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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

In this, our second issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (GHS), we continue our work out of respect for, and in memory of, our founding co-editor, Jackie Kirk, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier in 2008 while she was carrying out her work in girls’ education in conflict zones. We carry on with the belief that we all shared from the beginning about the need to respect girls, to study girl culture on its own terms and to keep in mind the importance of further developing the interdisciplinary field of girlhood studies.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

The fifty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22 February to 04 March 2011. Representatives from Member States, UN entities and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)-accredited NGOS from all regions of the world attended the session. Amongst the many themes and issues discussed, several were critical: as a priority area, the access of girls and women to education, training and science; as a review theme, the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against girls; and as an emerging theme, sustainable development and gender equality. These themes and issues highlight the significance of literacies, literatures and technologies (old and new) in the lives of girls, but they also signal the presence (and absence) of other texts such as policies and policy documents in relation to such areas as, for example, Teachers’ Codes of Conduct, and Water and Sanitation that affect the lives of girls around the world.

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Nordic Girls' Studies

Current Themes and Theoretical Approaches

Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

This special issue of Girlhood Studies is the first one to have been devoted to the study of girls living in a specific geographical region. Here we focus on girls in the Nordic countries. What makes this set of essays particularly fascinating is that they address issues concerning girls who are located in countries whose advanced social services and democratic beliefs and practices are admired around the world. The rest of the world believes that the Nordic countries, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark, have achieved much of what girls in other countries in both the Global North and Global South are still working and fighting for. Interestingly, in their call for papers the guest editors Bodil Formark and Annelie Bränström Öhman, both located at Umeå University in Sweden, cite Finish sociologist Elina Oinas (2011) who queries whether Nordic girls do in fact belong to that exclusive group of “girls who won the lottery.” In the articles in this issue, the contributors interrogate some of the assumptions the rest of the world makes about the lives of girls living in Nordic countries, and the different notions of freedom that have an impact on them.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

We take the title of our editorial introduction to this themed issue of Girlhood Studies from Sandrina de Finney’s lead article in which she explores “alternative conceptualizations of trauma, place, and girlhood that might enact a more critical, politicized girlhood studies.” Contributions to this issue offer what the guest editors refer to as a re-description of girls in crisis. In so doing not only do they offer challenges to definitions of crisis, they also deepen our understanding of what transformative practices might look like. From a consideration of Indigenous girlhood in Canada to a study of country girls in Australia, from work on YouTube to Holloback! and other social media platforms to girls’ digital representations of their own safety, and from changes in newspaper discourse about murdered girls to a consideration of work done with incarcerated girls, we are invited to re-think this notion of girls-in-crisis, and its significance.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

The first “White House Research on Girls” Conference took place on 28 April 2014, in Washington, DC. At this event the Girls Research Coalition was formed, and the White House Council on Women and Girls also announced the establishment of the Girls Portal, a clearinghouse for research on girls, hosted by Re:Gender (formerly known as The National Council for Research on Women, Inc.), and meant to facilitate the sharing of existing research on girls, and to provide opportunities to explore new directions in research. This initiative is an important one for ensuring that the burgeoning research on girlhood reaches the many different audiences who need to have access to its findings. As the editors of GHS, we strongly endorse the establishment of the Girls Research Coalition and the Girls Portal.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs the adage, “Children should be seen and not heard”, which dates back to at least the 1400s, was really directive to girls and young women: “A mayde [maiden or young girl] schuld be seen, but not herd.” The belief that girls and young women should be quiet and demure changed from being a piece of commonplace knowledge to being a written precept in the 17th century when manuals of prescriptive behavior began to be written for a gender-specific audience. For example, in a Puritan manual for young couples, published in 1612, different advice was presented to each: the husband was supposed to “[d]eal with many men, [b]e entertaining, and [b]e skilful in talk” but the wife was instructed to “[t]alk with a few, [b]e solitary and withdrawn, and [b]oast of silence.” (cited in Zipes et al. 2005: 1417).

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Jacqueline Reid-Walsh and Kirstin Bratt

Perhaps it is more obvious in the present day, surrounded as we are by cell phones and other electronic devices transmitting information and messages in images and words instantaneously, but for over a hundred years the lives of girls—middle class girls in particular—have been mediated to a large extent by the plethora of texts that surround them. These texts are largely fictional narratives in different formats such as novels, magazines, television shows and films, many of which appear as digital media. Some of these texts are composed by adults, often women, and are directed at girl readers and viewers in an effort to establish a direct or indirect pedagogical relationship with them. Then again, depending often on how fantasy and desire is constructed in the narrative, other texts have no apparent pedagogical function, serving instead as sites (some adult-sanctioned and some not) of escape from reality. Other texts are created by the girls themselves and are directed at members of their own age group either as texts of peer education or of entertainment.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

It has been forty years since the feminist classic on women’s health and sexuality, Our Bodies, Our Selves was published. Available first in 1971 and then produced commercially in 1973 (revised, re-issued and, as of October 2011, in its ninth printing), Our Bodies, Our Selves, published by the Boston Women’s Collective, was regarded by many girls and women in the 1970s and 1980s as the book that changed their relationship to their own bodies and to their own health. And indeed, it set the stage for a revisioning of the questions: “Whose bodies?” and “Whose voices?” in health research, and could be regarded as a precursor to such works as Sandra Harding’s (1991) Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women’s Lives.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

In this themed issue of GHS, “Interrogating the Meaning of Dolls: New Directions in Doll Studies,” guest edited by noted doll researcher Miriam Forman-Brunell, we are introduced to a new generation of doll researchers who continue to explore the connections between girls and dolls. Similar to girls’ other types of play such as domestic play with miniature kitchens and with dollhouses, their playing with dolls is far from being an uncontested area of study within feminist scholarship. In the eighteenth century Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Maria and Richard Edgeworth elaborated the function of the fashion doll as a way of preparing girls for their future life. Dolls became more of a problematic topic in the twentieth century when much of the discussion centered around Barbie. In an article we wrote on Barbie some years ago (Reid-Walsh and Mitchell 2000), for example, we played with the expression “just a doll” (175) arguing that, on the one hand, Barbie’s low cultural status as a doll called into question the vast amount of controversy generated by one piece of molded plastic, and, on the other, trivialized girls’ play objects.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

The publishing of the articles in this issue of Girlhood Studies coincides with the global events related to the First International Day of the Girl—11 October 2012. Th is is a day formally declared by the United Nations as the one set aside to articulate the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. The actual process of gaining official recognition through the United Nations for a specific day is no small feat. The efforts of organizations such as Plan International and even government bodies such as the Status of Women in Canada were key in making this happen in order to address the need for greater understanding of girl-specific issues. In the global context, for example, girls are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys. Of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls. In the Canadian context, as the Minister responsible for the Status of Women highlighted in an International Day of the Girl message, young women from the ages of fifteen to nineteen years experience nearly ten times the rate of date violence as do young men. Close to 70 percent of victims of internet intimidation are women or young girls, and girls and young women are nearly twice as likely as young men and boys to suffer certain mental health problems such as depression, and anxiety about body image and self-esteem remains prevalent among girls. Th us, while October 11 is a time for celebration, it is also a time for reflection and a reminder about how much work there is still to do.