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"You must be very intelligent...?": Gender and Science Subject Uptake

Lorna M Ryan


The reasons that fewer girls than boys choose to study physics have, with few national exceptions, been an on-going academic and policy concern.  This paper considers how ‘common-sense’ ideas about  subject choice are gendered and are based on notions of ‘natural’ interest and ‘natural’ abilities of boys and girls. It identifies instances of such reasoning in sociological theories, most recently Catherine Hakim’s preference theory.  Drawing on ethnomethodology and Bourdieu’s framework for the analysis of modes of knowledge production, the paper argues that ‘common-sense’ reasoning produces and reproduces gendered understandings about ‘appropriate’ and ‘natural’  male and female interests and abilities.  Secondary qualitative analysis from a study on science uptake demonstates how girls who express interest in physics have to justify such preferences.  


SET; gender

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