Femininity, Science, and the Denigration of the Girly Girl

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The article in presentation is ‘Femininity, science, and the denigration of the girly girl”, a publication of the British Journal of Sociology of Education. The article explores hyper-femininity and “girly girl” label construction. According to the authors, femininity content is a debatable and somehow an under-researched subject in women's libber scholarship. The article tries to unpick on some issues such as the less attention on the reason why there is the exclusion of femininity from science. It pays particular attention to the “girly girl” construct in connection to science access. Based on this article the term “girly girl” is usually used among school girls in describing girls who perform certain feminine behaviors that are greatly stereotypical, investments and aesthetics. The article attempts to shed light on the concept and use of girly femininity as well as the connection between being girly and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). There exist a lot of inequalities in the engagement, access as well as the participation in subjects related to STEM policy-making and even in other stakeholder organizations (Francis, B et al., 2016, 3). In subjects such as Engineering, the gap is so big. The authors acknowledge that most people think that STEM occupations are prestigious and well-paying and this makes equality of access significant.

There are many factors which the authors list as contributing to the lower uptake of STEM subjects in girls compared to boys such as, the difference in expectations and levels of encouragement from different people, the curriculum content, perception of the subjects to be challenging by students and subjectivities from students. The theoretical concept introduced by the authors is that people believe that girls cannot handle STEM subjects due to their social construction. The subjects are meant for boys, and that is how it has always been. The authors work with this concept by incorporating gender. They denote that girls are required to participate in a set of wishes as well as constructions that are instantaneously reified and detested in broader society. It is where the society believes that the physical sciences are more masculine as they are hard and therefore are suitable for boys. The author has explored the concept of gender in the entire article acknowledging that the society treats girls differently from boys and the society has put labels to those who do not conform to the set gender standards. In support of the claims, the article presents research on data analyzed from a project where the science and career aspirations of students were tracked from age 10 to 19 paying attention to their interests in science. Online surveys, interviews, and student’s participation were the methods used in the study to give evidence on the research. Based on the research findings the authors conclude that the notion that the science domain is male constructed excluding of the feminine should be looked into and science needs to be accommodating to different gender performances. Another idea which requires challenging is the belief that girls are poisoned and trapped by femininity (Francis, B et al., 2016, 9). The article fit with other readings related to the gender topic in that in the societies there are those things that are considered masculine and others feminine. A girl is supposed to act and feel a certain way for instance girls should not be aggressive, unlike boys. If girls do not behave according to the society’s expectations of how they should behave, they are labeled as “tomboys” while boys who have female attributes are referred to as “sissys”. Therefore it is evident that there is a certain way that girls are treated differently from boys whether in school with regards to subjects or at home.

The article has done good work mainly in the way it uses its concepts. Their arguments are convincing. The issue of femininity and masculinity has always been an issue of discussion with relation to gender. The research on the students is also compelling as the authors have given every participant’s response either agreeing with the issue of ‘girly girl” construction or disagreeing coupled up with some of the students' experiences. The authors have written about day to day experiences in modern society. There exists so much stereotyping concerning what girls’ should do and not do and what boys should. Everywhere in the world, the science related subjects have always been believed to be an area of expertise for boys. Girls are said to be more involved in arts and humanities subjects, and such fields that are thought to be “easy”. The arts fields are believed to pay low at work compared to the science subjects. In most schools the number of girls pursuing science subjects is quite low; however, this area of femininity and masculinity requires more research. Things may be changing with time, and more girls are now doing away with the stereotypes and following their desires in pursuing physical sciences, and it is positive progress. Girls require more encouragement to break out of this gender stereotypes. I agree with the conclusion of the authors of challenging the stereotypes of social construction. I relate with the authors’ arguments as I have seen the stereotyping first hand — most girls I have interacted with, who are said to be super feminine report that the society always perceives them as “girly girls” due to how they look. For instance, they always wear short dresses, their hands are always manicured, and the hair is always done. Therefore they are not capable of getting their hands dirty and doing things that are deemed to be more masculine such as fixing the cars. The arguments in the article can be applied to other education and social problems especially religious identity as gender impacts a person’s religious identity. Females have a high likelihood of attending religious services compared to males and expressing their religion is a significant aspect of their lives (Wilson Company & Grey House Publishing, Inc. 2014, 33). Most women are more involved in activities related to religion than men, and they view themselves as religious people thus raising the issue of gender differences in a different area.


Francis, B., Archer, L., Moote, J., De Witt, J., & Yeomans, L. (2016). Femininity, science, and    the denigration of the girly girl. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 1-13.

H.W. Wilson Company, & Grey House Publishing, Inc. (2014). Revisiting gender. Ipswich,          Massachusetts : H.W. Wilson ; Amenia, NY : Grey House Publishing,

August 14, 2023

Sociology Science

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