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Anne Markey

This article explores the construction of boyhood in short fiction written by Patrick Pearse, the Irish nationalist and political activist executed for his leading role in the abortive Easter Rising of 1916. Pearse’s focus on the spiritual dimension of boyhood in his first collection of Irish-language stories, Íosagán agus Sgéalta Eile [Iosagan and Other Stories] (1907), simultaneously undermines and endorses imperialist and patriarchal assumptions about gender differentiation. In later stories published in An Mháthair agus sgéalta eile [The Mother and Other Stories] (1916), Pearse moved from advocacy of boyish spirituality to a more physical and militant representation of boyhood. This changing representation of Irish boyhood illustrates how Pearse’s increasing militarism reflected his ongoing construction of national identity.

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Virtual Heroes

Boys, Masculinity and Historical Memory in War Comics 1945–1995

Alexander Clarkson

This article maintains that as a genre war comics are a valuable and neglected source for understanding constructions of ideal masculinity in the post-war West. While its main focus is the depiction of heroic manliness in one of the most commercially successful American war comics, G.I. Joe, comparisons are made with Britain’s Commando Comics and the German pictorial war magazine Landser, which concentrated mainly on the Second World War and also enjoyed wide popularity. The article suggests that while mainly addressing an adolescent readership, over time these comics came to direct their political and moral messages not only to boys but also to increasing numbers of older men who had started reading these comics when they were boys themselves. In particular, it argues that war comics strategically deployed notions of “boyishness” in their story lines, exploiting both the negative and positive connotations of the word to make readers question the egotism and immorality of contemporary society.

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The Construction of the Palestinian Girl

Voices from South Lebanon

Kathleen Fincham

This paper examines how specific femininities have been constructed in Palestinian refugee camps in south Lebanon through the intersecting discourses of gender and nation. Through these discourses, Palestinian girls and women have been positioned largely as biological reproducers, gatekeepers, metaphors, ideological reproducers and cultural transmitters of the nation. This has worked to shape Palestinian girls' upbringing in the home and in the community and presented them with limited gender scripts from which to construct their identities and imagine their futures. However, Palestinian females have also exercised agency to gain the most advantageous position available to them at any given time in Palestinian society. Although structural, legal and cultural barriers have severely limited their participation in political activism, education and paid work, Palestinian females in Lebanon have constructed their identities through Islamic feminism, and to a lesser extent, secularism. Moreover, these identities are continually being transformed through the processes of resistance, negotiation and accommodation.

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Girlhood in Action

Contemporary U.S. Girls’ Organizations and the Public Sphere

Jessica K. Taft

This article addresses the growing concern with youth civic engagement by asking how contemporary U.S. girls' organizations envision girls' civic identities. Recent years have seen the growth of girls' organizations that aim to involve girls in their communities. Based on extensive document research and two ethnographic case studies, my analysis distinguishes between this emergent transformative approach and a more widespread, normative model. Transformative organizations engage girls in a sociological analysis of the conditions of their lives, believe that girls should have public authority, and encourage girls' involvement in social change projects. Normative organizations rely upon a psychological understanding of girls' problems, imagine the public as a space of threat and as being full of barriers girls that must learn to overcome, and emphasize service over political action. By comparing these two approaches, this article suggests that scholars and practitioners should carefully consider the implications of organizations for girls' relationship to the public sphere.

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Chui Ping Iris Kam

Identity politics in the everyday lives of girls is of continual global concern to gender studies. I argue that neither educational factors nor those pertaining to mass media can stand alone in accounting for what girlhood means in Hong Kong where the study of what it means to be a girl has not yet attracted much attention from academic scholars. Because of the promotion of a sexually repressive framework in the educational sector, the concept of girlhood remains confined by an already established notion of femininity. I argue that it is hence vital for us to use texts of popular culture in education to allow for a more appropriate concept of girlhood in contemporary Hong Kong given that this concept affects the ways in which girls identify themselves.

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Chong-ro

A Space of Belonging for Young Gay Men in Seoul

Elias Alexander

For young men navigating a sexual identity that lies on the periphery of culturally understood and politically acceptable discourses, places where one expresses such identities becomes necessary to foster a sense of belonging. Gay districts have existed as bastions of open self-expression, providing a sense of belonging in restrictive societal contexts. This is particularly true in South Korea. Through direct ethnographic engagement, this article analyzes the ways in which Chong-ro, one of Seoul’s gay districts, reinforces identity to create a sense of belonging. Through methods of participant observations and semi-structured interviews with self-identified gay men, qualitative data was collected and analyzed. This article attempts to show how these places help formulate relationships that affirm young gay men’s understanding of self, community, and belonging.

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Tiffany Pollock

Fire dancers in Southern Thailand, almost exclusively young, intra-/international migrant men from rural Thailand and Myanmar, are paid to entertain tourists at nightly beach parties. An unacknowledged economy fueled largely by tips, fire dancing is fast becoming an iconic symbol of Thailand’s young backpacker tourism sector but is not considered an acceptable form of labor or a valued artistic practice, because tourist beach spaces are perceived as sites of immorality, excessive drinking, and sexuality. Male fire dancers, then, come to be known as young social deviants who do not belong in the national imaginary and thus must maneuver around a complex politics of belonging with vast differences in social and economic power. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines how belonging is negotiated among Burmese fire dancers working in Thailand, and how experiences of belonging are shaped by spatialized gendered moralities and masculinities that operate within the fire dancing scene.

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Organizing Girls' Groups for a Better Future

Local and Global Challenges and Solutions

Yulia Gradskova

The rapid political and social changes in Russia in the 1990s contributed to the circulation of many new ideas about what might count as the successful start of adulthood and also about gender norms for young people. My aim in this article is to explore the normativity of girlhood in contemporary Russia by focusing on the Nordic-Russian cooperation project that runs group workshops for girls and by looking, in particular, at a special program that was carried out in the Kaliningrad region. I show that in spite of the special and unique character of the project, the realization of the program in the Russian context partly recalls some other projects in which the general perception of heteronormativity, and the opposition of male/female as natural is left untouched.

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Elina Oinas

In this article I explore the concept of the rebellious girl by examining the cases of three different girls: an HIV activist in South Africa; a young feminist in Finland; and a topless on-line protester in post-revolution Tunisia. Although their contexts and messages vary greatly, there are marked similarities between and amongst them. I suggest that, in general, the media, political movements, and research agendas often appear to have difficulty taking girls' protests seriously. The rebellious girl is ridiculed, shunned, shamed, and disciplined. The protests explored here can, however, be read as important visual interruptions that attempt to invoke an epistemic mutiny that does not beg for inclusion on preexisting terms but, rather, challenges the boundaries of acceptable bodily integrity. They also gesture towards the social in a way that demands recognition, acceptance, and support, not a simplified acceptance based on the notion of neoliberal individual freedom.

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"Real Boys" Don't Sing, but Real Boys Do

The Challenge of Constructing and Communicating Acceptable Boyhood

Martin Ashley

This paper describes a digital interactive book targeted at 10-14 year old boys which aims to educate about how the voice develops during puberty. The contents are based on a conventional print book for adults. The D-book has an advocacy as well as educative role—it attempts to argue in a “boy friendly” language that singing is part of a rounded and fulsome boyhood. It has had to consider carefully how this might be communicated to a potentially skeptical young audience. “Boy friendly” literature has been condemned by the critics of right wing recuperative masculinity politics. The paper therefore critiques the picture of boyhood that has been conveyed and discusses the justifications for the compromises that have been reached.