Re: The Anecdote & the Educator

Tim Flinders (
Thu, 16 Apr 1998 10:55:59 -0700

Peggy: You're quite right about the urging caution in attributing or
denying Gilligan's "care and connection" too rigidly to one gender or the
other. For what it's worth, here are my own (provisional) conclusions I
arrived at after thinking about connection in relation to girls and boys,
since my first "epiphany." I would value your (and others') resonses.

"Since those first PE "lessons" I received in girls' ways, I often watch
the kids at recess in my school, and still marvel how profoundly relational
the very texture of young girls' play is. The schoolyard is alive with
girls draped over each other in the tether ball line, holding hands waiting
to get into the four-square game, swinging in tandem over the lawn,
touching, embracing, sometimes locking themselves together like a single
organism inching across the blacktop.

"Boys value their friends, obviously, and they can be openly
at least during their early years. Their need for connection and relation
may be just as strong as girls, for that matter. But early on, boys are
urged powerfully by the culture towards separation and autonomy, and at
such an insistence, that the idea of relationship itself, especially with
other boys, becomes vexed. By the time we're nine or ten, we've gotten a
message that runs deep within our psyches: keep your hands (and eyes) to
yourself. You'll see older boys shoot baskets together, chase each other
around the playground, pair up or move in cliques, but their interactions
are usually mediated by something else: a ball, a game, a set of rules, a
purpose (winning, making something) for which the interaction is
incidental. For girls, the interaction is the focus, the purpose, and the
game or the play or the activity merely the prop.

"From this vantage point, five years later, it's not at all surprising
me that Molly and Amanda could let their desire to win the kickball game
(and they do want to win) be so easily overruled by their desire (need?
compulsion?) to be together on the same team, even if it's a losing team.

Why this is so is not nearly as important to me as that it is so. The
drive for relationship stands very near the core of a girl's identity, and
may largely form her frame of reference for experiencing life. The
challenge for those of us who mentor them as parents or teachers, is to
teach them how to balance the competing claims of connection with their
need to develop a fully autonomous self. It is vitally important we
understand these competing pressures at work within a young girl, and
adjust ourselves to account for them. After all, girls need to learn to
compete if they are going to succeed in the working world, at least, as it
currently functions. But they shouldn't be forced to violate their need for
connection at every turn in order to get there."

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