Drawing on letters and essays written by teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s, and building on my historical research on same-sex desiring girls and girlhoods in the postwar United States, I ask how teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s pursued answers to questions about their feelings, practices, and identities and expressed their subjectivities as young lesbian feminists. These young writers, I argue, recognized that they benefitted from more resources and role models than did earlier generations, but they objected to what they saw as adult lesbians’ ageism, caution, and neglect. In reaching out to sympathetic straight and lesbian public figures and publications, girls found new ways to combat the persistent isolation and oppression faced by youth whose autonomy remained severely restricted by familial, educational, and legal structures.
Queer Girls’ Voices in the Liberation Era
Amanda H. Littauer
Methodologies and Practicalities
In this article I examine the potential of the Femorabilia Collection of Women’s and Girls’ Twentieth Century Periodicals for the study of girlhood in Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations and I explain why the collection was originally created and describe its current purpose and policy to promote future research. I consider the importance of material and reading cultures as well as approaches to understanding the content of these varied publications and discuss the difficulties of working with mass culture, ephemeral texts, and the problem of obtaining examples, and I consider the collection’s particular focus on popular fiction. I consider the development of the collection, examples of methodology and practice, and its use in pedagogy, research, and public engagement.
Reflections on the Inaugural International Girls Studies Association Conference
Victoria Cann, Sarah Godfrey, and Helen Warner
In Conversation with Eylem Atakav
Child marriage affects many young girls and women all over the world, and yet, while the number of cases is extremely alarming, there appears to be hardly any awareness of the subject, never mind public visibility. The consequences of forced marriage are dire with severe psychological, physical, and social impact on girls and women. If we are to raise awareness, the silence surrounding forced child marriage needs to be broken. In her documentary film Growing Up Married (2016), feminist media scholar Eylem Atakav faces the issue head-on. Her film brings to the screen four women from Turkey who were forced into marriage as children; as adults, they recollect their memories, on camera, for the first time. Growing Up Married—a milestone of feminist filmmaking in its celebration of women’s narratives of survival—foregrounds their voices as they tell their stories of having been child brides.
Global Narratives of Girls at Risk and Celebrity Philanthropy
In this article I explore the Half the Sky (HTS) phenomenon, including the documentary shown on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network in 2014. I explore how the girls in whose name the HTS movement exists are represented in relation to Nicholas Kristoff and six celebrity advocates. This analysis foregrounds Global North philanthropy’s discursive use of Global South girls to advance a neoliberal approach that ignores structural forces that account for Global South poverty. The upbeat use of the concept of opportunities interpellates the audience into participating in individualized approaches to rescuing girls. Ultimately girls are spoken for while celebrities gain more exposure and therefore increase their brand recognition.
Grace Helbig’s Affective Aesthetics
An emerging genre across literature, screen, and digital media is beginning to articulate profound dissatisfaction with postfeminist social norms and scripts. In this article, I explore how American comedian Grace Helbig exploits and reworks classic postfeminist self-improvement genres through her parodying of the YouTube how-to video. Using Helbig’s video as an illustrative case study, my analysis demonstrates that affect theory has the capacity to make a vital contribution to current postfeminist debates. Recent research finds postfeminist analysis lacks the facility to fully comprehend the complexity of contemporary femininities, suggesting that postfeminist media studies as a genre of scholarship has reached a critical impasse. Drawing on Lauren Berlant’s (2008, 2011, 2015) work, I examine how Helbig affectively deflates popular postfeminist fantasies of fun-loving confident girlhood. More widely, I argue that affective approaches offer feminist scholars a dynamic framework to make sense of the continuing impact and legacies of postfeminist media culture.
Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, Instagram Reproductions, and Viral Memetic Violence
Aria S. Halliday
Images on popular social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter that are the most entertaining are loaded with memetic power because their value is based on cultural attitudes that already constitute our lives in the everyday. Focusing on memes appropriating the artwork from Nicki Minaj’s single, Anaconda, I explore how popular memetic culture is fueled by Black women’s creativity yet positions Black women’s bodies as the fodder for potent viral images on social media platforms and in everyday experiences; Black girlhoods, at this level of representation and in lived experiences, are rarely awarded the distinction from womanhood that many other girlhoods enjoy. Thus, Black feminist discourses of desire which speak to both girlhoods and womanhoods inform my argument that social media has become a site of reproduction and consumption—a technological auction block where Black women’s bodies, aesthetics, and experiences are vilified for viral enjoyment.
The Story of a Forgotten Era
UK Teen Girl Comics from 1955 to 1960
In this article I explore the production of teen girl comics such as Marilyn, Mirabelle, Roxy and Valentine in the promotion of pop music and pop stars from 1955 to 1960. These comics developed alongside early pop music and consisted of serial and self-contained picture stories, beauty and pop music articles, advice columns, and horoscopes. Materiality is a key component of the importance of comics in the promotional culture in a media landscape in which pop music was difficult to access for teenage girls. I analyze the comics within their historical and cultural framework and show how early British pop stars were constructed through paradoxical discourses such as religion, consumerism, and national identity to make them safe for teen girl consumption. The promotion of these star images formed the foundation for later pop music promotion and girl fan practices.