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The Cyndi Lauper Affect

Bodies, Girlhood and Popular Culture

Kristina Gottschall, Susanne Gannon, Jo Lampert and Kelli McGraw

Using a collective biography method informed by a Deleuzian theoretical approach (Davies and Gannon 2009, 2012), this article analyses embodied memories of girlhood becomings through affective engagements with resonating images in media and popular culture. In this approach to analysis we move beyond the impasse in some feminist cultural studies where studies of popular culture have been understood through theories of representation and reception that retain a sense of discrete subjectivity and linear effects. In these approaches, analysis focuses respectively on decoding and deciphering images in terms of their normative and ideological baggage, and, particularly with moving images, on psychological readings. Understanding bodies and popular culture through Deleuzian notions of “becoming“ and “assemblage“ opens possibilities for feminist researchers to consider the ways in which bodies are not separate from images but are, rather, becomings that are known, felt, materialized and mobilized with/through images (Coleman 2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2009, 2011; Ringrose and Coleman 2013). We tease out the implications of this new approach to media affects through three memories of girls' engagements with media images, reconceived as moments of embodied being within affective flows of popular culture that might momentarily extend upon ways of being and doing girlhood.

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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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Dolling Up History

Fictions of Jewish American Girlhood

Lisa Marcus

The launching of a Jewish American Girl doll in 2009 provides an occasion for exploring the fictions of Jewish American girlhood constructed and consumed in the twenty-first century. Though the Rebecca Rubin doll seemed to herald a progressive version of Jewish American girlhood, Rebecca and the box-set of books that accompany her repackage a nostalgic and triumphalist narrative in which America figures as a benevolent sanctuary and the Holocaust, American anti-Semitism, and the costs of assimilation are elided and smoothed away. This is a narrative we've seen before—most notably in the importing and Americanizing of Anne Frank as an icon of Jewish girlhood, and in Sydney Taylor's beloved All Of A Kind Family series of children's books. These dolled-up versions of history stand in stark contrast to the darker, more complex visions of childhood and history seen in the work of Adrienne Rich, which reminds us to be wary of buying into such nostalgic icons of girlhood.

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Mel Gibson

This article looks at girlhood in an historical and culturally specific context, through close textual analysis of a central narrative from a key British girls' comic of the 1950s. Girl, published by Hulton Press, predominantly addressed issues around femininity, girlhood and class in that period, often linking reading with other activities considered “appropriate” for girls. I will explore how Girl articulates gender and class and also how it encouraged the mainly middle-class readership to make ballet an important aspect of their cultural practice, popularising ballet classes across Britain. In doing so, I shall focus on the narrative, “Belle of the Ballet.” I will also look at other texts of the period, including Bunty, launched in 1958 by DC Thomson, and show how the representation of ballet changed in later comics for girls, relating this to shifting constructions of girlhood.

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Overlapping Time and Place

Early Modern England’s Girlhood Discourse and Indigenous Girlhood in the Dominion of Canada (1684-1860)

Haidee Smith Lefebvre

For nearly two hundred years, Indigenous girls and young women were at the heart of Canada’s fur trade. As wives to British fur traders and as daughters of these unions, they liaised with traders and tribes. Although wives and daughters were viewed initially from an Indigenous perspective they gradually lost their separate identities as traders increasingly held them up to European ideals. Simultaneously, England’s fascination with girls and girlhood fluctuated between seeing girlhood as a gendered life-stage leading to matrimony on the one hand, and girlhood as a rhetorical device unhindered by biology or chronology on the other. In my article I link these two contexts so as to interpret Pauline Johnson’s essay, A Strong Race Opinion. Her essay criticizes contemporaneous Anglo-Canadian authors for depicting Indian heroines in an artificial light rather than as flesh-and-blood girls. My interpretation considers girlhood from an Indigenous perspective as a unique, distinct, and natural identity.

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Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do

Place, Desire, and Country Girlhood

Catherine Driscoll

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.

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Anxious Adults and Bad Babysitters

The Struggle over Girlhood in Interwar America

Miriam Forman-Brunell

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.

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Mary Jane Kehily

New femininities suggest that young women, no longer content with subordinate status in the bedroom or on the periphery of youth cultures, appear to have found their voice as the 'can do' girls of neo-liberalism. Familiar tropes of new femininities position young women as agentic, goal-oriented, pleasure seeking individuals adept at reading the new world order and finding their place within it. Has femininity finally found a skin that fits or are there cracks in this unparalleled success story? The article examines this question intergenerationally by looking at young women's experience across time, specifically, as documented by feminist scholarship from the 1960s to the present and contrasting this with the experience of being a girl as articulated by three women in the same family—grandmother, mother, daughter. Analyses of these accounts provide an insightful commentary on social change and feminine subjectivity, highlighting continuity and change while pointing to the ever present contradictions of femininity that may be reshaped and reconfigured over generations.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqui Reid-Walsh

This issue of Girlhood Studies focuses on particular girlhood practices—the everyday activities in which some girls engage as part of their ordinary lives. In this issue we look at these girls engaging in these practices, sometimes on their own and sometimes in small groups, how and when they engage in them and where they do so. These include the long-standing practice of girls engaging in child care as babysitters, playing with dolls (in the case of younger girls) or reading fashion magazines (in the case of older girls). These activities take place in different locations, some of which have been associated historically with girlhood, such as a girl’s bedroom or a school classroom, and others which have been more recently appropriated by girls as congenial spaces, such as shopping malls, movie theaters and the internet.

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Claudia Mitchell

Now, in 2017, Girlhood Studies begins its tenth year. It is a tribute to our guest editors and contributors that we have been able to take on such a range of topics and concerns. Quantitatively, we have passed the one million mark in relation to the number of words about girlhood in the first twenty issues of the journal. The various guest editors have tackled such critical issues as critiques of girl power, girls and post-conflict, girls and health, girlhood studies and media, dolls and play, memory work methodologies in the study of girlhood, literary texts and girlhood, visual disruptions, girlhood and disabilities, Indigenous girlhoods, and ethical practices in girlhood studies.