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Codes and Contradictions

Race, Gender Identity, and Schooling

Jeanne Drysdale Weiler

Publication Year: 2000

This in-depth look at a diverse group of young women at an alternative high school illuminates issues of race, class, gender, and identity formation, and shows the enormous power of schools to re-orient young women from school failure to success. This book examines the variations in the constitution of female gender in a group of young working class women of African American, Latina, U.S., Puerto Rican, and white European backgrounds who are enrolled in an alternative high school for students at risk of academic failure. It then analyzes the school processes that impact on the shaping of the young women’s gender identities and provides evidence that female gender identity among various racial or ethnic backgrounds can be very dissimilar. It also illustrates the enormous power of schools to re-orient young women who have previous experiences of academic failure to view education as crucial to attaining their future goals.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series, Power, Social Identity, and Education

Codes and Contradictions: Race, Gender Identity, and Schooling

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List of Tables

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

In testimony to the success of Alternative High School (A.HS.) in New York City, Marlissa, once considered a student at risk of not completing high school, graduated in September 1992. Indeed, Alternative High School, a haven for students who have disengaged from traditional schooling, has many similar successes-85 percent of its students graduate ...

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1. Introdcution

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pp. 1-14

Above are the voices of young working-class women enrolled in an alternative high school in New York City. This book is about them and their female classmates who made up the entering ninth-grade class at Alternative High School (A.H.S.) in 1988. Since that time, all have entered adulthood, some bearing a high school diploma and entering higher education, ...

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2. Social Class, Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Schooling: A Theoretical Overview

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pp. 15-28

In the 1970s, Marxists and structuralist theoreticians began looking at the social and economic structures of society to explain the ways in which schools contributed to the unequal allocation of individuals in society. These theorists (sometimes known as reproduction theorists), examined the processes through which existing social structures maintain ...

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3. The Social, Economic, and Educational Status of African American, Latina, and White Women in the United States

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pp. 29-48

Since World War II, the U.S. economy has undergone a structural shift turning from a manufacturing economy to one based on services and technology (Bluestone and Harris, 1982). The impact of this economic transformation, however, is experienced differently throughout society. It had such dramatically adverse effects as structural unemployment, unsettling ...

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4. Young White Working-Class Women: Envisioning Their Adult Lives

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pp. 49-72

In this chapter , I examine the ways in which young white working-class women envision their future lives as adults. I particularly attend to the issues of employment, marriage and family as discussed by the girls1 during in-depth interviews. I also explore two areas of the girls' current lives—romance and their participation in domestic labor—and speculate ...

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5. Young Women of African American and Puerto Rican Descent: Anticipating Lives as Adult Women

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pp. 73-100

In the previous chapter, we saw how a particular group of young working-class white women largely adhere to a "traditional" working-class femininity emphasizing dependency on male wage earners and discouraging women's participation in the economy. In this chapter, I will recount how a group of seven U.S. Puerto Rican1 and three African ...

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6. Young Women of Dominican and South American Descent: Constructing Possibilities for the Future

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pp. 101-130

In this chapter, I will recount how several immigrant Latina girls1 hope to organize their lives as adult women. I focus first on their plans for education, paid work, and family. I then elicit some of the experiences that have shaped their hopes and survey some of the foundations they have established to support these hopes for the future: specifically, the ...

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7. Redefining Relationships to Schooling

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pp. 131-144

The purpose of this chapter is to analyze several features of this school's school-based factors that appear to impact on the formation of the girls' identities as outlined in chapters 4, 5, and 6. I examine three aspects of school culture and suggest possible effects on incipient female student identities. ...

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8. The Formal Curriculum

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pp. 145-168

In this chapter, I address the formal curriculum at A.H.S. Using Bernstein's (1975) framework of invisible pedagogy, I examine how both the pedagogical relationship, and the curriculum's form and content can produce changes in the way female student identities are constructed and shaped within school. ...

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9. The Social Construction of Gender within the School

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pp. 169-196

This chapter explores how the school informally contributes to the formation of gender identity, how its gender code communicates to students "appropriate" ways of being feminine or masculine. These messages of gender appropriateness are often contradictory, as well as unintentional. They are usually conveyed through complex processes in...

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10. Conclusions

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pp. 197-210

This book has examined the ways in which thirty young working-class women of African American, Dominican, South American, U.S. Puerto Rican, and white European backgrounds, enrolled in an alternative high school for "at-risk" students, anticipate their future lives as adult women and the role of the school's gender code in shaping those expectations. ...

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pp. 211-212

In 1994, I wrote to the principal at Alternative high School to follow up on the girls with whom I had not remained in contact to find out what had happened to them educationally. Of the thirty girls in the study, over one-half (sixteen) graduated from Alternative High School, all of them graduating in 1992. (One young woman of Colombian descent ...


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pp. 213-224


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pp. 225-230


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pp. 231-246


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pp. 247-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780791492871
E-ISBN-10: 0791492877
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791445198
Print-ISBN-10: 0791445194

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 17 tables
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: SUNY series, Power, Social Identity, and Education
Series Editor Byline: Lois Weis See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 45729764
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Codes and Contradictions

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Subject Headings

  • Race awareness -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Women -- United States -- Identity -- Case studies.
  • Women -- Education -- Social aspects -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Feminism and education -- United States.
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