Fatima Khan, Claudia Mitchell, and Marni Sommer
“Something Good Distracts Us from the Bad”
Girls Cultivating Disruption
Crystal Leigh Endsley
There are increasing demands that scholars of girlhood studies pay attention to the ways in which girls of color challenge the powerful discourses that work to constrain them. I take up this call to action through an analysis of the spoken word poetry of black, brown, and mixed-race high school girls in New Orleans, Louisiana. I discuss varying levels of consciousness about these discourses as represented in the poems of three girls aged 14, 15, and 16 that offer nuanced entry into the ambiguous process of their developing identities. I link instances of disruption highlighted through their poetry to aspects of their day-to-day experience to present a theoretical intervention that I call cultivated disruption that points to the ways in which girls of color are already practicing poetry as pleasurable and creative survival.
“Stumbling Upon Feminism”
Teenage Girls’ Forays into Digital and School-Based Feminisms
Crystal Kim and Jessica Ringrose
In this article, we discuss a case study of a feminist society in a girls’ secondary school in England, highlighting how teenage girls use social media to combat sexism. Considering the recent growth of feminist societies in UK schools, there is still a lack of research documenting how young feminists use social media’s feminist content and connections. Addressing this gap, we draw on interviews and social media analyses to examine how girls navigate feminisms online and in school. Despite their multifaceted use of social media, the girls in our research undervalued digital feminism as valid or valued, in large part because of dismissive teacher and peer responses. We conclude by suggesting that schools need to cultivate social media as a legitimate pedagogical space by developing informed adult support for youth engagement with social justice-oriented online content.
Unequal Education in Preschool
Gender at Play
In this article, I explore how the beliefs of preschool teachers that equality is the norm in their classrooms shape play periods in ways that may work to disadvantage girls. I argue that equality discourses mask the gender power children must negotiate in their play and that this leaves girls with fewer choices when they are accessing the play environment. With research grounded in fieldwork carried out in four public schools in a Canadian metropolis, I illustrate how liberal notions of equality reinforced the traditional gender binary in children’s play. Moreover, drawing on the work of Jane Roland Martin, I show that liberal understandings of equality work to sustain a male-centered education for all students in preschool. To explore ways to attend to such gender inequalities, I turn to Nel Noddings’s concept of an ethics of care and point to the need to challenge the gender binary in early learning.
Authenticity and Aspiration
Exploring the CBBC Television Tween
In this article, I argue that while the tween is understood as having transnational relevance and mobility, this is often emphasized in ways that overlook the national and cultural specificities of tween culture. I argue that the distinctive context of British television history augments the connections between national and transnational paradigms of tween culture in important ways. While authenticity, friendships, and honesty remain foregrounded in a number of Children’s British Broadcasting Corporation (CBBC) shows, these are constructed through a national discourse that connects to transnational models of the tween girl but also mobilizes a cultural specificity that is inextricable from the broadcasting context in which it is produced.
The Doll “InbeTween”
Online Doll Videos and the Intertextuality of Tween Girl Culture
Jessica E. Johnston
Over the last 10 years, girls on YouTube have been creating stop-motion videos with their American Girl dolls. Many of these girls began producing videos when they were tweens and have continued participating in the American Girl YouTube (AGTube) community into their late adolescence and early adulthood. In this article, I explore the intertextuality of tween girl culture as it is performed and reflected on by teen (13 to 18) and young adult (19 to 24) girls in their online doll videos. Through an examination of their AGTube channels, I show how girl producers negotiate their experiences and desires as teens and young adults within the tween culture of American Girl. I argue that AGTube functions as an audience-generated paratext of American Girl, and demonstrate how teen and young adult girls interact with and challenge the marketplace boundaries of tween girl culture in digital spaces.
From Selfies to Sexting
Tween Girls, Intimacy, and Subjectivities
In this article I attempt to contribute to the debates on sexualization, and on tweens’ sexual agency and choice by reporting on a qualitative study of how 53 tween girls self-presented in discourse in the context of sexting (sending sexually explicit text messages and pictures to others). More specifically, the study aims to interrogate tweens’ sexual agency and the complexity of girls’ choices by analyzing their evaluative beliefs about, and motivations for, sexting. I argue that the contradictory discursive constructions of multiple femininities not only illustrate issues of regulation and resistance, but also highlight the blurred boundaries between dominant culture and agency. My findings suggest that the sexual agency implied in sexting shows the tension between the reproduction of dominant culture and hegemony and the presence of a feminine discourse of empowerment.
Melanie Kennedy and Natalie Coulter
We reflect on the media coverage of Amy “Dolly” Everett’s death by suicide to highlight the continued spectacularization of tweenhood as an idealized form of white feminine beauty tied to consumer culture, and one that shores up contradictory notions of the can-do/at-risk girl binary. We consider contemporary tweenhood’s continuities with the visibility and concerns of girlhood from the 1990s while questioning what a definition of tweenhood in the age of digital media and beyond the boundaries of whiteness, heteronormativity, able-bodiedness, and the Global North might look like. Calling for a discursive approach to understandings and conceptualizations of tweens, we introduce the eight articles in this special issue that range from media representations of the tween to lived experiences of actual tween girls.