Masculinities, Femininities, and Varieties of Violence by Girls

James W. Messerschmidt, University of Southern Maine

This paper reports partial results of a life history study on girls, gender, and violence. The sampe of the larger study consists of twenty-four white New England working-class girls, age 15-18: eight "sex offenders," eight "assaultive offenders," and eight "nonviolent girls." The chief questions addressed in the broader study are: Why do some girls engage in violence and some girls do not? Why do girls who engage in violence commit diffferent types? In this paper I focus on the second question, discussing why some girls specifically engage in different types of violence. The goal is to grasp each girl's uniqaue viewpoint--her personal vision of why she engaged in a particular type of violence. Each interview, then, is an attempt to disclose the situational accomplishment of gender and eventual use of violence as a result of personal life history. The life history data shows that diffgerent types of violence are accountable practices for "doing" masculinity and/or femininity, depending upon the particular social setting in which the violence occurs.

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Updated 05/20/2006