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Coming of Age with Proctor & Gamble

Beinggirl.com and the Commodification of Puberty

Sharon R. Mazzarella

Puberty and her first period are among the most important rites of passage in a girl's life. Cashing in on this, transnational corporate giant Proctor & Gamble created the website beinggirl.com in 2000, to provide “a forum for girls to explore their collective interests and receive guidance in choosing the right feminine protection products provided by Tampax and Always at the very start of their cycles.” Featuring podcasts, polls, quizzes, an advice column, games, downloads, and a discussion board, beinggirl.com looks like many other commercially-created online spaces for girls. Employing an “experiential analysis” methodology, this article deconstructs beinggirl.com as a site that has both a corporate imperative as well as the self-proclaimed intention of providing a space for girls.

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The Changing Nature of Girlhood in Tanzania

Influences from Global Imagery and Globalization

Marni Sommer

The experience of girlhood is shifting in Tanzania as family structure is altered by economic migration and the impact of HIV/AIDS. Also significant is the influence of globalization and global imagery, which are shaping the nature of girlhood and the experience of transitioning to young womanhood. A deeper understanding of how globalizing influences are changing girls' growing up experiences, from the perspectives of the girls themselves and the adults who intersect with them in their daily lives is essential. A rural versus urban comparative case study was conducted in the Kilimanjaro region of northern Tanzania, which explored the perspectives of girls and adults through a range of methodologies. Both adults and girls expressed concerns that globalization is negatively influencing the transition to young womanhood, with girls feeling much more appreciative of the new gendered opportunities provided by the influx of external influences.

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Parents, Sons, and Globalization in Tanzania

Implications for Adolescent Health

Marni Sommer, Samuel Likindikoko, and Sylvia Kaaya

As the global youth population grows exponentially across Africa, there is increasing recognition of the risky health behaviors impeding boys’ healthy transitions through puberty. This study in Tanzania sought to capture boys’ voiced experiences of transitioning through adolescence, and the masculinity norms shaping boys’ engagement in risky behaviors. A critical finding was the gap in parent-son communication around pubertal body changes and avoidance of risk behaviors. Findings also suggest influences from globalization and modernization are changing boys’ pubertal experiences and introducing new challenges for parents attempting to provide guidance. Given evidence from high-income countries indicating parents can serve as protective factors for young people during the transition through adolescence, additional research is needed to understand current parent-son dynamics and potential interventions.

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Adolescent Girls, Adult Women

Coming of Age Images by Five Canadian Women Artists

Loren Lerner

This article examines the concept of female adolescence and the idea of coming of age by five Canadian women artists. Marisa Portolese, Angela Grossmann, Natalka Husar, Fiona Smyth and Susan Scott were asked to explain their understanding of coming of age in relation to works they considered most representative of this phase. For each artist there is a summary of the interview and an analysis of the pictures singled out for discussion. The findings suggest no easy definition of coming of age. The images created by these women are based on autobiographical sources, their experiences as a young person, and present life circumstances as a mother, daughter or teacher. The works assert a girl's identity and search for bodily knowledge, and affirm female puberty as an intellectual and emotional reaction to physical changes.

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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.

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Guest Editorial

Queering Girlhood

Barbara Jane Brickman

In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?

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Thomas K. Hubbard

Adolescent sexuality has been at the forefront of the recent “Culture Wars,” as is clear from the many news stories and political battles over issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and STDs, Child Sexual Abuse, enhanced legal regulation of sex offenders, pedophiles on the internet, “sexting” and child pornography. On the one hand adolescents today are more sexually mature than at most historical periods: physical puberty occurs ever earlier (Moller, 1987), while children’s capacity to access the same media as adults grows ever more sophisticated. Already in 1982, Neil Postman presciently observed that electronic media had obliterated the historical technological superiority of literate adults relative to not‐yet‐fully-literate children (Postman, 1982). At that point, he was thinking mainly of television, but his observation has become even more true in the digital age, when adolescents are often the ones teaching their parents and grandparents. 1982 had not yet grasped what would be the ubiquity of MTV or cheap, highly graphic visual pornography in many parents’ closets, or if not there, on their kids’ computer screens. Children have become the most clever at accessing media at precisely the time when popular media culture is more saturated with verbal, musical, and visual images of sexuality than ever before.

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The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court

Divine kinship and secularism in Nepal

Chiara Letizia

In 2005 a human rights petition at the Supreme Court challenged the tradition of living goddesses called Kumaris and, in particular, that of the former royal Kumari, who lives a sequestered ritual life until puberty, and who used to bless and legitimate the king once a year. The case went on while Nepal overthrew its king and was declared a secular state in 2007. When the judgment was pronounced in 2008, the goddess was still at her post and now blessed the president. This court case is taken to illustrate the directions and form that Nepali secularism is taking. It reveals a distinctive form of secularism where the state is involved in supporting and reforming religion. The religious tradition here is seen as an asset for the state, worthy of preserving, provided it makes way for social reforms in tune with the times. Despite being reduced in court to a child capable of being deprived of her rights, the political power of the goddess remains intact and her role for the nation is recognized in the verdict; both human and divine, the Kumari has been acknowledged under the now secular legal regime.

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Claudia Mitchell

target adults), and investigation into how girls are constructed in transactional texts written for girls about girlhood, like the Puberty Books that deal primarily with girls’ experiences of bodily change and menstruation, and other guides and manuals

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Veronika Novoselova

puberty as a “sexual spectacle” (159) and maintains that most pubescent girls tend to experience lowered levels of self-esteem, higher levels of emotional discomfort, and other types of distress. While mainstream literature tends to explain these negative