Activist Networks by, for, and with Girls and Young Women
Catherine Vanner and Anuradha Dugal
Reflections on a Lifelong Inspiration
It has been 20 years since Raewyn Connell published The Men and the Boys (2000a), which can be seen as the foundational text of boyhood studies. This journal is a good place to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of that book, and there are two special issues coming in the winter of 2020 and spring of 2021. Connell's work has been part of my academic thinking about education and gender for 47 years. I have chosen to situate my appreciation for The Men and the Boys in the context of that 47-year time frame. The Men and the Boys, which we are celebrating in the next issue of Boyhood Studies, came late in my engagement with Connell's work. It is important to understand that Connell's work has spanned three scholarly developments: the rise of women's studies, men's studies, and boyhood studies.
Michael R. M. Ward and Thomas Thurnell-Read
This special issue of Boyhood Studies considers how a group of international scholars have engaged with the concepts of boyhood and belonging as a complex personal and powerful process. In different ways, the authors highlight how belonging is an ongoing negotiation within one's surroundings. The international research presented here compels us to conceptualize belonging and boyhood as something that is not only infused with individuals and collective histories, but also interwoven within different conceptions of place and space. These places and spaces are experienced in multiple ways within different social contexts. We contend that this special issue is positioned at an important time in studies of boys and young men. As boys and young men experience their transition into adulthood with increased precarity, it is time we take theories of boyhood and belonging seriously. These theories can open up new spaces and provide critical insights into young lives.
The concerns addressed by the authors in this issue point to the need for a reimagining of girlhood as it is currently framed by settler and carceral states. To quote the guest editors, Sandrina de Finney, Patricia Krueger-Henney, and Lena Palacios, “The very notions of girl and girlhood are embedded in a colonial privileging of white, cis-heteropatriarchal, ableist constructs of femininity bolstered by Euro-Western theories of normative child development that were—and still are—violently imposed on othered, non-white girls, queer, and gender-nonconforming bodies.” Indigenous-led initiatives in Canada, such as the Networks for Change: Girl-led ‘from the Ground up’ Policy-making to Address Sexual Violence in Canada and South Africa project, highlighted in four of the eight articles in this issue, along with the insights and recommendations offered in the articles that deal with the various positionalities and contexts of Latinx and Black girls, can be described as creating a new trail. In using the term trail, here, I am guided by the voices of the Indigenous researchers, activists, elders, and community scholars who participated in the conference called More Than Words in Addressing Sexual and Gender-based Violence: A Dialogue on the Impact of Indigenous-focused, Youthled Engagement Through the Arts on Families and Communities held in Montreal. Their use of the term trail suggests a new order, one that is balanced between the ancestors and spiritual teachings on the one hand, and contemporary spaces that need to be decolonized on the other with this initiative being guided by intergenerationality and a constant interrogation of language. The guest editors of this special issue and all the contributors have gone a long way on this newly named trail.
Sandrina de Finney, Patricia Krueger-Henney, and Lena Palacios
We are deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to edit this special issue of Girlhood Studies, given that it is dedicated to rethinking girlhood in the context of the adaptive, always-evolving conditions of white settler regimes. The contributions to this issue address the need to theorize girlhood—and critiques of girlhood—across the shifting forces of subjecthood, community, land, nation, and borders in the Western settler states of North America. As white settler states, Canada and the United States are predicated on the ongoing spatial colonial occupation of Indigenous homelands. In settler states, as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang remind us, “the settler never left” (2012: 20) and colonial domination is reasserted every day of active occupation. White settler colonialism functions through the continued control of land, resources, and racialized bodies, and is amalgamated through a historical commitment to slavery, genocide, and the extermination of Indigenous nationhood and worldviews. Under settler colonial regimes, criminal justice, education, immigration, and child welfare systems represent overlapping sites of transcarceral power that amplify intersecting racialized, gendered, sexualized, and what Tanja Aho and colleagues call “carceral ableist” violence (2017: 291). This transcarceral power is enacted through institutional and bureaucratic warfare such as, for example, the Indian Act, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the child welfare system to deny, strategically, Indigenous claims to land and the citizenship of racial others.
As this issue of Girlhood Studies went to press, two very dramatic moments in the history of girls and young women were in the public eye. One was the large 8000-strong gathering of NGOs, researchers, politicians, and activists from 165 countries at the Women Deliver Global Summit on gender equality that took place in Vancouver, Canada, from 3 to 6 June 2019. There, according the program, the focus was on how power can both hinder and drive progress and change for a world that is more gender equal. On 3 June, the long-awaited report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada was released, with its 231 recommendations or calls for social justice to address what is now acknowledged as being part of what was (and continues to be) cultural genocide. Both the Global Summit and the report on MMIWG are reminders of the need for the blend of scholarship and activism that is so critical to advancing issues of equity and to implementing recommendations to achieve this. This unthemed issue with its broad range of geographic locations, concerns, and methods and its attention to activism, along with scholarship that features work from both the humanities and social sciences, is key in relation to mobilizing a social justice agenda.
Michael R. M. Ward
It is with real pleasure that I introduce this issue of Boyhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (BHS), my first full issue as Editor. The past few months have been a learning curve in terms of the roles and responsibilities expected when editing an international journal, but I am very pleased with what we have to offer here. At a very important and critical time for gender scholars, I want to use this editorial as a general announcement of the editorial change, or addition, in editorship and the future direction, I would like to take the journal in. It is also an opportunity to introduce editorial board members, old and new to the readership and to outline what follows in volume 12, issue 1.
I am very grateful to Barbara Brickman, the guest editor of this Special Issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for her term “dislodging girlhood” in the context of heteronormativity. Repeatedly in this issue Marnina Gonick’s pivotal question, “Are queer girls, girls?” (2006: 122) is cited. In the 13 years since she posed this question, we have not seen enough attempts made to address it. To mix my metaphors I see this issue of Girlhood Studies as helping to break the silence and simultaneously to open the floodgates to a ground-breaking collection of responses to Gonick’s question. Given the rise of the right in the US and in so many other countries, queer girls— trans, lesbian, gender non-conforming, non-binary to mention just a few possibilities—are at even greater risk than before. Girlhood Studies has always been concerned with social justice, so this special issue is a particularly important one in our history. It is also worth noting that many of the articles are written or co-authored by new scholars, signaling an encouraging trend in academic work that has social justice at its core. I thank Barbara Brickman, the authors, and the reviewers for their history-making contributions to the radical act of dislodging girlhood.
Barbara Jane Brickman
In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?