Tweens as Technofeminists

Exploring Girlhood Identity in Technology Camp

in Girlhood Studies
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  • 1 Hamline University jengland02@hamline.edu
  • 2 Hamline University rcannella01@hamline.edu

Abstract

In this article we discuss how the Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp (GRTC) empowers tween girls to challenge sexist and misogynistic media portrayals of girlhood by constructing their own digital identities. Drawing from campers’ projects and blogs, we foreground two important outcomes of the camp: the development of technological, critical, and rhetorical literacies as girls pursued their own technology-related goals; and the crafting of powerful, positive articulations of girlhood through girls’ production of new media and technologies. We conclude with further considerations for the development of girls’ technology camps.

Girls’ relationships with digital technologies are often complicated by competing narratives. Girls are told that digital technologies are a gender neutralizer or savior; this is a common argument of 1990s’ cyberfeminism that “celebrated digital technologies as inherently liberatory for women” (Wajcman 2007: 287). At other times, however, they experience “a culture of fear [because] girls are often told that digital spaces are not safe for them” (Blair et al. 2010: 139). This danger has included controversies as visible as Gamergate, during which female video game creators received online rape and death threats after calling for more inclusion in gaming (Dewey 2014), as well as when former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos attempted to silence women online by telling them to “just log off” (2016: n.p.) the Internet so that it could remain a male-dominated space.

To help girls make sense of these competing narratives, summer camps focusing on the nexus of girlhood identity and digital technologies have proliferated. For example, Elizabeth Chamberlain and others (2015) have led the Digital Media Academy while Paula MacDowell (2015) has facilitated 101 Technology Fun,1 and Kristine Blair and others have written extensively about their Digital Mirror Computer Camp (Blair et al. 2010, 2011; Blair 2012). While curricula, contexts, and theoretical underpinnings differ, these camps share a common goal: to empower girls as more critical users and producers of digital technologies who can claim productive spaces for themselves online.

Prior to the mid-1990s, curricula tended to be reactionary and did not emphasize production because girls were viewed as victims of media. As Bronwyn Davies asserts, curricula would “act upon girls to shape them differently, to make them more autonomous, to give them self-esteem … rest[ing] the burden of change on girls, as if it were somehow the inadequacy of girls that needed to be mended rather than the gender order itself which needed to be called into question.” She questioned the reliance on viewing girls as “passive recipients” (1993: 2) of information and encouraged a shift toward viewing girls as producers. Importantly, scholarship of the last two decades (Chidgey 2012; Driver 2007; Harris 2001; Kearney 1998; Keller 2016; Mazzarella 2007) has emphasized the need for girlhood studies and feminist media education to include production in organizational and programmatic curricula for young girls.

In this article we discuss the ways in which the Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp (GRTC) continues and expands these efforts. As two of the camp’s leaders, first, we provide an overview of GRTC’s mission, curriculum, and participants. We then discuss a selection of our campers’ projects, highlighting how the girls were empowered with tools and language necessary to challenge sexist and misogynist media portrayals of girlhood and to construct their own online identities. Finally, we describe further considerations for, and additional benefits of, developing girlhood technology camps. We offer this article as both pedagogical and community-based encouragement for others to develop their own technofeminist camps.

Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp

GRTC has a technofeminist history influenced by previous digital technology camps. Its earliest iterations were in Blair’s 2007 Digital Mirror Computer Camp in Bowling Green, Ohio, before being rebranded in 2012 by Blair’s mentee Jen Almjeld in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Then, in 2015 GRTC was redesigned by Almjeld’s mentee, the first author, Jen England (Almjeld and England 2015). Despite its evolution, GRTC’s mission has remained to help overcome the digital divides that negatively affect many young girls by providing safe mentoring spaces in which to experiment with various media and technologies. The camp, therefore, is an intervention to pique girls’ interest in digital spaces while allowing them to explore how they define themselves as young women in and through media and technologies. GRTC enacts this intervention in two stages: it introduces girls to different types of technology, including both high- and low-tech platforms; and it empowers girls with tools and the language necessary to challenge media portrayals and construct their own online identities.

Curriculum and Motivations

We approach GRTC—like we approach this article—as technofeminists, embodying Judy Wajcman’s conceptualization of this term as those who “conceive of a mutually shaping relationship between gender and technology” (2004: 7) in which “gender relations can be thought of as materialized in technology, and gendered identities and discourses as produced simultaneously with technologies” (2007: 293). Rather than regarding technologies as fixedly oppressive, technofeminism eschews technological determinism and gender essentialism by recognizing that women’s relationships with technologies are fluid and negotiable. While the current configuration of techno-culture privileges men, women can (and do) exercise agency to reshape it to suit their needs. This means technologies not only affect but are affected by women. Therefore, we aim to help girls pursue their own technology-related goals and craft powerful, positive articulations of their girlhood identities through various media.

To reconceptualize often male-dominated tech spaces, we framed GRTC 2016 around a theme: What does it mean to be a girl in the digital age? We unpacked and explored this theme through discussing, blogging, workshopping, and completing a series of projects that included computer games, graphic design, podcasts, Pinterest boards, websites, and films. Throughout the camp, we fostered what Kimberly Scott and Patricia Garcia call an agentic relationship with technology that “results from an understanding of how identity and technology are socially constructed or co-constituted and thus changeable” (2016: 68). To build this relationship and foster technofeminist dispositions in campers, GRTC helped girls move beyond basic technology skills so they could develop critical literacy, a means of questioning technology to challenge the status quo and to “articulate the ways power circulates in technological contexts” (Selber 2004: 133). Honing critical literacy helps tweens understand that “technology is not neutral and can be used to both promote injustice or justice” (Scott and Garcia 2016: 73), whether related to gender, race, class, sexuality, and other intersectional identities.

Though critical literacy is important, Mary Celeste Kearney (2006) argues that media education programs must teach more than this if they are to help girls move beyond the role of consumers. Therefore, we used critical literacy as a foundation for helping girls develop rhetorical literacy. While critical literacy allows girls to analyze existing technologies and media, rhetorical literacy allows them to purposefully, skillfully, and reflectively use technologies to produce new digital artifacts that address complex problems. Girls with rhetorical literacy become what Scott and Garcia call techno-social change agents, those “who possess the skills to both use and innovate with new technologies” (2016: 67) to respond to injustices “in action-oriented ways that can transform the world” (74). By developing critical and rhetorical literacies, girls learn to counter-create discourses that reassert the value of female identities and female interactions with technologies.

For GRTC, fostering these literacies supersedes other goals. While we recognize the value of camps that prioritize technological skills development, often to encourage girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers, we engage with technologies in a different yet equally valid way. Rather than channel girls into STEM careers, an approach Davies (1993) finds less effective, GRTC helps girls develop critical and rhetorical literacies applicable in meaningful ways to their everyday lives. These literacies are relevant regardless of girls’ intended career paths whereas camps focusing on functional technology training benefit mostly girls who demonstrate aptitude for STEM fields. Indeed, we celebrate that girls can make meaningful technology-related contributions their fields of interest because many non-STEM careers (and interests) are dependent on technologies. For example, graphic design and filmmaking, often taught in Humanities or Fine Arts, require using advanced technologies to create, edit, and publish digital work. Furthermore, we want girls to think beyond careers and to consider technological roles within their communities and other networks.

Leadership

Camp leaders served as mentors who use technology in their non-STEM careers and daily lives. We are not computer scientists or information technologists, and we did not claim insider knowledge of these or other STEM fields. We are K-12 and college educators interested in literacy development and critical analysis of media and technologies. As leaders we relied on our knowledge and backgrounds to develop curricula and lead activities and want to acknowledge how we might have influenced the girls’ experiences.

As Blair (2012) notes, it is important to have female camp coaches who serve as models of technology-savvy women. GRTC staff included three women—director Jen, a late-twenties white woman, coach Karen, a middle-aged Latina woman, and coach Sherri, a senior white woman. They represented the two major ethnicities in Las Cruces—white and Hispanic—and a wide age range, allowing girls to see women in all life and career stages interacting with technologies in productive ways. Furthermore, our female coaches demonstrated that identity is an ongoing, fluid process not immutably determined by a certain age, and that it can be re-explored and change in relation to new knowledge, goals, and available technologies.

While we recognize the importance of all-female camps as safe spaces in which to explore girlhood identity without male influence, and while we prioritized the inclusion of female leadership, we also see value in having girls collaborate with supportive men. GRTC had two male coaches facilitating workshops and assisting in day-to-day activities—Rob, a mid-twenties white man and Dylan, a late-thirties Asian-American man. Rather than promote a stereotype that all men work against or above women, our male coaches helped girls work productively alongside men. This demonstrated to the girls that men can be interested in female identities, eager to collaborate, and welcome opportunities to ally themselves with women to promote positive change. Importantly, this provided space for the girls to influence the male coaches’ thinking about girlhood. Furthermore, the girls were empowered to coach the men and share what they had discovered and created with technologies. Girls saw their male coaches as co-explorers, not privileged dispensers of technological know-how.

Demographics and the Importance of Working with Tweens

In June 2016, we welcomed 17 tween girls, aged 10 to 14, to the week-long GRTC that was supported through a LRNG Innovators Challenge Grant as part of the “In the Borderlands, Connecting Writing and STEM Learning” program.2 Because of this funding we were able to provide camp free of cost to all girls (previously GRTC cost $25 USD). GRTC was hosted by New Mexico State University (NMSU), a public land grant and Hispanic-serving institution in Las Cruces near the US-Mexico border. More than half of Las Cruces’ 100,000-plus population identifies as Hispanic or Latino (US Census) so it was important to work with a diverse group of girls who reflected the demographics of the area: eight of our seventeen campers identified as Hispanic, Latina, or non-white.

During camp, each girl was provided with an iMac computer loaded with high-tech programs including GarageBand, iMovie, and Adobe Photoshop. They also had access to free low-tech programs such as Audacity and Pixlr. With nearly 25 percent of Las Cruces residents living in poverty (US Census), we were aware that access to technology could be a barrier for some campers.3 Including free programs curbed access issues while providing engaging tools. Daniel Anderson calls such programs “low-bridge technologies,” arguing that their “entry-level nature … ameliorates difficulties that can shut down flow, but the challenge of composing with unfamiliar forms opens pathways to creativity and motivation” (2008: 44) for student users. This mix of low and high tech allowed campers to cultivate critical, rhetorical, and technological literacies comfortably through experimentation, practice, and creative project development.

While such literacies are crucial for all females to “claim their place in the realm of technology” (Blair et al. 2011: 48), we argue that working with tween girls is particularly important. Chamberlain and others remark that tweens—preadolescents approximately 10 to 14 years of age—wrestle with “shifting identities in the transition from elementary to middle school” (2015: n.p.). As Jill Denner and others similarly note, “Middle school is a critical time for intervention, when girls actively begin to explore identities, interests, and talents” (2005: 91). In short, tweenhood is a time of disruption, confusion, and growth in which girls explore identities that extend beyond their families to incorporate social relationships, career aspirations, and other factors. Furthermore, commercial organizations often target tweens as consumers with disposable income (Mazzarella and Atkins 2010; MacDonald 2014), telling them that their identities are best coalesced through purchasing products meant to help them embody an idealized femininity, thus reproducing traditional oppressive gender norms. GRTC seeks to intervene in and guide girls through this tumultuous time of identity work by offering space to explore what it means to be a girl through various media and technologies. GRTC provides opportunities for girls to develop as producers, not just consumers, of media and technologies and thereby express girlhood identities in more critical, productive ways.

Developing Literacies through Camp Projects

We now move to a discussion of three specific projects created during camp—computer games, podcasts, and films—to demonstrate how the girls4 developed the critical, rhetorical, and technological literacies discussed previously. To enrich our perspectives as technofeminist scholars and mentors, we also draw upon the girls’ daily blog posts. Like Jessalynn Keller, we see blogging as “part of a lengthy tradition of girls’ media production and American feminism” (2016: 2) and an opportunity for “understanding girls’ feminist blogs as a ‘hub’ that centers and makes visible larger cultural narratives about girls’ engagements with feminism today” (10). We let the girls speak for themselves as often as possible, so passages shared in this article appear exactly as they did in the girls’ blogs aside from minor clarifying edits. This allows our discussion to purposefully turn away from “objectified young people as objects of study” and toward “plac[ing] young people at the centre of research by privileging [their] views and experiences” (Coulter 2012: 357), a movement that aligns with technofeminist approaches and has gained traction in recent girlhood studies scholarship (see Bae and Ivashkevich 2012; Kearney 2006, 2011; Mazzarella 2005, 2010).

Computer Games

For our first project, campers created browser-based computer games. To prepare for this work we discussed typical gamer stereotypes (for example, white males) and challenges facing women who work in the games industry (for example, the misogyny exhibited in Gamergate). We also analyzed game art before asking campers to blog about representations of female characters in games. As evidenced in their blogs, several campers were critical of the lack of female representation and the objectification of female characters who do exist. Valentina wrote,

[M]ost video games have very few girl characters and they are just minor characters, the roles they play are not as important as the male characters. girl characters are usually timid and are used as props. girl characters usually look extra feminized what I mean by this is they are made to look ‘sexy’. they do not look like real woman do.

Also addressing objectification in games, Ella blogged about the contrast between female and male characters, arguing that female characters are romanticized, sexualized, and infantilized:

Some of the main games … feature women as objects not actual characters. What i mean by this is if a woman is in a game they usually have a very minor part like the main characters love interest. If they [players] do have character options to chose if you are going to be male or female in the game the clothing is very different between the two genders. The mens clothing is very concealed and practical for the game when the women clothing is very revealing and in real life would be about as practical as wearing no armor in the middle of a war, which is what a lot of the costume options are.

In addition to raising similar concerns, other campers blogged about some female characters in games being playable only by leveling up or through purchase, while male characters are typically the free default. Many girls found the lack of female character representation, availability, and customization frustrating.

In response, Chloe created Monster Enemy Match, a game that pushes back against the male-dominated games industry. Made with the free program Sploder, Monster Enemy Match is a side-scrolling platform game in which the player must defeat a series of increasingly difficult monsters in order to win. Importantly, the player controls a female warrior. She is a short redhead of average build who dresses in a black full-length cloak of armor and wields a sword. Chloe’s female character responds to issues of representation that campers identified. For example, Clarivel blogged,

When video games have female characters they are usually minor characters and are usually not the ‘heroes’ of the game. Most of the girl characters are damsels in distress or don’t really have a big role in the game overall.

Chloe’s female warrior, however, is the main character. She is not feminized or sexualized through her dress. She does not need a man to fight her battles because she is a tough, capable leader. She does not need a hero; she is her own hero.

We included game development and design as part of our camp curriculum to join other initiatives encouraging young girls to stake their places in the games industry. Research shows that though “video games may increase females’ technological literacy and interest in computer programming, females continue to be under-represented within the video games industry” (Cunningham 2011: 1374). Girls Make Games, a “series of international summer camps, workshops and game jams designed to inspire the next generation of designers, creators, and engineers” (n.d.: n.p.) was particularly influential to this project. Laila Shabir, the co-creator of Girls Make Games has argued, “The games that are being made appeal to boys, so boys play more and then they grow up making games … They’re also the ones [that end up making] these ‘girly’ games for girls. It’s a cycle that needs to break” (quoted in Magdaleno 2014: n.p). We see our campers’ engagement with game development as a local intervention—a way to break the cycle. While campers may not choose this as a career, they can see themselves represented in the industry, both in games and behind the scenes.

Podcasts

For our next project, girls used GarageBand or its free equivalent, Audacity, to create podcasts that were later shared with the camp. After a workshop on podcasting skills like splicing tracks and layering music, Olivia, Sarah, Ivy, and Eva created “Girls Appreciation.” In their podcast, these campers addressed identity issues including representations of girls in the media, beauty standards, and peer pressure. Olivia opened the podcast with a series of questions about “what is considered girl appropriate.” Then she discussed girls playing so-called “boy” video games, such as shooters and sports, and Sarah tackled “how girls are being treated on the cover of video games.” Sarah shared that female characters are often left off game covers or are in the background: “For example, like the cover of the Disney Infinity game. The boy characters are in the front and one girl behind them. I don’t think it’s fair how they’re being treated.” Ivy and Eva also discussed the unfair treatment of women in the media, particularly reality television, including the pressures women face to be pretty. Ivy said, “Most girls feel like they have to … wear high heels, dresses, makeup, have their hair up and cannot just wear it down, [or] wear clothes that they want to,” to which Eva replied, “I mean, it’s fine if you want to wear makeup, but you shouldn’t feel … you have to.”

Taking a different approach to their podcast, Hailey, Maya, Lina, and Ella created “Apple vs. Android,” in which they debated the merits of technology products. The girls compared and contrasted different features of Apple and Android cellphones, including languages, maps, browsers, and updates. To make informed claims about these features, the girls conducted research online by reading the products’ websites and reviews and in person by talking with other campers about their preferences. Although the girls disagreed about which was the superior product, we were less concerned about consensus and more interested in the collaborative research and productive debate this project fostered. In creating their podcast, the girls worked together to determine features and sources to research, to compile and edit their findings into a coherent script, and ultimately to share their knowledge with one another and other campers. Sharing their critical voices without opposition from or validation of men supported a goal about which Valentina blogged: “girls don’t have to be empowered by men, they don’t have to be scared.” By tackling these complex technological products, the campers helped other girls make more informed choices about their own technology use.

Including podcasting as part of our curriculum allowed GRTC to join Kearney’s call to “expand girls’ engagements with media beyond critical viewing” (2006: 132). Our campers not only explored media and technologies as consumers by discussing gender representations (“Girls’ Appreciation”) and researching products (“Apple vs. Android”), they also shifted to the role of producers by having to plan, script, record, and edit their podcasts. Producing and sharing podcasts allowed us to move away from curricular “gender and generational ideologies that keep female youth limited to the feminized position of consumer” and toward facilitating girls’ development as “engaged citizens and cultural agents” of technologies (Kearney 2006: 131).

Films

For the final camp project, campers storyboarded, filmed, and edited short films in iMovie. First, however, we discussed the Bechdel test,5 a measurement of female representation in fictional works, so that the girls could apply it to their own filmmaking processes. The girls also participated in a film-making workshop led by Amy Lanasa, a filmmaker and professor in NMSU’s Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts. We developed this project curriculum in accordance with what Kathleen Sweeney argues is the goal of girls making media: “to get girls out of the mirror and behind the lens, training their eyes away from the self-reflective obsessions of the beauty industries and onto a wider world of power” (2003: 232). While we encouraged the girls to star in their films, we advocated, more importantly, for girls to hold roles as directors and producers.

Two groups of campers recreated fairytales from more empowered perspectives. In Ella, Lina, Maya, and Jessica’s film, “The Day the Fairytale Died,” after the female protagonist is killed she befriends a female spirit who helps reunite her with her daughter. In this film—as in the other recreated fairytale—the girls replaced the damsel in distress narrative by putting women in charge of their own destinies; instead of relying on a man’s love to save them, the women in these films become sources of support for one another as they work together to accomplish their goals. In this way, the girls incorporated concepts of female friendship and mentorship that did not center on so called catfighting for a man’s attention. This was in response to a point raised in earlier blog posts, in which Madison discussed how “women are seen as the gossiping back-stabbing type especially on social media” and Valentina pointed out that “[p]eople might say all we [women] want is attention.” In these films, however, women are seen as supportive of one another and focused on common goals that do not involve men.

Another camper, Clarivel, took a different approach to her film. She developed a documentary about the campers’ experiences in GRTC, shifting perspectives of girlhood identities, and future plans for using technologies. Set to Katy Perry’s self-described “female empowerment” song6 “Roar” (Payne 2015), Clarivel’s documentary opens and closes with shots of campers in strength poses: arms crossed, hands on hips, fists up like superheroes. For most of her documentary, Clarivel interviews fellow campers by asking them to share what they learned during camp. Lina responds that working on camp projects “changed me in being the person I am.” This resonates with one of her blog posts, in which she wrote about being particularly inspired by the film project: “I just wanted to be a scientist, but I changed and also want to be a director.” Ella also spoke about how camp inspired her future plans:

I’ve learned of tech things that are going to come very in handy when I’m older, and I’ve learned a lot about how girls are viewed in the technological world. I’m not sure what I can do right now, but I hope to soon help some organizations or something and hopefully help change the world.

By prompting her interviewees to evaluate their time in GRTC, Clarivel encouraged community reflection as the basis for her documentary. We appreciate Clarivel’s initiative because it served as another opportunity—in addition to girls’ camp reflections and evaluations—for us to understand the ways in which campers were developing their critical, rhetorical, and technological literacies. Furthermore, Clarivel’s film highlights the importance of women-led filmmaking initiatives. As Sweeney argues, “If girls take up cameras and learn to look rather than posing to be looked at, seen, and watched, they gain a different perspective … [and can] articulate a narrative beyond those fed to them in the media cacophony of consumption” (2003: 232). We asked Clarivel’s permission to screen her documentary to show future campers the ways in which their experiences during GRTC might have an impact on their girlhood identities. As a developing technofeminist mentor herself, Clarivel agreed to share her work.

Each film the girls created echoed Sweeney’s (2005) discussion of how “women filmmakers, youth advocates, media artists, and self-proclaimed ‘geek chicks’ have moved beyond media critique and hand-wringing to proactive girls programming via digital filmmaking” (quoted in Mazzarella 2007: 258). The girls were no longer passive consumers of male-dominated narratives across media; instead, campers actively engaged in the filmmaking process as producers of new media and female narratives. This allowed girls power and agency in how they created and used technologies to shape their girlhood identities now and how they imagined their futures as technofeminists.

Conclusions and Considerations

We developed these and other camp projects so campers could focus less on technology skills training and more on (re)crafting powerful articulations of what it means to be a girl in the digital age. Much of this work involved challenging traditionally male-dominated narratives and digital spaces: designing computer games that do not lack or sexualize female characters; recording podcasts that provide alternative discourses about girls’ consumption of media and technologies; creating films that not only pass the Bechdel test but go beyond its basic criteria to showcase strong-willed, independent, capable women. None of these projects required campers to become game or graphic designers, recording artists, or filmmakers. Instead, these projects were empowering opportunities for girls to create full, mature, thoughtful, and confident expressions of girlhood identities that reflect their complex, sometimes complicated, relationships with media, technologies, digital spaces, and themselves.

Although developing technological skills is certainly important, we prioritized creativity in the development of critical and rhetorical literacies. Both creativity and literacy development take patience and practice. To conclude this article, we offer some additional considerations from GRTC that can help future camp leaders help tween girls do this crucial identity work.

Encourage Playful Mess

GRTC lends further support to the conclusion of Chamberlain et al. that it is “vital to engage girls in difficult practices” (2015: n.p.). Because these projects and technologies were challenging, failure was inevitable and was, in fact, encouraged. We fostered a playful environment that celebrated failure as much as it lauded projects that were thought to have succeeded. Indeed, our camp attempted to nurture an environment that, to borrow a phrase from Chamberlain and others, embraced “mess, not mastery” (2015: n.p.). Learning new skills and developing identities are messy, ongoing processes. Our camp projects mirrored this. To demand perfect finished products would undervalue work the girls did and fail to recognize the recursive nature of both literacy learning and identity development. As Blair et al. comment, “It is not about mastering every technology that the camp introduces. It is about experimenting, trying things out, and learning how to be in digital spaces as a female” (2011: 50).

Allow for Struggles and Frustrations

As Chamberlain and others (2015) advise, coaches must not intervene immediately if girls encounter difficulties or frustrations. Instead, they should foster productive struggles in which girls are out of their comfort zones. While coaches were always available to offer help, we encouraged girls to persevere through trial and error, which Mary P. Sheridan and Jennifer Rowsell (2010) argue is one of the key dispositions of digital literacy development. We also encouraged campers to ask one another questions, thus empowering the girls to be valuable sources of technological knowledge for one another. Valentina commented on her experiences with this aspect of camp,

[I] was in an enviroment [sic] that i felt safe to ask questions and speak up so it made learning new things much easier than in a normal classroom setting. i also learned more about how powerful us girls really are when we are given the right resources.

Collaborate and Affirm Successes

As Denner and others found, “Girls benefit from learning environments that involve collaboration with peers” (2005: 96). This is further enforced by Sheridan and Rowsell (2010), who argue that collaboration is another key disposition of digital literacy development. While girls could—and sometimes did—create projects individually, most chose to work in pairs or small groups. Working together helped girls solve most problems on their own or troubleshoot a creative work-around. Coming up with creative solutions and ideas was celebrated in GRTC. While camp leaders frequently praised campers’ accomplishments, peer affirmation was especially important since it helped girls recognize one another, and thus themselves, as capable users and producers of media and technologies. Girls were excited to show one another what they had accomplished, whether they were playfully dragging fellow campers to their computer to review their films or were gathering their peers around them to listen to their podcasts. This support was meaningful for the campers, and four girls specifically mentioned in their final blog posts making new friends. Additionally, we wanted the girls to experience affirmation from a community beyond the camp itself, so our campers participated in a closing ceremony during which they showcased their work to family, friends, and the Las Cruces community. The ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate the girls’ accomplishments and to encourage future technofeminists to join us for camp.

We like to think our experiences together at GRTC sparked a deep interest in identity construction and media and technology production, but we know a week is a relatively short time to make a long-lasting impact. Furthermore, we know there is more to be done in helping tween girls consider their intersectional identities—for example, gender, sexuality, and race/ethnicity—through consumption and production of media and technologies. This is important work that will require GRTC to undergo further curricular changes, but it will be invaluable to broadening our camp’s conceptualization of technofeminism and feminist mentorship. We want girls to be better-rounded in how they engage in critical, rhetorical, and technological literacy development as they grapple with the complexities of their evolving girlhood identities. With additional support systems—by bringing together school, home, and extracurricular literacies—these girls will continue to grow as intersectional technofeminists. Ultimately, we want what Clarivel wants, for girls “to be empowered and to stand up for what they believe in … to be confident in who they are and [not] to care about what others say about them.” We want tween girls to see themselves as agents of powerful, positive techno-social change.

Notes
1

See Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 10 (3).

3

While considerations of access are important, some scholars suggest that access does not necessarily correlate to technological literacy (Livingstone and Helsper 2007) and that technological literacy does not necessarily correlate to socioeconomic status (Hargittai et al. 2010).

4

We use pseudonyms for girls whose parents/guardians did not consent to publishing their identifying information.

5

The Bechdel test is a basic measure for gender equality in fiction. To pass the test, named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, a work of fiction must have at least two women who interact with each other about something other than men. Although criticized for its simplicity and lack of rigor, the Bechdel test was useful for generating analysis and discussion with GRTC campers about female representations in film.

6

Some question if “Roar” is an empowering song because of Perry’s sexualized appearance in the music video. However, we respect Clarivel’s interpretation that “Roar” is empowering. For example, the music video also depicts Perry’s surviving a plane crash and thriving in the jungle after her male companion is killed by a tiger, and thus is an appropriate soundtrack for her documentary.

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  • Cunningham, Carolyn. 2011. “Girl Game Designers.” New Media & Society 13 (8): 13731388.

  • Davies, Bronwyn. 1993. Shards of Glass: Children Reading and Writing beyond Gendered Identities. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

  • Denner, Jill, Linda Werner, Steve Bean, and Shannon Campe. 2005. “The Girls Creating Games Program: Strategies for Engaging Middle-School Girls on Information Technology.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 26 (1): 9098.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dewey, Caitlin. 2014. “The Only Guide to Gamergate You Will Ever Need to Read.” Washington Post, 14 October. http://wapo.st/1r4KCMY?tid=ss_tw (accessed 12 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Driver, Susan. 2007. Queer Girls and Popular Culture: Reading, Resisting, and Creating Media. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Girls Make Games. “Overview.” http://girlsmakegames.com/about.html (accessed 15 October 2017).

  • Hargittai, Eszter, Lindsey Fullerton, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, and Kristen Yates Thomas. 2010. “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content.” International Journal of Communication 4: 468494.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, Anita. 2001. “Revisiting Bedroom Culture: New Spaces for Young Women’s Politics.” Hecate 27 (1): 128139.

  • Kearney, Mary Celeste. 1998. “Producing Girls.” In Delinquents and Debutantes: Twentieth-Century American Girls’ Cultures, ed. Sherrie A. Inness, 285310. New York: New York University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kearney, Mary Celeste. 2006. Girls Make Media. New York: Routledge.

  • Kearney, Mary Celeste, ed. 2011. Mediated Girlhoods: New Exploration of Girls’ Media Culture. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Keller, Jessalynn. 2016. Girls’ Feminist Blogging in a Postfeminist Age. New York: Routledge.

  • Livingstone, Sonia, and Ellen Helsper. 2007. “Gradations in Digital Inclusion: Children, Young People, and the Digital Divide.” New Media & Society 9 (4): 671696.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacDonald, Fiona. 2014. “Negotiations of Identity and Belonging: Beyond the Ordinary Obviousness of Tween Girls’ Everyday Practices.” Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 7 (2): 4460.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacDowell, Paula. 2015. “Empowering Girls as Change Makers in Maker Culture: Stories from a Summer Camp for Girls in Design, Media & Technology.” PhD diss., University of British Columbia.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Magdaleno, Alex. 2014. “Inaugural ‘Girls Make Games’ Summer Camp Fights Industry’s Gender Gap.” Mashable. http://mashable.com/2014/06/07/girls-make-games-summer-camp/#3OTGBMaWOgqW (accessed 15 October 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., ed. 2005. Girl Wide Web: Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., ed. 2007. 20 Questions about Youth & the Media. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., ed. 2010. Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity. New York: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., and Allison Atkins. 2010. “‘Community, Content, and Commerce’: Alloy.com and the Commodification of Teen/Tween Girl Communities.” In Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity, ed. Sharon R. Mazzarella, 263282. New York: Peter Lang

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Payne, Marissa. 2015. “Katy Perry Thinks Her ‘Female Empowerment’ Songs Are Perfect for the Super Bowl Halftime Show.” Washington Post, 13 January. http://wapo.st/1FRccur?tid=ss_tw (accessed 27 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scott, Kimberly A., and Patricia Garcia. 2016. “Techno-Social Change Agents: Fostering Activist Dispositions among Girls of Color.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 15 (1): 6585.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Selber, Stuart A. 2004. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

  • Sheridan, Mary P., and Jennifer Rowsell. 2010. Design Literacies: Learning and Innovation in the Digital Age. London: Routledge.

  • Sweeney, Kathleen. 2003. Maiden USA: Girl Icons Come of Age. New York: Peter Lang.

  • United States Census Bureau. “Quick Facts: Las Cruces City, New Mexico.” https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ (accessed 27 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wajcman, Judy. 2004. Technofeminism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Wajcman, Judy. 2007. “From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience.” Information, Communication & Society 10 (3): 287298.

  • Yiannopolous, Milo. 2016. “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off.” Breitbart News Network, 5 July. http://bit.ly/29MMOcx (accessed 12 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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Contributor Notes

Jen England is an assistant professor at Hamline University, where she teaches professional writing and rhetoric courses and researches digital rhetorics and community writing. She served as volunteer, assistant director, and director of the Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp. E-mail: jengland02@hamline.edu

Robert Cannella also teaches writing at Hamline University. His most recent research analyzes the intersections of humor, masculinity, and medicalization in food advertisements. He was a coach for the Girlhood Remixed Technology Camp in 2015 and 2016. E-mail: rcannella01@hamline.edu

Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal

  • Almjeld, Jen, and Jen England. 2015. “Training Technofeminists: A Field Guide to the Art of Girls’ Tech Camps.” Computers & Composition Online. http://cconlinejournal.org/fall15/almjeld_england/

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  • Anderson, Daniel. 2008. “The Low Bridge to High Benefits: Entry-Level Multimedia, Literacies, and Motivations.” Computers and Composition 25: 4060.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bae, Michelle S., and Olga Ivashkevich. 2012. Girls, Cultural Productions, and Resistance. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Blair, Kristine, Erin Dietel-McLaughlin, and Meredith Graupner Hurley. 2010. “Looking into the Digital Mirror: Reflections on a Computer Camp for Girls by Girls.” In Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiations of Identity, ed. Sharon R. Mazzarella, 139160. New York: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blair, Kristine, Katherine Fredlund, Kerri Hauman, Em Hurford, Stacy Kastner, and Alison Witte. 2011. “Cyberfeminists at Play: Lessons on Literacy and Activism from a Girls’ Computer Camp.” Feminist Teacher 22 (1): 4359.

    • Crossref
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    • Export Citation
  • Blair, Kristine L. 2012. “A Complicated Geometry: Triangulating Feminism, Activism, and Technological Literacy.” In Writing Studies Research in Practice: Methods and Methodologies, ed. Lee Nickoson and Mary P. Sheridan, 6371. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chamberlain, Elizabeth, Rachel Gramer, and Megan Faver Hartline. 2015. “Mess, Not Mastery: Encouraging Digital Design Dispositions in Girls.” Computers & Composition Online. http://cconlinejournal.org/fall15/dma/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chidgey, Red. 2012. “Hand-Made Memories: Remediating Cultural Memory in DIY Feminist Networks.” In Feminist Media: Participatory Spaces, Networks and Cultural Citizenship, ed. Elke Zobl and Ricarda Drueke, 8797. Bielefeld: Transcript.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coulter, Natalie. 2012. “Separate Playgrounds: Surveying the Fields of Girls’ Media Studies and Boyhood Studies.” Canadian Journal of Communication 37 (2): 353362.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cunningham, Carolyn. 2011. “Girl Game Designers.” New Media & Society 13 (8): 13731388.

  • Davies, Bronwyn. 1993. Shards of Glass: Children Reading and Writing beyond Gendered Identities. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

  • Denner, Jill, Linda Werner, Steve Bean, and Shannon Campe. 2005. “The Girls Creating Games Program: Strategies for Engaging Middle-School Girls on Information Technology.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 26 (1): 9098.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dewey, Caitlin. 2014. “The Only Guide to Gamergate You Will Ever Need to Read.” Washington Post, 14 October. http://wapo.st/1r4KCMY?tid=ss_tw (accessed 12 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Driver, Susan. 2007. Queer Girls and Popular Culture: Reading, Resisting, and Creating Media. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Girls Make Games. “Overview.” http://girlsmakegames.com/about.html (accessed 15 October 2017).

  • Hargittai, Eszter, Lindsey Fullerton, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, and Kristen Yates Thomas. 2010. “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content.” International Journal of Communication 4: 468494.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, Anita. 2001. “Revisiting Bedroom Culture: New Spaces for Young Women’s Politics.” Hecate 27 (1): 128139.

  • Kearney, Mary Celeste. 1998. “Producing Girls.” In Delinquents and Debutantes: Twentieth-Century American Girls’ Cultures, ed. Sherrie A. Inness, 285310. New York: New York University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kearney, Mary Celeste. 2006. Girls Make Media. New York: Routledge.

  • Kearney, Mary Celeste, ed. 2011. Mediated Girlhoods: New Exploration of Girls’ Media Culture. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Keller, Jessalynn. 2016. Girls’ Feminist Blogging in a Postfeminist Age. New York: Routledge.

  • Livingstone, Sonia, and Ellen Helsper. 2007. “Gradations in Digital Inclusion: Children, Young People, and the Digital Divide.” New Media & Society 9 (4): 671696.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacDonald, Fiona. 2014. “Negotiations of Identity and Belonging: Beyond the Ordinary Obviousness of Tween Girls’ Everyday Practices.” Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 7 (2): 4460.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacDowell, Paula. 2015. “Empowering Girls as Change Makers in Maker Culture: Stories from a Summer Camp for Girls in Design, Media & Technology.” PhD diss., University of British Columbia.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Magdaleno, Alex. 2014. “Inaugural ‘Girls Make Games’ Summer Camp Fights Industry’s Gender Gap.” Mashable. http://mashable.com/2014/06/07/girls-make-games-summer-camp/#3OTGBMaWOgqW (accessed 15 October 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., ed. 2005. Girl Wide Web: Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., ed. 2007. 20 Questions about Youth & the Media. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., ed. 2010. Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity. New York: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazzarella, Sharon R., and Allison Atkins. 2010. “‘Community, Content, and Commerce’: Alloy.com and the Commodification of Teen/Tween Girl Communities.” In Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity, ed. Sharon R. Mazzarella, 263282. New York: Peter Lang

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Payne, Marissa. 2015. “Katy Perry Thinks Her ‘Female Empowerment’ Songs Are Perfect for the Super Bowl Halftime Show.” Washington Post, 13 January. http://wapo.st/1FRccur?tid=ss_tw (accessed 27 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scott, Kimberly A., and Patricia Garcia. 2016. “Techno-Social Change Agents: Fostering Activist Dispositions among Girls of Color.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 15 (1): 6585.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Selber, Stuart A. 2004. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

  • Sheridan, Mary P., and Jennifer Rowsell. 2010. Design Literacies: Learning and Innovation in the Digital Age. London: Routledge.

  • Sweeney, Kathleen. 2003. Maiden USA: Girl Icons Come of Age. New York: Peter Lang.

  • United States Census Bureau. “Quick Facts: Las Cruces City, New Mexico.” https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ (accessed 27 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wajcman, Judy. 2004. Technofeminism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Wajcman, Judy. 2007. “From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience.” Information, Communication & Society 10 (3): 287298.

  • Yiannopolous, Milo. 2016. “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off.” Breitbart News Network, 5 July. http://bit.ly/29MMOcx (accessed 12 April 2017).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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