2-1 | The Hidden Life of Girls: Games of Stance, Status, and Exclusion

Book Review

The Hidden Life of Girls: Games of Stance, Status, and Exclusion

Marjorie Harness Goodwin
Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. Appendices, notes, illustrations, references. xi, 329 pp. $31.95 paper. ISBN: 9780631234241

by Tracy Vaillancourt

First Paragraph:

Sugar and spice and everything nice—far from it. Marjorie Harness Goodwin’s ethnographic account of the interpersonal behavior of preadolescent girls shatters the antiquate stereotype. In this well-researched book, we witness firsthand the Machiavellian politics of the playground, where scheming behavior is the rule rather than the exception. What clearly emerges from this important research is that the negotiation of power among middle-school girls is complicated and clumsy. For example, Goodwin’s systematic account of a seemingly benign childhood activity such as hopscotch reveals intricate details about rules, status, and competition. Clearly the play of girls is highly circumscribed, and what looks like play to an adult outsider is in effect a convoluted series of interactions. In these interactions, games act as a pretext for trying out, albeit awkwardly, different social roles.