Uncovering the Heterosexual Matrix
The purpose of this chapter is to show the ways in which feminist poststructuralism and queer theory provide useful techniques for interpreting how children can take an active part in constructing their gendered identities. In doing so, this chapter uncovers the heterosexual matrix in the early childhood classroom by showing how gender is created, taken up, and performed through five particular heterosexual discourses: wearing femininity, body movements, makeup, beauty, and fashion talk. These five gender discourses disclose how children “do” gender in the classroom and how they use their knowledge of these discourses to constitute themselves as girls and boys in a heterosexual world. This perspective assumes that by “playing it straight,” children take up heterosexual discourses that continue to maintain inequitable gender relations. These gender discourses are just some of the many competing and contradictory discourses that children access as they struggle to define and redefine who they are as gendered beings (Alloway, 1995; Davies, 2003; MacNaughton, 1996, 1998; Weedon, 1997). These five gender discourses were chosen because of the unique ways in which they reveal some of the structures that make up the heterosexual matrix
and how it works to sustain gender norms in the early childhood classroom.