Emily Kane’s Rethinking Gender and Sexuality in Childhood is a fairly short introduction to a number of topics on childhood, gender and sexuality and opens with a discussion on the debates and dilemmas currently present in the research of childhood sexuality and gender identities. Kane discusses recent trends on the study of gender and sexuality in children and therefore the book is an overview on recent research and does not include any original studies or finding per se.
Kane discusses the changing trends in how society relates to children and states that there have been major changes in how children are viewed in the world and in relation to adults. For example, children were traditionally treated in ways that emphasized them as individuals in need of either protection or intervention (a fairly narrow view) and that children should be seen but not heard. Recent research instead highlights children’s rights to autonomy and to being heard.
The book covers plenty of topics and discusses norms and gender stereotypes, parent’s roles in how children view gender, gender roles and expectations, the influence of schools, peer groups and also media. Kane also makes sure to emphasize the fact that the length of childhood (how long a child is viewed and treated as a child) is determined by gender and that different children have different possibilities depending on factors connected to privilege.
In addition, Kane does a great job covering basic key concepts and arguments and mentions and explains ideas such as the social construction of gender and sexuality, heteronormativity, emphasized femininity and much more. The definitions are easy to understand and explained very well.
The further reading sections, very commonly used by the author, poses both an advantage and disadvantage to the reader. On the upside, much information is covered briefly and this is a great tool for any person wishing to expand their knowledge on any of the topics covered in the book. This is also a great resource for finding relevant information and research articles that are reliable and up to date. On the downside, I at times find the boxes containing key points and chapter outlines quite unnecessary because they make for choppy and interrupted reading. The boxes containing research examples also make for a somewhat interrupted reading but are very useful and a great benefit to the reader.
The range of topics included in this discussion, and the research presented, is broad and its basics are covered, making the book very interdisciplinary and useful to a wide audience. Therefore, the book could be used in a number of different classes, but of course mostly so on classes discussing gender, sexuality and child development. The book is probably most useful as an introductory to topics on gender, feminism, child development and sexuality. Briefly mentioned are also LGBTQ topics such as trans identities and intersexuality but there is not any real emphasis on queer theory or queer identities.
Rethinking Gender and Sexuality in Childhood would be of great use to any student wishing to write and essay or thesis on any of the topics covered in the book since it is a great tool for further reading and for finding suitable research articles and studies.
© 2013 Elin Weiss
Elin Weiss has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Mater’s Degree in Women’s Studies from University College Dublin, Ireland.