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Technological Nonviolence and Girls

Creating a Counter Discourse

Claudia Mitchell

The idea of devoting a special issue of Girlhood Studies to what Jonathan Bock (2012) calls technologies of nonviolence comes at a critical time in girlhood studies. On the one hand, technology—especially digital technology— and various social media platforms are firmly entrenched in the everyday lives of many young people around the world. On the other, questions regarding who has access to technology and how technology is used and abused continue to dominate the fields of girlhood studies in particular and of youth studies more broadly.

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Claudia Mitchell

This first issue of Girlhood Studies in 2015 heralds the beginning of our move from two to three issues a year. This change acknowledges the burgeoning interest in Girlhood Studies as an academic area, and the increase in submissions from contributors. It also acknowledges the global context for work on girlhood. Indeed, as part of this exciting time, we bring to the Girlhood Studies community the second in a series of themed issues focusing on girlhood in different geographic and political contexts. Thus, following “Nordic Girls’ Studies: Current Themes and Theoretical Approaches” (Girlhood Studies 6:1), and in collaboration with the guest editors of that issue, we present this special issue on “Girlhood Studies in Post-Socialist Times.” The mock-up in Figure 1 offers a transliteration of the logo on the cover of Girlhood Studies into Russian; it was created for the first Russian Girlhood Studies conference, “Girlhood Studies: Prospects and Setting an Agenda” held in Moscow on 7 December 2012 at the Gorbachev-Foundation. This conference was a momentous event, attended by Mr. Gorbachev himself, that brought together scholars from various Russian universities and institutions to consider what Girlhood Studies as an interdisciplinary area of feminist scholarship could look like. Many of the presentations at that conference are now articles in this themed issue.

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Claudia Mitchell

There is something rebellious about the work of Girlhood Studies so it is perhaps fitting that “Visual Disruptions” is the theme of this seventeenth issue of Girlhood Studies. The significance of 17 as an age in the life of girls and young women may vary, of course, across cultures, and, indeed, within contemporary popular culture in the West it is not necessarily seen as disruptive, as research on Seventeen magazine highlights. Nonetheless, we can think of the Janis Ian song from the 1970s, “At Seventeen,” and the many songs from The Beatles to the Sex Pistols that refer to girls being 17, and contemplate a state that is far from compliant in relation to conventional femininity. The articles in this themed issue of Girlhood Studies, guest-edited by Danai S. Mupotsa and Elina Oinas, offer a fascinating investigation into the politics of girlhood and visual culture, and the politics of disruption itself. The contributions are also a testament to the close alliance between feminism and visual studies.

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Claudia Mitchell

There is probably no topic associated with doing fieldwork with girls and young women that evokes more concern than the issue of ethics. For many members of university research ethics boards (REBs) the very term girls in the title of a project sets off alarm bells, and when the work is participatory and visual there is often a heightened concern in relation to what girls might be talking about, screening, photographing or drawing, There are, of course, good reasons why researchers need to be vigilant in seeking to do most good and least harm in all research involving human subjects. At the same time, however, this heightened concern about working with girls and young women should also cause us to reflect on what our vigilant attitude does and some of the potentially harmful outcomes some attitudes may have. For example, do we see girls as victims or agents? When? At what age? Under what circumstances? What harm might we do if we refuse to see that girls can be both?

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Claudia Mitchell

With this issue of Girlhood Studies, we recognize the tenth anniversary of the death of Jackie Kirk, one of the co-founders of the journal. While we begin the issue with a visual essay “Honoring the Legacy of Jackie Kirk,” in which we document a special international event that took place earlier this year that paid tribute to her work, as the other two co-founding editors of GHS, we, Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, would like to offer our own tribute to Jackie. As someone who travelled the globe, Jackie was a great emailer, and managed to remain connected to vast networks of researchers, practitioners, and members of NGOs regardless of where she was, and so it is perhaps fitting that we have found ourselves emailing back on forth about what we might say about her now.

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Editorial

A Girl of a Certain Age

Claudia Mitchell

A critical feature of girlhood studies is the recognition of age itself as an analytical tool, particularly in relation to the importance of going beyond formulations such as women-and-girls and girls-and-young-women, terms that could erase the very specifics of everyday experience. The emergence of tween studies at the beginning of this century represented a significant movement in its contribution to deepening an understanding of the time (and age) of pre-adolescence as a relatively understudied area, compared, for example, to the lives of girls over the age of 13. A new collection of articles on tween culture, then, and one linked to a range of educational, socio-cultural and geographic contexts—in this case, Canada, the UK, the US, and Spain—is long overdue. The guest editors, Natalie Coulter of York University in Canada and Melanie Kennedy of Leicester University in the UK bring to this work a contemporary perspective.

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Claudia Mitchell

Now, in 2017, Girlhood Studies begins its tenth year. It is a tribute to our guest editors and contributors that we have been able to take on such a range of topics and concerns. Quantitatively, we have passed the one million mark in relation to the number of words about girlhood in the first twenty issues of the journal. The various guest editors have tackled such critical issues as critiques of girl power, girls and post-conflict, girls and health, girlhood studies and media, dolls and play, memory work methodologies in the study of girlhood, literary texts and girlhood, visual disruptions, girlhood and disabilities, Indigenous girlhoods, and ethical practices in girlhood studies.

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Editorial

Girl (Not) Gone

Claudia Mitchell

This special issue of Girlhood Studies, close to double the length of previous issues, offers a blockbuster of articles on the theme of the girl in the text, guest edited by our managing editor, Ann Smith. As the third in the Girlhood Studies 10th anniversary collection, this issue brings together several ideas. This special issue was inspired in part by the spate of novels over the last few years that draw attention to the girl in their titles.

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Claudia Mitchell

This Open Call issue of Girlhood Studies brings together a collection of articles from Canada, the US and Russia that address a range of themes of concern and interest to the study of contemporary girlhood. The issue opens with an article called “Little Girls on the Prairie and the Possibility of Subversive Reading” by Amy Singer as a way of signalling the importance of “differentiating between narratives that reinforce the status quo and narratives that challenge it.” As Singer points out, “a subversive story makes visible connections between social power and inequality.” Following this is Michael G. Cornelius’s “Sexuality, Interruption, and Nancy Drew.” In some of these stories, as Cornelius points out, we see a different kind of subversion of the status quo: “whenever the subject of marriage arises, Nancy interrupts the conversation or changes it altogether” so as to prevent any consideration of “marriage and the ensuing responsibilities (and identity shifts) that it—and mid-century womanhood in general—implies.”

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Girls with Disabilities

A Rights Perspective

Claudia Mitchell

Although many of our articles over the years have established connections between girls, girlhoods, and human rights, this issue of Girlhood Studies is one of our first to locate explicitly the study of girls’ lives, in particular the lives of girls with disabilities, within a framework of human rights.