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.
Looking Outward from/with IGSA@ND
Angeletta KM Gourdine, Mary Celeste Kearney, and Shauna Pomerantz
We are proud to introduce this special issue that was inspired by the 2019 International Girlhood Studies Association (IGSA) conference at the University of Notre Dame (IGSA@ND). At that time, we were not yet acquainted with each other beyond exchanging pleasantries and knowing of each other's academic profiles. Yet we came together as three co-editors and scholars committed not only to the diversification of girlhood studies but also to the larger project of social justice for all. We want to promote such work through this special issue and, in the process, expand perspectives and practices within the field of girlhood studies, as many before us have done.
This Special Issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal represents another milestone in the history of the journal, coming, as it does, out of the second international conference of the International Girls’ Studies Association (IGSA) that was hosted by Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, in 2019. As the guest editors, Angeletta Gourdine, Mary Celeste Kearney, and Shauna Pomerantz highlight in their introduction, the conference itself and the Special Issue set in motion the type of dialogue and conversation that is crucial to challenging and changing the world of inequities and disparities experienced by girls. For a relatively new area of study that has roots in feminism and social change, critical dialogue about inclusion and exclusion and about ongoing reflexivity and questioning must surely be at the heart of girls studies. The guest editors capture this admirably when they replace the question “What is girlhood studies?” with the provocative and generative question, “What can girlhood studies be?” The articles and book reviews in this Special Issue tackle what girls studies could be in so many different ways, ranging from broadening and deepening notions of intersectionality and interdisciplinarity to ensuring a place for the article, “Where are all the Girls and Indigenous People at IGSA@ND?” co-authored by the girls who belong to the Young Indigenous Women's Utopia group. Such an account offers a meta-analysis of the field of girlhood studies, but so did the call for the Special Issue as a whole. It is commendable that this team of co-editors assembled and curated a series of articles that reveal the very essence of the problematic that girlhood studies seeks to address.
The Young Indigenous Women's Utopia Group, Cindy Moccasin, Jessica McNab, Catherine Vanner, Sarah Flicker, Jennifer Altenberg, and Kari-Dawn Wuttunee
We adopt an autoethnographic approach to share critical reflections from the Young Indigenous Women's Utopia girls’ group about our experiences attending the 2019 International Girlhood Studies Association conference at the University of Notre Dame (IGSA@ND). Moments of inspiration included sharing our work and connecting with local Indigenous youth. Challenging moments included feeling isolated and excluded since the only girls present at the conference were Indigenous people in colonial spaces. We conclude with reflection questions and recommendations to help future conference organizers and participants think through the politics and possibilities of meaningful expanded stakeholder inclusion at academic meetings.
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.
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.
Jennifer A. Thompson, Sarah L. Fraser, Rocio Macabena Perez, Charlotte Paquette, and Katherine L. Frohlich
In this article, we feature photographs and cellphilms produced by 13 girls and young women (aged 13 to 19) from urban, rural, and Indigenous areas of Quebec, Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Framed within girls’ studies, we present girls’ and young women's creations and co-analysis about wellbeing during a period of lockdown. We explore how girls and young women restructured their routines at home as well as negotiated motivation and the pressure to be productive. We note that girls had more time than usual for creative activities and self-discovery and that they engaged with the politics of the pandemic and advocated for collective forms of wellbeing. Importantly, girls reported that participating in this research improved their wellbeing during this lockdown.
The Urgent Need for Research and Action
Kaitlin Schwan, Erin Dej, and Alicia Versteegh
Equitable access to adequate housing has increasingly been recognized as a matter of life and death during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, there has been limited gendered analysis of how COVID-19 has shaped girls’ access to housing. In this article we analyze how the socio-economic exclusion of girls who are homeless is likely to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. We suggest that three structural inequities will deepen this exclusion: the disproportionate burden of poverty faced by women; the inequitible childcare responsibilities women bear; and the proliferation of violence against women. We argue for the development of a research agenda that can address the structural conditions that foster pathways into homelessness for low-income and marginalized girls in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.