Now, in 2017, Girlhood Studies begins its tenth year. It is a tribute to our guest editors and contributors that we have been able to take on such a range of topics and concerns. Quantitatively, we have passed the one million mark in relation to the number of words about girlhood in the first twenty issues of the journal. The various guest editors have tackled such critical issues as critiques of girl power, girls and post-conflict, girls and health, girlhood studies and media, dolls and play, memory work methodologies in the study of girlhood, literary texts and girlhood, visual disruptions, girlhood and disabilities, Indigenous girlhoods, and ethical practices in girlhood studies.
This first issue of Girlhood Studies in 2015 heralds the beginning of our move from two to three issues a year. This change acknowledges the burgeoning interest in Girlhood Studies as an academic area, and the increase in submissions from contributors. It also acknowledges the global context for work on girlhood. Indeed, as part of this exciting time, we bring to the Girlhood Studies community the second in a series of themed issues focusing on girlhood in different geographic and political contexts. Thus, following “Nordic Girls’ Studies: Current Themes and Theoretical Approaches” (Girlhood Studies 6:1), and in collaboration with the guest editors of that issue, we present this special issue on “Girlhood Studies in Post-Socialist Times.” The mock-up in Figure 1 offers a transliteration of the logo on the cover of Girlhood Studies into Russian; it was created for the first Russian Girlhood Studies conference, “Girlhood Studies: Prospects and Setting an Agenda” held in Moscow on 7 December 2012 at the Gorbachev-Foundation. This conference was a momentous event, attended by Mr. Gorbachev himself, that brought together scholars from various Russian universities and institutions to consider what Girlhood Studies as an interdisciplinary area of feminist scholarship could look like. Many of the presentations at that conference are now articles in this themed issue.
This Open Call issue of Girlhood Studies brings together a collection of articles from Canada, the US and Russia that address a range of themes of concern and interest to the study of contemporary girlhood. The issue opens with an article called “Little Girls on the Prairie and the Possibility of Subversive Reading” by Amy Singer as a way of signalling the importance of “differentiating between narratives that reinforce the status quo and narratives that challenge it.” As Singer points out, “a subversive story makes visible connections between social power and inequality.” Following this is Michael G. Cornelius’s “Sexuality, Interruption, and Nancy Drew.” In some of these stories, as Cornelius points out, we see a different kind of subversion of the status quo: “whenever the subject of marriage arises, Nancy interrupts the conversation or changes it altogether” so as to prevent any consideration of “marriage and the ensuing responsibilities (and identity shifts) that it—and mid-century womanhood in general—implies.”
There is something rebellious about the work of Girlhood Studies so it is perhaps fitting that “Visual Disruptions” is the theme of this seventeenth issue of Girlhood Studies. The significance of 17 as an age in the life of girls and young women may vary, of course, across cultures, and, indeed, within contemporary popular culture in the West it is not necessarily seen as disruptive, as research on Seventeen magazine highlights. Nonetheless, we can think of the Janis Ian song from the 1970s, “At Seventeen,” and the many songs from The Beatles to the Sex Pistols that refer to girls being 17, and contemplate a state that is far from compliant in relation to conventional femininity. The articles in this themed issue of Girlhood Studies, guest-edited by Danai S. Mupotsa and Elina Oinas, offer a fascinating investigation into the politics of girlhood and visual culture, and the politics of disruption itself. The contributions are also a testament to the close alliance between feminism and visual studies.
Although many of our articles over the years have established connections
between girls, girlhoods, and human rights, this issue of Girlhood Studies is
one of our first to locate explicitly the study of girls’ lives, in particular the
lives of girls with disabilities, within a framework of human rights.
This issue of Girlhood Studies begins with a Special Section on Indigenous Girls as a critical area of scholarship and activism in girlhood studies. Recognizing the need for decolonizing perspectives and approaches, the guest editors, Kirstsen Lindquist, Kari-dawn Wuttunee, and Sarah Flicker offer a boundary-breaking collection. Apart from its being the first assemblage on Indigenous girls as far as we know, the Special Section is unique in several other ways. First, it is guest edited by an editorial team that includes two young Indigenous women, Kirsten and Kari-dawn, who are both members of the National Indigenous Young Women’s Council (NIYWC) and, as such, it draws on the strength of an organization of young Indigenous women. Second, it highlights the significance of community alliances as evidenced in the contributions of Sarah who has been working with Indigenous young people in Canada for over a decade. Third, acknowledging global solidarity amongst Indigenous peoples, as recognized, for example, in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,2 the collection includes submissions on Indigenous girls and girlhoods in Canada, South Africa, and Mexico. Finally, it is boundary-breaking in that it brings together different genres of writing and creative productions including articles, poetry, a personal essay, reviews (including one based on the contributor’s own familial oppression), an account of how and why a contributor set up a sexual health initiative, and a piece of Indigenous visual art, all of which support the endeavor of decolonizing knowledge in both theory and practice.
young women that evokes more concern than the issue of ethics. For many members of university research ethics boards (REBs) the very term girls in the title of a project sets off alarm bells, and when the work is participatory and visual there is often a heightened concern in relation to what girls might be talking about, screening, photographing or drawing, There are, of course, good reasons why researchers need to be vigilant in seeking to do most good and least harm in all research involving human subjects. At the same time, however, this heightened concern about working with girls and young women should also cause us to reflect on what our vigilant attitude does and some of the potentially harmful outcomes some attitudes may have. For example, do we see girls as victims or agents? When? At what age? Under what circumstances? What harm might we do if we refuse to see that girls can be both?
Carrie A. Rentschler and Claudia Mitchell
Girlhood Studies scholars respond to an overwhelming portrayal of girls as
either bad or needing rescue in, for example, mainstream films on mean
girls, popular psychology texts on primarily light-skinned middle class girls’
plummeting self-esteem, and media panics about teen girl sexting. According
to Sharon Mazzarella and Norma Pecora, “In response to public anxiety and
cultural fascination,” in “academic studies of girls…the emphasis has shifted
slightly so that the discourse is no longer linked primarily to crisis” (2007:
105). Still, in popular and policy discourse today, girls are often unfairly and
inaccurately cast as either super agents or failing subjects.
Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh
In this, our second issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (GHS), we continue our work out of respect for, and in memory of, our founding co-editor, Jackie Kirk, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier in 2008 while she was carrying out her work in girls’ education in conflict zones. We carry on with the belief that we all shared from the beginning about the need to respect girls, to study girl culture on its own terms and to keep in mind the importance of further developing the interdisciplinary field of girlhood studies.
Claudia Mitchell and Jacqui Reid-Walsh
This issue of Girlhood Studies focuses on particular girlhood practices—the everyday activities in which some girls engage as part of their ordinary lives. In this issue we look at these girls engaging in these practices, sometimes on their own and sometimes in small groups, how and when they engage in them and where they do so. These include the long-standing practice of girls engaging in child care as babysitters, playing with dolls (in the case of younger girls) or reading fashion magazines (in the case of older girls). These activities take place in different locations, some of which have been associated historically with girlhood, such as a girl’s bedroom or a school classroom, and others which have been more recently appropriated by girls as congenial spaces, such as shopping malls, movie theaters and the internet.