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Vol. 18 (2005 Spring)

Parent Advocacy in a Gendered Organization: Participatory Research, Action, and Analysis

June 1, 2023


Hegemonic gender relationships pervade the organization of schooling in America (Marshall, 1992, 2000; Yeakey, Johnston, & Adkinson, 1986; Young, 2000; Young & Laible, 2000). Men generally occupy privileged roles as administrators. Women ordinarily serve in subordinate positions as teachers and parents (read: mothers). The exercise of authority in schools, then, has come to be associated with the male voice: hierarchical, rule-oriented, dispassionate, and even harsh (Jones, 1988; Shakeshaft, 1989, 1998). Hegemony silences women’s voices so that their calls for compassion and connectivity become “non-authoritarian, marginal pleadings for mercy—gestures of the subordinate” (Jones, 1988, p. 121).

Hegemony of gender served as the fundamental premise of this study of four women as they struggled to achieve social justice for their children with disabilities. The mothers created a grassroots organization called Face-to-Face and, for two years, battled the male-dominated school administration and Board of Education. The study examines the gendered organization of schooling in one, small, rural school district in the American Midwest, and serves as a lens for viewing the hegemony of gender in American society.