Hains, Rebecca C. 2012. Growing Up with Girl Power: Girlhood on Screen and in Everyday Life. New York: Peter Lang.
Marnina Gonick, Emma Renold, Jessica Ringrose and Lisa Weems
With the current proliferation of images and narratives of girls and girlhood in popular culture, many ‘truths’ about girls circulate with certainty. Amongst the aims of this Special Issue is to examine critically these ‘confi dent characterizations’ (Trinh 1989), to trace the social conditions which produce these ‘truths’ along with the public fascination with girls and to analyze critically the eff ects of these ‘truths’ in the lives of young girls. Th e concepts of resistance and agency have been critical to the field of youth studies, sociology of education and school ethnographies (Hall and Jeff erson 1976; McRobbie 1978; Willis 1978) for conceptualizing the relationships between young people and their social worlds. Ground breaking scholarship by McRobbie (2000) challenges the gendered assumptions of political agency articulated in previous theories of subcultures developed in the 1970s and 80s. While feminist poststructuralist work in the 1990s has re-conceptualized agency in ways that are markedly diff erent to humanist notions of rational actors with free-will (Butler 2006; Davies 2000), feminist researchers have also shown the importance of a classed, raced and sexed analysis of agency. For example, scholarship by feminists of color have shown how girls of color challenge and defy dominant stereotypes of girlhood in culturally specifi c ways such as participating in spokenword contests, rap and hip hop, and ‘beauty contests’ (Hernandez and Rehman 2002; Gaunt 2006). In the changing social, economic, political and globalizing context of the new millennium, where ‘girl power’ has become a marketing tool and a branding (Klein 2000) of girlhood, it is important to look anew at the relations between girlhood, power, agency and resistance.
The Warner Brothers animated film Quest for Camelot (1998), which is set in the age of King Arthur, tells the story of Kayley, a brave, resolute, intelligent and peaceful teenage girl who rescues Camelot and is rewarded for her heroism by being made a Knight of the Round Table. The film presents viewers with a feminist hero, but does so without apology or self-congratulation. Kayley carves out a new space for girl heroes in mainstream film production in which a girl can become a hero without being weighed down by expectations of stereotyped gendered behavior and without virilizing herself by narrowly defining a hero as an aggressive warrior. She escapes the sexual pressures that complicate Buffy the Vampire Slayer's life and the submissive acceptance of the violent warrior ethic that defines Mulan. Kayley is an unusual girl hero who celebrates Girl Power as an uncommonly innocent and positive character.
Drawing on ethnographic research with a diverse group of teen girls, this article asks how play with style is understood and enacted. By positioning girls' everyday transactions with style beside their engagement with style in media, this article demonstrates that girls live with a cultural discordance between the girl power media discourse of style as choice, power, and resistance, and the reality of their own, often disempowered, experiences with style. Bound by the promise of upward social mobility, the fear of losing status, and the risk of remaining in the low income and middle class communities in which they were raised, the girls in this study feel regulated and, at times, hurt by the required performance of the clothed body.
Marion Doull and Christabelle Sethna
Issues related to young women, power and sex are central to feminism and remain a central source of debate. This centrality underscores the need to question what power and sex mean to young women. Research that weaves together lessons from feminism and from young women's own lived experiences can advance our understanding of young women, power and sex. This article describes how a sample of young women define, understand and conceptualize their power within their heterosexual relationships. The young women's words provide insight into how current feminist understandings of girl power may need to be reconsidered and adapted to explain young women's changing realities.
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.