All about the Girl: Power, Culture, and Identity

All about the Girl: Power, Culture, and Identity

All about the Girl: Power, Culture, and Identity

All about the Girl: Power, Culture, and Identity

Synopsis

There has been a recent flurry of books about 'the girl': Odd Girl Out, The Secret Lives of Girls, Fast Girls, Queen Bees and Wannabes , amongst others. Many of these titles have tackled the previously unheard of idea that girls can be mean, even aggressive. The strength of All About the Girl is that it offers a complicated portrait of girls in the twenty-first century. These are the riot grrrls, and the Spice girls, the good girls and the bad girls who are making their own girl culture and exude grrrl power. The essays cover girlhood around the world and cover such key areas as schooling, sexuality, popular culture and identity. There is a great list of contributors, including Michelle Fine (foreword), Angela McRobbie, Valerie Walkerdine, Nancy Lesko, Niobe Way and Deborah Tolman.

Excerpt

This chapter is based on work in progress, its tone is deliberately open-ended, and it quite consciously takes liberties with academic procedures by skimming the surface of popular cultural texts and commenting on observable social behaviors. It first proposes that through a complex array of machinations, elements of contemporary popular culture are perniciously effective in regard to the undoing of feminism; it then proposes that this is compounded by some dynamics in social theory which appear to be most engaged with, and hence relevant to, aspects of gender and social change; and finally it suggests that by means of the tropes of freedom and choice which are now inextricably connected with the category of young women, feminism is aged and made to seem redundant. Feminism is thus cast into the shadows, where at best it can expect to have some afterlife, and where at worst it might be regarded ambivalently by those young women who must in more public venues stake a distance from it, for the sake of social and sexual recognition. Let me start with the film Bridget Jones's Diary (released 2001); my claim is that it marks the emergence of a new cultural norm, which can be understood in terms of postfeminism. Without attempting a full definition of this overused term, I propose instead a complexification of the backlash thesis which has

*This essay was first delivered as a lecture at Yale University in October 2002. I thank Vron Ware and Paul Gilroy for inviting me.

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