Michael R. M. Ward
Figuring the Girl Activist as Global Savior
Jessica K. Taft
There has been a notable increase in the public visibility of girl activists in the past ten years. In this article, I analyze media narratives about several individual girl activists to highlight key components of the newly desirable figure of the girl activist. After tracing the expansion of girl power discourses from an emphasis on individual empowerment to the invocation of girls as global saviors, I argue that girls are particularly desirable figures for public consumption because the encoding of girls as symbols of hope helps to resolve public anxieties about the future, while their more radical political views are managed through girlhood's association with harmlessness. Ultimately, the figure of the hopeful and harmless girl activist hero is simultaneously inspirational and demobilizing.
Addressing Early and Forced Marriage in South Africa
Sadiyya Haffejee, Astrid Treffry-Goatley, Lisa Wiebesiek, and Nkonzo Mkhize
Increasingly, researchers and policymakers recognize the ability of girls to effect social change in their daily lives. Scholars working across diverse settings also acknowledge the key influence of individual, family, and societal structures on such activism. Drawing on our work with girls in a participatory visual research project in a rural community in South Africa, we consider examples of partnership and collaboration between the adult research team and the young participants. We highlight their agency in mobilizing adults to partner and support community and policy change to address traditional practices of early and forced marriage in this setting. We conclude that collaborative engagement with adults as partners can support activism and advocacy led by girls in contexts of traditional leadership.
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.
Emerging Conversations on Girls’ Literature and Girlhood
Dawn Sardella-Ayres and Ashley N. Reese
In this article, we seek to articulate a genre theory-centered definition of girls’ literature, and interrogate its subgenre, the girl's bildungsroman, as contextual, cultural sites of rhetoric regarding girls and girlhood. By exploring English-language North American girls’ literature, we identify it within a framework of genre as social action, tracing the protagonists’ maturation into the socially determined roles of wife and mother. We explore the ways in which the girl's bildungsroman follows a home-away-home model, but with the end result of socially acceptable community integration, rather than the boy's bildungsroman's culmination in heroic independent identity via quests and adventures.
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.