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.
Reflections on the Inaugural International Girls Studies Association Conference
Victoria Cann, Sarah Godfrey, and Helen Warner
As we move towards the second International Girls Studies Association Conference, to be held at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, in February 2019, we reflect on the work of the scholars and practitioners who presented at our first conference
Karoliina Ojanen, Heta Mulari, and Sanna Aaltonen, eds. 2011. Entäs tytöt: Johdatus tyttötutkimukseen [But what about girls: Introduction to girls’ studies]. Nuorisotutkimusverkosto/Nuorisotutkimusseura, julkaisuja 113. Tampere: Vastapaino.
Lyn Mikel Brown
Lyn Mikel Brown gives an autobiographical account of her shift in focus from studying girls and theorizing girls and girlhood to working as an activist and advocate for and with girls. Specifically she describes the Maine-based nonprofit organization called Hardy Girls Healthy Women (www.hghw.org) that she founded in 2000. She situates her current praxis historically in the light of her groundbreaking work with Carol Gilligan at the Harvard Project on Women's Psychology and Girls' Development in the 1980s and early 1990s. This work did indeed put the "girls" into Girls' Studies.
Bodil Formark and Annelie Bränström Öhman
While we have been working on this themed issue the political talk about The Girl has entered a new phase in a global shift manifested both by the establishment of the International Day of the Girl and through the launching of various campaigns on themes such as: Give Girls an Education and Eradicate World Poverty. The necessity for such initiatives was cruelly illustrated by the violent attack on Pakistani girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai on her way home from school on 9 October 2012. Such blatant discrimination makes it difficult for us not to feel that we live in a privileged part of the world. The five Nordic nation states—Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden—are indeed often perceived by outsiders, too, as progressive countries that have come very far in achieving gender equality. However, although Nordic girlhood may appear in stark contrast to that of the millions of disadvantaged girls in the world, there are complexities and ambivalences beneath the surface of Nordic progressiveness that a reductive, comparative, and linear, framework fails to take into account.
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.
Timothy Laurie, Catherine Driscoll, Liam Grealy, Shawna Tang, and Grace Sharkey
's model provides important points of connection with girls studies and, in doing so, opens up space for diverse traditions within feminist scholarship to approach “boys” and “boyhood” as objects of critical concern. The subsequent sections draw on Connell
I met Roxanne Harde, the guest editor of this Special Issue, at the Second International Girls Studies Association conference in 2019 when I attended the panel discussion, “Representations of Rape in Young Adult Fiction.” I recall Roxanne
Place, Desire, and Country Girlhood
This article explores the figure of the bored country girl that appears widely in popular culture but also in girls studies and rural studies through ethnographic research in Australian country towns. While the presumption that country girls lack resources and opportunities for entertainment and leisure is in many ways empirically valid, this problem's articulation in girls' lives also offers an important perspective from which to ask what boredom and cultural needs mean, relative to each other, for both rural studies and girls studies. This article suggests that girlhood's relation to policy discourse and urbanized modernity can be productively reconsidered through the lived experience of country girls.
This Special Issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal represents another milestone in the history of the journal, coming, as it does, out of the second international conference of the International Girls’ Studies Association (IGSA) that was hosted by Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, in 2019. As the guest editors, Angeletta Gourdine, Mary Celeste Kearney, and Shauna Pomerantz highlight in their introduction, the conference itself and the Special Issue set in motion the type of dialogue and conversation that is crucial to challenging and changing the world of inequities and disparities experienced by girls. For a relatively new area of study that has roots in feminism and social change, critical dialogue about inclusion and exclusion and about ongoing reflexivity and questioning must surely be at the heart of girls studies. The guest editors capture this admirably when they replace the question “What is girlhood studies?” with the provocative and generative question, “What can girlhood studies be?” The articles and book reviews in this Special Issue tackle what girls studies could be in so many different ways, ranging from broadening and deepening notions of intersectionality and interdisciplinarity to ensuring a place for the article, “Where are all the Girls and Indigenous People at IGSA@ND?” co-authored by the girls who belong to the Young Indigenous Women’s Utopia group. Such an account offers a meta-analysis of the field of girlhood studies, but so did the call for the Special Issue as a whole. It is commendable that this team of co-editors assembled and curated a series of articles that reveal the very essence of the problematic that girlhood studies seeks to address.