The history of modern girlhood is entwined with anxieties about cultural norms and cultural change that are foundational to "girlhood" and "girl culture." This essay sketches a history of discourses on girls, girlhood and girl culture as the necessary genealogical context for a subsequent discussion of the field of contemporary girl studies. It begins with historical perspectives on the 'girl of the period' from the nineteenth century, through the "girl of yesterday," the "it girl" to the post World War I period that coalesced the cultural conditions necessary for the teenager to take on iconic status. The second half of the article considers girlhood studies today—and in particular its interest in locating, describing and problematizing girls' voice and girls' agency. In a world increasingly perceived as "global," these are powerful starting points for thinking about what constitutes "girl studies" (or "girlhood studies" or "girl culture studies") today.
Online Doll Videos and the Intertextuality of Tween Girl Culture
Jessica E. Johnston
sustaining engagement with a doll franchise that defined and continues to define the childhood of many girls. Arguably, American Girl dolls have become a staple of tween girl culture since American educator and entrepreneur Pleasant Rowland founded Pleasant
The Struggle over Girlhood in Interwar America
This article argues that a long-standing critique of female adolescents is the source of everyday complaints about ordinary babysitters. The author traces the origins of adults' anxieties to the birth of babysitting and the advent of the modern American teenage girl in interwar America. The development of teenage girls' culture that generated conflict between grownups and girls with competing needs and notions of girlhood found expression in the condemnation of babysitters. Although experts and educators sought to curb girls' subcultural practices and principles by instructing babysitters during the Great Depression and World War II, their advice and training proved to be as ineffective at stemming the tide of girls' culture as halting the decline of babysitting. The expanding wartime economy that broadened the economic and social autonomy of teenage girls led many to turn their backs on babysitting.
Engaging a cross-disciplinary approach, this comparative analysis shows how two disparate icons, Barbie and Modulor, are similar. The former is an often criticized symbol of girl culture, beauty, and consumerism. The latter is a drawing of a man that summarizes the dimensional system of Le Corbusier, one of the world's most influential architects, and that subsequently became a symbol of modern architecture. Divided into three parts—idealized bodies, their spaces, and how typical users are excluded—this nuanced interpretation explores the intersections of architecture, feminism, embodiment, and ableism. I show how these two bodies—Barbie and Modulor—inspire homes that emphasize the vertical: the buildings exclude typical users. For instance, Barbie's friend Becky, who is in a wheelchair, does not fit into Barbie's skinny world and Modulor's needs are dissimilar to those of mothers and children. Putting these artifacts into conversation reinvigorates the subjects and provides a contextual framework in which to consider Barbie's house as architecture.
Instructional Practice through Feminist Pedagogical Media Literacy
In this article I discuss a theoretical intervention—feminist pedagogical media literacy (FPML)—that has practical application. I argue for the advancement of this multi-faceted media and new literacies form as a mode of empowerment for girls and young women. Using examples from feminist theoretical scholarship; DIY media and other new literacies frames; classroom examples and anecdotes; and educational perspectives on curriculum and policy, I advocate for a feminist pedagogical media literacy that enables critique and/or action stances.
Kathleen Sweeney. 2008. Maiden USA: Girl Icons Come of Age. New York: Peter Lang.
Marjorie Harness Goodwin
Making use of videotaped interactions of lunchtime conversations among multi-ethnic preadolescent peers (based on three years of fieldwork in LA) this ethnographically based study investigates the embodied language practices through which girls construct friendship alliances as well as relationships of power and exclusion. Girls display “best friend” relations not only through roles they select in dramatic play, such as twins married to twins in “house,” but also through embraces and celebratory handclaps that affirm alliances. Older (sixth grade) girls assert their power with respect to younger fourth grade girls through intrusive activities such as grabbing food from lunchboxes, insults, and instigating gossip; younger girls boldly resist such actions through fully embodied stances. Relations of exclusion are visible not only in seating arrangements of a marginalized “tagalong” girl with respect to the friendship clique, but also highlighted in the ways she is differentially treated when an implicit social norm is violated.
Girlhood Identity in The Craft
for its relevance to girl audiences. In so doing, I reject the cultural notion, discussed by Carole A. Stabile (2011: E4) in the context of feminist responses to young adult paranormal romance novels, that girls’ culture is categorically inferior to
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.
Much previous scholarly work has noted the gendered nature of humor and the notion that women use comedy in a different way than do their male peers. Drawing on prior work on gender and humor, and my ethnographic work on teen girl cultures, I explore in this article how young women utilize popular cultural texts as well as everyday and staged comedy as part of a gendered resource that provides potential sites for sex-gender transgression and conformity. Through a series of vignettes, I explore how girls do funny and provide a backdrop to perform youthful gendered identities, as well as establish, maintain, and transgress cultural and social boundaries. Moving on to explore young women and stand-up I question the potential in mobilizing humor as an educational resource and a site in which to explore sex-gender norms with young people.