interested in change and her work, here conceptualised as gender pedagogy. I will take my departure in sexual difference theory to contrast some of the assumptions behind preschool work, gender pedagogy and gender equality. I am also reflecting upon the concepts of normalisation, freedom and change and their relevance for preschool work. To help me with this endeavour I have interviewed five preschool teachers about their work and their interest for change. The thesis is divided into three chapters mirroring the themes of the interviews. In the first chapter I reflect upon normalisation as a process inherent to preschool work, both historically and in the present, connected to notions of class, cognitive ability and sexual difference. Through the statements of my informants and theoretical discussion the concept of normalisation is nuanced and understood as a process inherent to the whole of society as well as the preschool but also as a practice that might not be possible to abolish in its entirety. In the second chapter I move my focus towards gender pedagogy. An outline of different strands of, and discussions on, gender pedagogy is given as well as a critical discussion on the aim to go beyond gender in gender pedagogy and feminist theory. As an alternative and additional approach I suggest sexual difference theory as a possible source of inspiration for gender pedagogy. In the second part of this chapter the preschool teachers express their views on, and their work with gender pedagogy. This allows for a more entangled and process oriented understanding of gender pedagogy and its different strands. I conclude this chapter by stating that gender pedagogy could be understood in terms of normalisation and even as reinforcing the masculine norm, however the process oriented understanding of change as highlighted by my informants, as well as the use of multiple strategies, theories and methods, might allow for a practice where difference instead of likeness serves as a condition for the gender pedagogical work. In the last chapter I turn to the preschool teacher as such and her history entangled with notions of femininity, motherhood and gender equality. Employing the strategy of “working through” as described by Braidotti I lay bare how the position of the preschool teacher  and her work has been represented as stereotyped woman’s work and thus connected to less worth, but simultaneously how the actual work of the preschool teachers strongly denounce this view of  woman’s work, as well as motherhood and femininity. I also show how the work of preschool teachers put into question such prominent binary pairs as mind/body, emotion/intellect, practice/theory and adult/child. I conclude that the misrepresentation of woman’s work also has material consequences in terms of working conditions for preschool teachers. To conclude the whole thesis I emphasise how the view of the female preschool teacher and the view of the child cannot be radically separated and therefore the importance of considering both adults and children in the gender pedagogy work. I also conclude that what gender equality or gender pedagogy is, is not settled ones and for all, but rather the importance to fill these concepts with a positive view of difference.

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