On the Politics of Studying Ethics and Girlhood

in Girlhood Studies

There is probably no topic associated with doing fieldwork with girls and 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?

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