In What Ways Do Play Activities Produce Social Hierarchies Among Children?

Topics: Sociology, Gender, Hierarchy Pages: 5 (1808 words) Published: March 9, 2012
In what ways do play activities produce social hierarchies among children?

This essay will focus on play activities amongst children, children being any individuals bellow the age of 18 according to the Convention on the rights of the Child (accessed 20 June 2011), and various form of play relating to imaginary worlds, inclusion and exclusion games, lastly the separation of the sexes between girls and boys. This essay will assess how social hierarchies can appear during play activities. Firstly, it will look at how rejection can happen during play, creating hierarchy and power, secondly how genderisation and heteronormativity can create a sense of hierarchy, thirdly how the tension between femininity and masculinity also reflect this and fourthly how some games reflect surrounding distaste for ethnic and economically impaired minorities and lastly how some children might actively not take part in socially hierarchical games. All of this will be observed within culture specific contexts. It would appear that children’s play often mirror what they can observe in their surroundings and daily life activities and also how they reflect structure and social values of adult society (Gregor, cited in Barnes and Kehily, 2003, p27).

As in society, exclusion can happen. Mainly because an individual will not conform to a culturally specific norm or fails to pass some specific test required for her/his inclusion or lacks in some particular requirement to be included in a group. This promotes a sense of power and hierarchy in children cultural world as American sociologist Barrie Thorne observed (cited in Barnes and Kehily, 2003, p31). Children, to fit their specific needs, which will then prompt the acceptance or rejection of another child, recreate values. In the video 3, bang 2, we can observe a form of exclusion happening because one of the girl is failing at sticking to the rules properly, which them prompt her exclusion of the game, girls are being eliminated until only one is left the winner, a sense of pride radiates from the girl winning the game. This is only a temporary rejection. More cultural stereotypes and social prejudices can create longer-term exclusion or inclusion as Cohen noticed (cited in Barnes and Kehily, 2003, p21), such as sexism and racism, this will be referred to below. Being included can also mean a self-challenge. Sean in Oakland (Video 3, Band one) offers an example of such a situation were he sees challenging himself to compete with other boys to go through a pitch dark tunnel, which has a pit in the middle of it, as a display of a certain pride. By doing so, he feels a sense of belonging to a group of other children just like him who achieved the same feat. He boldly challenges the viewer to the task that we cannot do. This is another form of inclusion or exclusion based on the individual self worth and ability at mastering their own fear. Here gender is not a issue as such, the self worth and ability to push your own boundaries are the key to the inclusion. But in other games gender and heteronormativity represent a cause of inclusion and exclusion and a sense of hierarchy.

Heteronormativity is an accepted norm across most cultures around the world. Daily habits and adult social interaction mirror this fact so do children in their play. Coming with this sense of heteronormativity is a notion of patriarchy. Female children can in turn suffer the same aggression and repression as any women, being left out for who they are and considered inferior to take part in games with boys. An example of this can be found in Thorne’s observation of a playground where girls are considered as carriers of contagious germs, then having to carry the label of ‘cootie queen or king’ depending on which boy got in contact with a ‘contaminated’ girl. Boys, as she explains treat girls as inferior and anything related to them as polluted in some way. Girls did not replicate this form of identification regarding the boys....
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