Playtimes: Gender

Steve Roud explores the way in which boys and girls play together on the playground. He suggests that although girls may be accepted and allowed to play many boys games, boys may not as easily play a game that is stereotypically considered a girls game.

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Steve Roud:

The question of whether boys and girls play together is interesting because it changes with the children’s career through the school and as they get older. The younger children tend to play separately most of the time, they do come together for some things but most of the time they’re separate, whereas as they get older through the school they tend to come together more and by the time they leave the school the boys and girls are playing together much more, most of the time in fact. But there are no rules here because at any given time the boys and girls will come together for a game like kiss chase, which obviously needs both sexes. Or in a small school where you need more people for a game, then the boys and the girls and the different age groups will mix more. There have been changes over time, certain games like skipping for instance, up to the Victorian times was played equally by boys and girls, if anything more by the boys. Throughout the 20th Century it became really a girls’ game, but now boys are playing again, boys are skipping, they’re encouraged to skip because of they keep fit, they don’t tend to do the rhymes but they do do the actions. And where the two sexes have played the same game like hoops that were very popular up to the Second World War, the boys had iron hoops, the girls had smaller wooden ones so there was a gender difference, even though everybody had a hoop. To a certain extent this sort of fits in with our gender stereotypes for society in general. Girls do like to play quieter games and more intricate games, boys tend over to play more boisterous games, but there are no rules here, there are exceptions. All the time. Girls at any given time can join in the boys’ games, if they do them well enough or, you know, if they can do them then they’re accepted, not so much boys joining in girls’ games, when the boys join in the girls’ games they tend to parody them and deliberately muck them up, but again there are no rules, some boys play happily with the girls, some girls play happily with the boys, kit’s the local situation rather than the gender rule that matters.

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