Girlhood Studies at 10

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  • 1 McGill University claudia.mitchell@mcgill.ca

In 2007, I, along with colleagues Jackie Kirk and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, proposed to Berghahn Books that we edit a journal devoted to the study of girlhood. After seeing the enthusiastic response of scholars and communities participating in several international girlhood conferences, including one convened at the University of London in 2001 and another at Concordia University in Montreal in 2003, we knew that such a journal was needed. We drew from all our networks to come up with a wonderful editorial board, commissioned articles by leading scholars writing about girlhood, and by early in 2008 we were well on the way to producing the first issue of the journal. I wish I could just say that the rest is history but of course anyone who knows about the early days of the journal will know that as the articles for the first issue were going to press in August 2008, Jackie Kirk was killed in Afghanistan as she was carrying out a mission on girls’ education with the International Rescue Committee. Looking back, it is hard now to even fathom how we carried on after that, and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh and I owe a great debt to Ann Smith who stepped in as Managing Editor. I also owe a lot to Berghahn Books for their amazing support for the journal and the ways in which they have promoted it. Alongside winning several awards including that for best new journal in the Social Sciences and Humanities from the Association of American Publishers in 2009, the journal now has accreditation through various international indices.

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. Alongside these topic-based themes, guest editors have taken on girlhood in specific geo-political contexts as can be seen in the special issues on Nordic girlhood and on girlhood in post socialist societies. The special section on Indigenous girlhood in GHS 9(3) is, I believe, groundbreaking for its focus and for the fact that it was guest edited by young Indigenous women. Other issues such as that on ethical practices in girlhood studies have helped launch a new thematic area in feminist studies.

I am grateful to all the guest editors and contributors who have been so committed to this academic and activist field of study. I also would like to highlight the role of reviewers. As we know the peer review process relies on the unrewarded generosity of reviewers to offer thoughtful, knowledgeable, and productive comment.

With this twenty-first issue of Girlhood Studies and the beginning of Year 10, we embark on a year of celebration. The ten articles viewed most frequently during 2016 will be free online, and we will be offering special blog postings. GHS 10(2) will explore technologies of non-violence and, in so doing, recognize the politics of the world around us right now, commemorate Jackie Kirk and her activist agenda in seeking to combat violence, and consider what girlhood studies can offer the scholarly and activist community. Then GHS 10(3) will address the theme of the girl in the text, recognizing the key place of narrative and the stories that get told, published, and read. For future issues we are already working with guest editors and contributors to bring together tween studies and girlhood as well as queer studies and girlhood, along with ways of addressing girlhood studies as an academic area in high schools, colleges, and universities, and ways of advancing theories and methods. We are also anticipating tackling new areas of activism and resistance led by girls and young women in turbulent times.

This issue highlights the variety and complexity of concerns in girlhood studies. We begin with “The Abstinence Only Until Marriage Program and Girl (Dis)empowerment” by Kaoru Miyazawa in which she concludes that “teaching sexuality as a personal matter only and separate from economic equality, and sexuality and reproductive rights does not contribute to the empowerment of girls.” Then, Elizabeth Shively, in “I’m No Donna Reed”: Postfeminist Rhetoric in Christian At-Home Daughterhood Texts,” suggests that advocates of “at-home daughterhood … actually employ postfeminist strategies to make the practice palatable to contemporary women.” Michelle Miller, in her article, “Theorizing “The Plunge”: [Queer] Girls’ Adolescence, Risk, and Subjectivity in Blue is the Warmest Color,” proposes that if we are “to honor girls’ sexual subjectivity, we must treat romantic risk-taking as an ordinary, healthy and essential aspect of growing up. In her article, “I Hope Nobody Feels Harassed”: Teacher Complicity in Gender Inequality in a Middle School,” Susan McCullough discusses how particular “teachers normalized … hegemonic masculine practices as typical adolescent behavior” and considers “the role of teachers in this institutional violence against girls, as well as in relation to [her] role as researcher.” Rowena Linton and Lorna McLean, in their article, “I’m Not Loud, I’m Outspoken: Narratives of Four Jamaican Girls’ Identity and Academic Success,” document “the navigational strategies adopted by four Jamaican-Canadian girls to achieve academic success” so as to disrupt “negative views of black students as lagging behind in education.” In “Mixed Message Media: Girls’ Voices and Civic Engagement in Student Journalism,” Piotr S. Bobkowski and Genelle I. Belmas point out that girls “will not glean the full benefits of journalism education until … the disparate treatment [of girls and boys in these classes] is addressed.” Finally, Annabel Erulkar and Girmay Medhin in “Evaluation of a Safe Spaces Program for Girls in Ethiopia” look at the ways in which “Biruh Tesfa (Bright Future) mobilizes out-of-school girls into safe space groups led by mentors.” They conclude that “[g]irls-only safe spaces programs can be effective at improving literacy and health-seeking behavior among … marginalized girls.” We conclude this issue with book reviews by Crystal Leigh Endsley and Elspeth Mitchell.

Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal


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