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. Chanel Miller’s Know My Name (2019) 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 possible–there were eyewitnesses and physical evidence was collected immediately–he was sentenced to only six months in the county jail, and she was repeatedly shamed, her humanity denied by the judicial system. Lacy Crawford’s Notes on a Silencing (2020) 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.
Steven Roberts and Karla Elliott
Raewyn Connell famously theorized hegemonic masculinity, explaining its dominance over femininity and “subordinated” and “marginalized” masculinities. Attending to representations of the latter, we argue that “men in the margin” are commonly wrongly and/or simplistically depicted as regressive and violent in response to their marginalization. Focusing on representations of working-class boys and men, we illustrate the stereotypical treatment of “men in the margin” more broadly, making clear that this goes against Connell's treatment of such men. Conversely, privileged boys and men are commonly held up by critical studies on men and masculinities scholars as paragons of progressive change. The characterization of boys and men in the margin as regressive and patriarchal impedes the ability to address problems like violence, misogyny, and homophobia and overlooks the possibilities for transformation that emerge among marginalized communities.
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.
The Effects of COVID-19 on Girls
Girls and women are the first victims of any calamity, pandemic, or disaster in developing countries like Bangladesh. As it is, they are very often denied health care, are forced to endure child marriage and early motherhood, and are frequently subjected to violence. Given this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic they are now suffering immensely. COVID-19 threatens girls’ rights in countries around the world and will have far-reaching impacts on their health and wellbeing, education, and protection. Self-isolation has increased the rates of gender-based violence. Early marriage and pregnancy are among the drastic effects of school closures and many parents have married off their underage daughters or sold them off to rich families as domestic workers to reduce their economic burden.
COVID-19 and Urban Métis Girls and Young Women
Carly Jones, Renée Monchalin, Cheryllee Bourgeois, and Janet Smylie
The national COVID-19 pandemic response presents a sharp contrast to the matrilineal social kinship and knowledge exchange systems that Métis women and girls rely on for safety, security, and wellbeing. In this article, we demonstrate that while Métis women and girls have been left out of the national pandemic response, they continue to carry intergenerational healing knowledges that have been passed down from the kokums (grandmas) to the iskwêsisisak (girls). We show how urban Métis girls and women are both managing and tackling COVID-19 through innovative and community-based initiatives like Well Living House and the Call Auntie Hotline.
Experiences of “Left-Behind” Girls in Rural China
“Left-behind” children in rural China are those whose parents seek work in urban areas and leave them behind in their hometowns. In this article, I focus on the experiences of five young “left-behind” girls who were socially isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the Chinese authorities’ instruction to schools to “Stop classes, but don't stop learning,” I examine micro-level data on the tensions and challenges experienced by these girls during the COVID-19 lockdown. I look at how the pandemic has affected these girls in relation to school and family life and suggest that it has exposed and magnified gender inequalities, particularly those related to the maltreatment exerted by their guardians and/or brothers, that have left them even further behind.