Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Literacy, Language and Culture

Committee Member

Susan Cridland-Hughes

Committee Member

Michelle Smith

Committee Member

Emily Howell

Committee Member

Jacquelynn Malloy


Research continues to reveal that school, as a patriarchal institution, is not often a safe space for girls to enact their gender identities (Liu, 2006; Sadker, Sadker, & Zittleman, 2009). The gender bias and inequality girls experience in classrooms contributes to harmful behaviors, such as self-silencing and adhering to stereotypical gender norms (Bender-Slack, 2009; Gilligan, 1993), which creates challenges for girls’ construction of positive gender identities. In the wake of new feminist movements, such as #MeToo and Time’s Up, research focused on the perpetuation (and disruption) of patriarchal norms and their effect on girls’ gender identity is all the more vital.

Following a holistic case study design, the purpose of this study was to examine how middle school girls’ author (Holland et al., 1998) gender identity in an out-of-school writing context. The eight-week writing workshop was the bounded setting of the study, and three focal participants were selected for inclusion: Emma, Celia, and Bailey. Through workshop observations, individual participant interviews, and participant writings, findings suggest adolescent girls author their gender identity through sharing personal stories, interpreting literature by women, and writing about their identity as girls. Key implications in this study include the need for a safe and supportive community and engagement with diverse literature for the authoring of identities. For girls in particular, developing a positive gender identity in the face of sexism and discrimination within society and schools is vital for empowerment and a positive sense of self.



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