Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence

Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence

Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence

Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence

Synopsis

'Millerrsquo;s disturbing depictions of sexual harassment in school, neighborhood violence, and relationship violence force us to confront the fact that while many of our perceptions of, and research on, violent offending and victimization center on males, the victimization of females is both widespread and serious.' - Candace Kruttschnitt, co-editor of Gender and Crime: Patterns in Victimization and Offending ?Miller grabs readersrsquo; attention with the stark reality of the widespread occurrence of violent victimization among the girls she studies.' - From the Foreword by Ruth D. Peterson, Distinguished Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, The Ohio State University Much has been written about the challenges that face urban African American young men, but less is said about the harsh realities for African American young women in disadvantaged communities. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and even gang rape are not uncommon experiences. In Getting Played, sociologist Jody Miller presents a compelling picture of this dire social problem and explores how inextricably, and tragically, linked violence is to their daily lives in poor urban neighborhoods. Drawing from richly textured interviews with adolescent girls and boys, Miller brings a keen eye to the troubling realities of a world infused with danger and gender-based violence. These girls are isolated, ignored, and often victimized by those considered family and friends. Community institutions such as the police and schools that are meant to protect them often turn a blind eye, leaving girls to fend for themselves. Miller draws a vivid picture of the race and gender inequalities that harm these communities- and how these result in deeply and dangerously engrained beliefs about gender that teach youths to see such violence- rather than the result of broader social inequalities- as deserved due to individual girls? flawed characters, i.e., ?she deserved it.' Through Miller's careful analysis of these engaging, often unsettling stories, Getting Played shows us not only how these young women are victimized, but how, despite vastly inadequate social support and opportunities, they struggle to navigate this dangerous terrain.

Excerpt

In the summer of 1998,1 was writing my monograph One of the Guys and also teaching a photography class to youths at a local community agency in North St. Louis. I have spent most of my career examining how gender inequality shapes young women's participation in crime, focusing both on structural and situational inequalities and on how ideologies about gender often place young women in the precarious position of upholding such inequalities, even as they stake out interpersonal spaces in which they work to exempt themselves from the broad ideologies that they, their peers, and the broader culture reinforce. But my research on young women's gang involvement had also sharpened my concern about the gendered victimization risks that girls face in disadvantaged community contexts, risks heightened by their participation in gangs and friendships with delinquent peers.

I sent youths out into their communities with cameras to document their daily lives. And week after week, I was struck and saddened by the portraits they produced, which barely resembled the kids I was interacting with. Young men struck poses intended to project an image of street bravado. Occasionally throwing up gang signs, they sent hardened stares into the camera lenses, mimicking the depictions of young Black manhood we see all too often in the media in America. Photographs of their homes and neighborhoods showed signs of the physical decay we have come to know as the contemporary nature of urban poverty. But it was the girls' photos that really stuck with me. Nearly every young woman in my class, solo or in pairs, came away from the course with a portrait of themselves, back turned from the camera, head turned to face it, and bent over, showing their backsides in a sexualized pose. Is this a celebration of female sexuality? Of Black female sexuality specifically? Or do we continue to teach young women that their value lies in their sexual objectification?

We live in a time of Girls Gone Wild, in what some have called a . . .

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