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Pathologizing Latinas

Racialized Girlhood, Behavioral Diagnosis, and California's Foster Care System

Isabella C. Restrepo

Scholars of the welfare system have explored the racialized criminalization of mothers of color who are punished by the foster care system, through control of their children, when they are unable to meet the ideals of middle-class motherhood but have yet to fully articulate a language to understand the ways in which this criminalization and punishment extends to youth once they are placed in the foster care system. Using ethnographic interviews with agents of the care system, I explore the ways in which the system pathologizes Latinas’ quotidian acts of resistance and survival like their use of silences through the behavioral diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). I argue that California’s foster care system is an arm of the transcarceral continuum, marking girls of color and their strategies of resistance as pathological, thereby criminalizing them through the diagnosis of behavioral disorders.

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Red Ribbon Skirts and Cultural Resurgence

Kimihko sîmpân iskwêwisâkaya êkwa sihcikêwin waniskâpicikêwin

Kari Dawn Wuttunee, Jennifer Altenberg, and Sarah Flicker

A small group of Indigenous girls and their allies came together to make ribbon skirts to reclaim teachings, resist gender-based and colonial violence, and re-imagine our collective futures. Based on the personal reflections of the organizers and the girls involved gathered through individual semi-structured interviews and directed journal writing, we share lessons about the process and outcomes. Learning about the historical and cultural significance of ribbon skirts gave these girls a stronger connection to their culture, community, and each other. Wearing their ribbon skirts became an embodied act of resistance to violence in promoting resilience and self-determination. This case study illustrates how Indigenous girls and their allies can engage in resurgence practices to challenge gender-based violence through reclaiming and adapting cultural teachings and practices.

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Sandrina de Finney, Patricia Krueger-Henney, and Lena Palacios

We are deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to edit this special issue of Girlhood Studies, given that it is dedicated to rethinking girlhood in the context of the adaptive, always-evolving conditions of white settler regimes. The contributions to this issue address the need to theorize girlhood—and critiques of girlhood—across the shifting forces of subjecthood, community, land, nation, and borders in the Western settler states of North America. As white settler states, Canada and the United States are predicated on the ongoing spatial colonial occupation of Indigenous homelands. In settler states, as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang remind us, “the settler never left” (2012: 20) and colonial domination is reasserted every day of active occupation. White settler colonialism functions through the continued control of land, resources, and racialized bodies, and is amalgamated through a historical commitment to slavery, genocide, and the extermination of Indigenous nationhood and worldviews. Under settler colonial regimes, criminal justice, education, immigration, and child welfare systems represent overlapping sites of transcarceral power that amplify intersecting racialized, gendered, sexualized, and what Tanja Aho and colleagues call “carceral ableist” violence (2017: 291). This transcarceral power is enacted through institutional and bureaucratic warfare such as, for example, the Indian Act, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the child welfare system to deny, strategically, Indigenous claims to land and the citizenship of racial others.

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Rekinning Our Kinscapes

Renegade Indigenous Stewarding against Gender Genocide

Sandrina de Finney, Shezell-Rae Sam, Chantal Adams, Keenan Andrew, Kathryn McLeod, Amber Lewis, Gabby Lewis, Michaela Louis, and Pawa Haiyupis

“Sisters Rising” is an Indigenous-led research project that centers the gender knowledge of Indigenous youth and communities. In this article, members of “Sisters Rising” build on the notion of kinscapes to propose renegade stewardship as a generative concept through which to consider what kinds of responses are required at the community-scholarly-activist level to disrupt conditions of gender-based and sexual violence and racialized poverty that strip Indigenous bodies of sovereignty, land, and cultural connections while targeting us for genocide. Operating from a multimethod research standpoint that is land- and arts-based, community-rooted, and action-oriented, that engages youth of all genders, and that links body sovereignty to decolonization, this work seeks to build political, theoretical, ceremonial, and interpersonal channels that are crucial to restoring dignity with advocacy for and by Indigenous communities.

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"There's Something About <em>HER</em>"

Realities of Black Girlhood in a Settler State

Kandice A. Sumner

In this article I examine my lived experience as a Black girl in a white settler state using an autoethnographic approach within the framework of critical race and feminist theory to unpack the deleteriousness of existing as a Black female in a white educational settler state. Drawing on my doctoral research, I conclude that greater attention, in terms of theory and praxis as well as compassion, needs to be applied to the educational journeys of Black girls in white settler states, particularly in predominantly white schools.

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Being a Girl Who Gets into Trouble

Narratives of Girlhood

Elaine Arnull

In this article I focus on the narratives of girls who describe the events that shape their lives and get them into trouble. The narratives are explored against Darrell Steffensmeier and Emilie Allan’s (1996) proffered Gender Theory, to consider whether it offers an adequate explanatory framework. The article adds to the body of knowledge about girlhood, gender norms, and transgression and provides fresh insight into the relevance of physical strength to girls’ violence. I conclude that girls are defining girlhood as they live it and it is the disjuncture with normative concepts that leads them into conflict with institutions of social control.

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Naila Keleta-Mae

In this article I examine the performances of black girlhood in two texts by Ntozake Shange—the choreopoem “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf” (1977) and the novel Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo (1982). The black girls whom Shange portrays navigate anti-black racism in their communities, domestic violence in their homes, and explore their connections with spirit worlds. In both these works, Shange stages black girls who make decisions based on their understanding of the spheres of influence that their race, gender, and age afford them in an anti-black patriarchal world dominated by adults. I draw, too, from Patricia Hill Collins’s work on feminist standpoint theory and black feminist thought to introduce the term black girl thought as a theoretical framework to offer insights into the complex lives of black girls who live in the post-civil rights era in the United States.

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Janet Seow

Doll play is critical in the formation of young black girls’ gender, race, and class identities. In this article, I use textual analysis that emphasizes how physical changes in dolls correspond to contextual shifts in society over the last seven decades, and qualitative research with ten Afro-Caribbean girls and young women in Toronto to reveal the racial and cultural meanings of dolls in young people’s everyday lives and how doll play is complicated by racist and classist representations of dolls. By exploring what doll play meant to them, I show how it helps black girls understand racial and gendered norms. Through doll play, girls reveal an understanding of their racialized identities and marginalization as they demonstrate unacknowledged skills in their ability to navigate barriers that reinforce racial inequalities and social hierarchies in girls’ material culture in a multicultural Toronto.

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Courtney Cook

Nazera Sadiq Wright. 2016. Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century. Urbana, University of Illinois Press.

Black girls have a history of resilience. Nazera Sadiq Wright, in Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century (2016), analyzes accounts of the experiences of black girls from what she refers to as “youthful” girlhood to the conscious or “prematurely knowing” (44) age of 18. Setting out to recover overlooked accounts of black girlhood during the nineteenth century, a tumultuous epoch of transition for the black community, Wright uses contemporaneous literary and visual texts such as black newspapers, novels, poetry, and journals to reconstruct this lost narrative. By engaging in a close reading of these texts, in which black people, emerging from slavery, communicated with each other about personal and community goals, Wright examines the ways in which the instruction of black girls operated in between the lines of literature to convey codes of conduct to the black community. She argues that with the emergence of literature written by and for black women, the role of the black girl morphed from docile homemaker to resilient heroine for herself and her people. In discussing this more complex role, Wright does not deny that black girls were vulnerable to multiple forms of violence and hurt, but does point to a more nuanced experience. Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century is an intervention into the African American literary canon, filling in many of the gaps in the lost history of black girlhood, making it an essential text for those “who care” (22) about black girls as they engage in the process of rewriting and redeeming the narratives of an often-forgotten population.

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Delphine Letort

The controversies triggered by the Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) have focused on suicide and downplayed discussions of rape as a central plot device. Making use of stereotypical characters (such as the cheerleader and the jock) and archetypal setting (including the high school), 13 Reasons Why delves into the reassuring world of the suburban town; it deals ambiguously with the entwined notions of gender and power encapsulated in the teenpic genre. A detailed analysis of the series indeed reveals that its causative narrative reinforces the rape myth by putting the blame on girls for events that happen to them. In this article I explore the tensions of a TV series that endorses the rape myth through the entertaining frame of the teenpic.