Precarious Girls and (Cruel) Optimism

Protecting Sexually Abused Teenage Girls

in Girlhood Studies
Author:
Rosemary R. Carlton Université de Montréal, Canada carlton@umontreal.ca

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Abstract

Using data collected as part of a larger qualitative study, I attend to the presence of two seemingly opposing narratives shaped by neoliberal and postfeminist attitudes—a gloomy one in which girls are thought to be at risk of experiencing poor life outcomes and an optimistic one that claims ubiquitous opportunity for all girls regardless of circumstance or experience. I suggest that both narratives combine to contribute to girls’ responsibilization for their future successes (and failures). I consider the potential cruelty of optimistic child protection practices grounded in a fantasy of future success as self-determined and accessible to those sexually abused teenage girls willing to work hard.

Contributor Notes

Rosemary R. Carlton (ORCID: 0000-0003-0550-0381) is an assistant professor at the École de travail social, Université de Montréal. Her scholarly interests include girlhood, child protection, child sexual abuse, gender-based violence, social work practice, transformative pedagogies, and feminist, intersectional, and decolonial theories. Email: rosemary.carlton@umontreal.ca

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