I’ve recently been on a camp with my Scout group. During this, I spent an hour waiting for a load of Scouts. This meant that I had some thinking time. I’ve recently spent a great deal of my time working on my corrections, which has included a lot of reading on the notion of ‘space’ and in particular ‘performative spaces’. During my wait I started to think about Facebook as a performative space for our Scout group. We use the page to post pictures of our activities, for both current parents and future parents. As a result, the facebook page can be seen as both a performative space in terms of marketing and recruitment, as well as for current parents.
In particular, I thought about the way we used facebook during the weekend. A couple of the leaders posted photos – a few of the boys cooking, eating, cycling, building a bridge – standard stuff for a Scout camp. But then I though about who had posted what – the (only) female leader had posted the pictures of cooking and eating and one of the male leaders posted the pictures of the activities. Now, this was entirely coincidence based on who had internet access and phone battery at the time, however, I can read into this a different gender related meanings.
1. Scouts demonstrate that there should be no gender roles – boys can, and do cook.
2. This, however, only extends to childhood. Sure, it’s fine for boys to cook, but not for men. By having a woman post images of cooking, the Scouts are showing that gender roles, whilst not applicable for children, are still relevant to adults.
When I started to think about the facebook page as a performative space, this gendering took on a different meaning. As leaders, we are aware that facebook is a public space and, as our group is public, we know that anyone can see it. Perhaps, subconsciously, the image that we are trying to present to parents and prospective parents, is that we, as leaders, believe that gender roles do in fact have a place in society. Now, this isn’t anything that we as leaders have actively sought to present, however, it is something that we need to bear in mind. We need to think carefully about how we are presenting ourselves and the image that we are giving to young people. If we consistently ensure that women are presenting images of domesticity on our facebook page and men are consistently presenting images of adventure, then we are contributing to notions of gender difference. Even though this is not our intentions – in fact we all participate in cooking and adventure regardless of gender – the way that we perform these roles in public (by certain genders posting certain activities on facebook) shows that we all have a way to go before we can consider ourselves free of gender expectations.