In 1988, Michelle Fine explored the ways in which damaging patriarchal discourses about sexuality affect adolescent girls, and hinder their development of sexual desire, subjectivities, and responsibility. In this article, I emphasize the durability and pliability of those discourses three decades later. While they have endured, they shift depending on context and the intersections of girls’ race, class, and gender identities. Calling on ethnographic research, I analyze the intersectional nuances in these sexual lessons for Latina girls in one (New) Latinx Diaspora town.
As this issue of Girlhood Studies went to press, two very dramatic moments in the history of girls and young women were in the public eye. One was the large 8000-strong gathering of NGOs, researchers, politicians, and activists from 165 countries at the Women Deliver Global Summit on gender equality that took place in Vancouver, Canada, from 3 to 6 June 2019. There, according the program, the focus was on how power can both hinder and drive progress and change for a world that is more gender equal. On 3 June, the long-awaited report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada was released, with its 231 recommendations or calls for social justice to address what is now acknowledged as being part of what was (and continues to be) cultural genocide. Both the Global Summit and the report on MMIWG are reminders of the need for the blend of scholarship and activism that is so critical to advancing issues of equity and to implementing recommendations to achieve this. This unthemed issue with its broad range of geographic locations, concerns, and methods and its attention to activism, along with scholarship that features work from both the humanities and social sciences, is key in relation to mobilizing a social justice agenda.
S. E. Duff. 2015. Changing Childhoods in the Cape Colony: Dutch Reformed Church Evangelicalism and Colonial Childhoods, 1860–1895. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
In Changing Childhoods in the Cape Colony: Dutch Reformed Church Evangelicalism and Colonial Childhoods, 1860–1895 (hereafter Changing Childhoods), S. E. Duff explores shifting notions of childhood and, more specifically, the emergence of new ideas about white childhood in the Cape Colony, South Africa, during the late nineteenth century by examining various efforts to convert and educate children, especially poor white children, and improve their welfare. As indicated in the title, Changing Childhoods draws attention to the multiplicity of experiences of children who existed alongside each other in the Cape Colony and how they were shaped by a variety of factors, including religion, location, class, race, and gender. While many histories of childhood elide the experiences of boys and girls, Duff pays careful attention to the different constructions of girlhood and boyhood and how gender shaped the lives of boys and girls, men and women. Throughout the book, girls appear not as passive observers but as complex agents shaping and participating in broader social, political, cultural, and economic transformations in the Cape.
Deevia Bhana and Emmanuel Mayeza
In this article we focus on sixty South African primary schoolgirls’ experiences of male violence and bullying. Rejecting outmoded constructions of schoolgirls as passive, we examine how girls draw on different forms of femininity to manage and address violence at school. These femininities are non-normative in their advancing of violence to stop violence but are also imbued with culturally relevant meanings about care, forgiveness, and humanity based on the African principle of ubuntu. Moving away from the discursive production of girls’ victimhood, we show how girls construct their own agency as they actively participate in multiple forms of femininity advocating both violence and forgiveness. Given the absence of teacher and parental support for girls’ safety, we conclude with a call to address interventions contextually, from schoolgirls’ own perspectives.
Bringing rape stories into popular discussion was a crucial success of the Second Wave Women’s Liberation movement. Popular culture is now inundated with rape stories. However, the repetitive scripts and schemas that dominate these are often informed by neoliberal individualism that is antithetical to feminism. The contradictions that characterize the tensions between feminism and neoliberalism in these texts are typically postfeminist, combining often inconsistent feminist rhetoric with neoliberal ideology. By examining the use of the silent victim script in young adult rape fiction, in this article I argue that most young adult rape fiction presents rape as an individual, pathological defect and a precondition to be managed by girls on an individual basis, rather than an act of violence committed against them.
In this article, I join a conversation about the definition and value of the term transnational girlhood. After surveying the fields of transnationalism, transnational feminism, and girlhood studies, I reflect on the representation of girls who act or are discussed as transnational figures. I critique the use of the term, analyze movements that connect girls across borders, and close by identifying four features of transnational girlhood: cross-border connections based on girls’ localized lived experiences; intersectional analysis that prioritizes the voices of girls from the Global South who, traditionally, have had fewer opportunities to speak than their Global North counterparts; recognition of girls’ agency and the structural constraints, including global structures such as colonialism, international development, and transnational capitalism, in which they operate; and a global agenda for change.
Negotiating between Stereotypical Femininity and Self-expression in Patriarchal Japan
In this article, I focus on the childhood and adolescent life experiences of dansō (female-to-male crossdressers) who work as escorts in contemporary Japan, and on the process that led to their presentation of self as gendered masculine in their private and working lives. During their childhood and adolescence, dansō have to negotiate their identity and self-presentation to adhere to the gendered pressures of Japanese society. Through an analysis of interviews undertaken with 14 dansō informants, I explore dansō’s construction of a male identity before adulthood, highlighting the societal impositions they experienced and the coping strategies to which they resorted in order to create and maintain a space in which to express their queer selves.
I am very grateful to Barbara Brickman, the guest editor of this Special Issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for her term “dislodging girlhood” in the context of heteronormativity. Repeatedly in this issue Marnina Gonick’s pivotal question, “Are queer girls, girls?” (2006: 122) is cited. In the 13 years since she posed this question, we have not seen enough attempts made to address it. To mix my metaphors I see this issue of Girlhood Studies as helping to break the silence and simultaneously to open the floodgates to a ground-breaking collection of responses to Gonick’s question. Given the rise of the right in the US and in so many other countries, queer girls— trans, lesbian, gender non-conforming, non-binary to mention just a few possibilities—are at even greater risk than before. Girlhood Studies has always been concerned with social justice, so this special issue is a particularly important one in our history. It is also worth noting that many of the articles are written or co-authored by new scholars, signaling an encouraging trend in academic work that has social justice at its core. I thank Barbara Brickman, the authors, and the reviewers for their history-making contributions to the radical act of dislodging girlhood.
Queer Youth Cinema Reclaims Pop Culture
Fairy Tales Film Festival 2018, Calgary Queer Arts Society, Youth Queer Media Program
For the study of youth in cinema, we, as scholars, must always remind ourselves that most images we analyze are created by adults representing youth, not by youth representing themselves. As such, they represent an idea of youth—a memory, a trauma, a wish. They are stories these adults tell themselves about what they need youth to be in that moment. Coming out becomes the singular narrative of queer youth, and positions adulthood as a safe and stable destination after escaping the traumatic space of adolescence. The stories in these films provide important moments for adult queers to “feel backward” (2009: 7) as Heather Love says, and to process the pain of a queer childhood. And for young people exploring their sexuality, these stories are essential for at-risk youth who feel hopeless, trapped, or alone.
Barbara Jane Brickman
In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?