Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Petra Munro


The purpose of this ethnographic study is to explore the stories told by four adolescent females about how they construct a gendered identity amidst the conflicting and contradictory expectations of them as adolescents and as females. After situating the study within a feminist poststructuralist framework, the dominant cultural scripts that have dictated what constitutes normative adolescent and feminine behavior are examined. Of particular importance to this study is the way in which these dominant discourses of femininity and adolescence are manifested in the middle school that the participants attend, especially in the school's attempt to mold its female students into "proper little ladies.". As illuminated by the dominant metaphors the participants used to describe their lives (e.g. the cowboy, the gangster, the goddess, the good woman) as well as their stories about fighting, what constitutes normative femininity is a highly contested issue in the everyday lives of adolescents, and their stories reveal an understanding of masculinity and femininity as unfixed, fluid, and contextual. Also, their stories suggest that adolescence is not a universal construct, and how people experience adolescence is greatly impacted by their race (both Black and White girls are represented in the study), class, and gender. In short, these tales told by adolescent females illuminate sites of conflict and challenge us to "unlearn the truth" about gender, identity, adolescence, and schooling.