I met Roxanne Harde, the guest editor of this Special Issue, at the Second International Girls Studies Association conference in 2019 when I attended the panel discussion, “Representations of Rape in Young Adult Fiction.” I recall Roxanne's passion vividly and, indeed, the enthusiasm of all three presenters as they discussed a variety of texts in superb presentations that aligned well with Ann Smith's notion of feminism in action in their seeing “a fictional text not only as a literary investigation into issues of concern to its author but also as the site of educational research” (2000: 245). Their papers pointed to the ways in which the analysis of how rape culture is treated in Young Adult (YA) literature, film, and the print media can take scholars and activists so much further into the issues, and, at the same time, noted the ways in which rape culture in all its manifestations as a global phenomenon has inevitably led to its becoming an everyday topic of YA fiction.
In 1983, Andrea Dworkin addressed the Midwest Men's Conference in Minneapolis. She discussed the rape culture in which we live, noted the similarities between rape and war, and, following the title of her talk, asked for a “24-hour truce in which there is no rape.” And she asked why men and boys are so slow to understand that women and girls “are human to precisely the degree and quality that [they] are” (n.p.). Every sexual assault begins with the dehumanization of the victim. And sometimes, after the violation, after the pain and the fear, comes the institutional dehumanization visited upon the victim who seeks medical or legal help. Two recent memoirs bring to the surface rape culture, evident in the young men who raped these girls and the systemic dehumanization they suffered when they sought justice. describes the aftermath of being sexually assaulted, when she was just out of college and still living at home, by someone she met at a fraternity party. Although the case against her rapist was as strong as possiblethere were eyewitnesses and physical evidence was collected immediatelyhe was sentenced to only six months in the county jail, and she was repeatedly shamed, her humanity denied by the judicial system. describes the aftermath of being sexually assaulted, when she was 15, by two boys, students at her New England boarding school, including an account of how school officials refused to do anything other than label her promiscuous and protect the boys. The ways in which she was silenced by St. Paul's, which disregarded her health and future, and denied her humanity because she was only a girl, were profound. In both cases, the promising future of the perpetrators was prioritized over the humanity of the girls by many institutions, including the judiciary and the press. Crawford was raped just seven years after Dworkin made her plea to that men's conference, but Miller was assaulted twenty-five years after, making perfectly clear that rape culture has become only more entrenched.
Survivor Resistance in Rape Culture
Gay, Roxane, ed. 2018. Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. New York: Harper.
Possession as Rape in Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Contemporary Young Adult literature is a favored genre for exploring sexual assault, yet rarely interrogates the social structures underpinning rape culture. In its representation of heterosexual relationships, Young Adult paranormal romance offers insight into the processes and structures that uphold rape culture. Genre tropes normalize abusive behavior and gender ideals, demonstrating the explicit and implicit construction of rape culture, culminating in the depiction of supernatural possession analogous to rape. Here, I reflect on power, control, rape culture, and girlhood in a textual analysis of Nina Malkin's Swoon, Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush, and Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Covenant. A constructive reading reflects implicit cultural discourses presented to the girl reader, who can apply this to her own negotiation of girlhood.
Gilmore, Leigh, and Elizabeth Marshall. 2019. Witnessing Girlhood: Toward an Intersectional Tradition of Life Writing. New York: Fordham University Press.
A Discourse Analysis of Media Coverage
Lyndsay Anderson and Marnina Gonick
In September 2013 student leaders at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, used a chant about the rape of underage girls as part of an Orientation Week activity for new students. The incident garnered national and international media coverage. In this article, we analyze and critique a selection of Canadian media articles published in the weeks after the rape chant was used. We draw on feminist analysis of post-feminism and the sexualization of youth cultures to show how, in their struggle to make sense of the incident, the media critique reiterates harmful discourses of youth, gender and sexuality while undermining deeper understanding of rape culture.
Between Legitimation and Punishment
In this article, I analyze certain ideas circulating in early twentieth-century Mexico about the sexual abuse of young and adolescent girls, and how ideas about the prohibited, permitted, or legitimate uses of their bodies were sustained by complex webs of corruption and injustice. Not only criminals but also families, lawyers, judges, and police officers commonly considered the bodies of young girls from working-class families as legitimate spaces of sexual violence. Some newspapers also propagated this idea. Prevailing notions about the gender and sexuality of young and adolescent girls fed into family-based concepts of honor and chastity that were reproduced in practices and narratives related to the abuse of children's bodies, and this contributed to the perpetuation of a rape culture among Mexicans.
Supporting Girls’ Action Against Rape Culture
Alexe Bernier and Sarah Winstanley
Reflecting on our work with girls, we discuss what we have learned about how they experience rape culture and engage in activism to confront it. We explore how rape culture manifests in the lives of adolescent girls who are between 10 and 15 years of age in Calgary, Canada. We then demonstrate how groups of girls have moved from awareness to collective action meant to challenge rape culture and consider the impact that this action has had on them. Our aim is to show how popular education and feminist methodologies are effective in supporting girls’ activism on issues like rape culture so that others working in community with girls may gain new tools that might aid their work.
Transgender Girls and Their Families in the Time of COVID
Sally Campbell Galman
Meet Lily: Hi! I'm Lily. I'm 12 years old and I'm going into junior high school next year. I have curly black hair like my dad and green eyes like my mom. It's been 170 days since school and life and shops and stuff all shut down and my little sister Chloe and I really REALLY want COVID to be over. We play dolls and read and go for walks but I also spend a lot of time online texting and stuff with my friends.
Pivoting our Model with Girls During COVID-19
Cheryl Weiner, Kathryn Van Demark, Sarah Doyle, Jocelyn Martinez, Fia Walklet, and Amy Rutstein-Riley
The Girlhood Project (TGP) is a community based, service-learning/research program that is part of the undergraduate course at Lesley University called “Girlhood, Identity and Girl Culture.” TGP works with community partners to bring middle and high school girls to Lesley's campus for nine weeks as part of intergenerational girls’ groups that are co-facilitated by Lesley students (also referred to as TGP students). TGP fosters the development of feminist leadership, critical consciousness, voice, and community action, and activism in all participants. In this article, we describe how we adapted TGP's model to a virtual and synchronous platform for students during COVID-19 and supported their learning competencies. We reflect critically on this experience by centering the voices and perspectives of girls, students, and professors.