This issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, while unthemed in the sense that it comes out of an Open Call, reminds us that a foundational principle of Girlhood Studies remains one of contesting and challenging inequities. Furthermore, how girls themselves might, under some circumstances, take up critical issues in their lives is evident in these contributions. Each of the contributors has placed front and centre the idea of contesting. Recently in a publications panel at a graduate student conference, participants, eager to get their work published, wanted to know more about this journal. Two of their questions stand out. “May the articles be quantitative as well as qualitative?” and “Is it enough that at least half of my participants are girls?” This collection of articles responds beautifully to these questions in offering an affirmative to the question about quantitative and qualitive data when the point is to use appropriate evidence to contest gender norms, and a negative to being about representation in terms of simply including girls.
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An Artist in Transformation
Ari Heinrich, Livia Monnet, and Gabriel Remy-Handfield
Lu Yang (陆扬, 1984) is a critically acclaimed new media artist and rising star based in Shanghai, China, who works across film, games, performance, and installation. His work has been exhibited at numerous biennales and exhibitions in China and around the world, including the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. He has collaborated on videos with high-profile rock bands like The 1975, and one of his videos featured in a 2020 fashion show of the Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning.1 Lu Yang has also won prestigious awards, including the BMW Art Journey Culture award in 2019, and Deutsche Bank's Artist of the Year award in 2022, and the artist was anthologized in Barbara London's critical history of video and the digital arts, Video Art: The First Fifty Years (2020), as well as in Dominique Moulon's Chefs d'oeuvre du 21e siècle : l'art à l'ère digitale (Masterworks of the 21st Century: Art in the Digital Era, 2021). In contemporary art and popular culture, Lu Yang is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power
It was difficult to determine the right cover for this special issue. The purpose of the issue was to encourage new ways of thinking about the phallus, and the aim was to find an image that did just this—ask people to wonder what the image is telling us. What does it represent? What is the story? It is perhaps ironic that the image we found most appealing is a device designed to prevent a penis from functioning. In the late nineteenth century, masturbation was believed to cause mental illness, and solo ejaculation was considered a form of sexual dysfunction, and this is one example of many, often brutal, devices created to physically prevent erections and masturbation. Sitting over modern blue jeans, however, the image is erotic and evokes BDSM or kink culture. The old and the new, repression and eroticism, are one and the same.
Masculinity, Sex, and Dicks
New Understandings of the Phallus
Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power
This special issue brings together interdisciplinary work exploring the relationship between bodies, masculinity, and the penis or phallus. The symbolism, significance, and meaning of the phallus or penis has varied historically and across disciplines. In the psychoanalytic tradition, “the subject…can only assume its identity through the adoption of a sexed identity, and the subject can only take up a sexed identity with reference to the phallus, for ‘the phallus is the privileged signifier’” (Segal 2007: 85). Jacques Lacan's work has inspired feminist critiques of “phallocentrism” in high and popular cultural texts since the 1970s (Segal 2007). Elizabeth Stephens (2007) describes the ancient Greek ideal of small penises as indexing self-control and rationality, while the Romans celebrated virility and power, which they associated with a large penis. Other scholarship has explored the racialization of penis size, such as the stereotype of Black men as possessing large penises, indexing hypersexuality and often depicted in racist terms as representing aggression or lack of civility (Lehman 2006).
A “Sense of Presence”
The “me of me” in Black Girlhoods
Claudia Mitchell and Ann Smith
We begin by paying tribute to feminist Black scholar, bell hooks, who died 15 December 2021. As the numerous citations in just this issue alone bear witness, she has had a huge influence on feminist ways of thinking particularly in relation to how race, gender, and capitalism intersect. In her well-known essay, “In Our Glory” on Black girlhood and visual culture (), she offers a memory of losing a photograph of herself as a young girl in the 1950s masquerading, as she called it, in full cowgirl regalia.
Toward a Politics of “Raw Dicks”
Authenticity, the Alt-Self, and New Understandings of the Phallus
Chris Ashford and Gareth Longstaff
Law arguably shapes contemporary culture and phallic politics. In England and Wales, like much of the Global North, the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century saw a general shift from a criminal legal framework that understood sexuality as sexual acts to a civil law framework that seeks to privilege institutions - notably marriage - and lifestyle as signifiers of sexuality. This article contributes to legal and cultural understandings of the phallus, specifically the “raw dick,” as key to understanding the self-representational spaces of “authentic” and “alt” selves on social media. It situates the “raw dick” as the locus of this cultural, legal, and social exchange in which the legal outlaw of male phallic desire has been incorporated into queer citizenship. We argue that the aesthetics of the alt-self provides us with new and important ways to understand the phallus and its relationship to sex and sexuality.
Andrew J. Ball
The final issue of Screen Bodies Volume 6 offers readers an ideal combination of the diverse kinds of work we feature, from a macroscopic theory that proposes a new discipline, to a set of articles that rigorously examine a small number of artworks with respect to a shared topic, to a piece of curatorial criticism on a recent media arts exhibition. The articles collected here offer a fitting cross section of the topics and media we cover, discussing such varied subjects as prehistoric art, Pink Film, artificial intelligence, and video art.
Michael R.M. Ward
I took over as editor of BHS in January 2019. In that time, we have put out three regular issues, which have contained a large variety of work focusing on gender issues concerning boys and young men, and three special issues on more specific topics, such as boyhood and belonging and the work of one of the leading masculinities scholars of the past 30 years, Raewyn Connell. These two recent special issues (13.2 and 14.1) contained work from established and emerging scholars focusing on the twentieth anniversary of Connell's seminal text, The Men and the Boys. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they have been very well received, and articles in this collection are among the most read in the journal's history.
Sometimes the evolution of an open call issue of Girlhood Studies results in something of a girls studies reader unto itself. Since this issue is packed full of criss-crossing themes based on work in several countries—Canada, Iceland, India and the US—there is just no room for editorial commentary. In its inclusion of works on intersectional feminisms and feminist and Indigenous-led critique to school-based and intergenerational interventions and the power of the visual, this issue is something of such a reader.
This image, Challenging Masculine Constructs by Oliver, is part of a photovoice project (see the article by Phillip Joy, Matthew Numer, Sara F. L. Kirk, and Megan Aston, Embracing a New Day: Exploring the Connections of Culture, Masculinities, Bodies, and Health for Gay Men through Photovoice, this issue) that explored the way culture and society shape the beliefs, values, and practices about food and bodies for gay men. Taken by the participant, this image is his way to challenge what he believes are limiting gender ideas for men and how masculine bodies should be dressed and presented to others. He disrupts these social constructs by dressing and presenting his body in ways he believed moved beyond typical masculine notions and by doing so reveals alternative gender expressions and new possibilities of living.