Growing Up Girls: Popular Culture and the Construction of Identity

By Sharon R. Mazzarella; Norma Odom Pecora | Go to book overview

Introduction

Norma Pecora and Sharon R. Mazzarella

In the late 1970s, feminist cultural studies scholar Angela McRobbie first observed how little of the scholarship on youth culture in Britain focused on teenage girls. In particular, she singled out seminal works on youth subcultures, Paul Willis's Learning to Labour and Dick Hebdige's Subculture, both of which virtually ignored teenage girls in the subcultures they studied. McRobbie's work, which brings together feminist and cultural theories, attempts to transcend this omission, and has paved the way for a growing cadre of feminist cultural studies scholars focusing on the culture of girls.

Cultural studies scholars are not the only ones who originally ignored adolescent females. The history of child and adolescent development research and theory in the United States is also a history of the development of boys. In her ground-breaking work, In a Different Voice, Carol Gilligan begins by acknowledging that influential theories of child and adolescent development -- those advanced by Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, for example -- are based on male scholars studying male youth. It is problematic, she argues, to apply such theories to both male and female youth, since they often develop and mature in different ways.

With the publication of In a Different Voice in 1982, scholars in psychology and education began to focus on the distinctive development of adolescent girls. The work of Gilligan and her colleagues has been instrumental in shifting the focus away from adolescent development in general (as defined by boys) and onto the unique experience of adolescent girl development. Thanks to the work of both Gilligan and McRobbie, scholarly analysis of girls and girl culture has increased dramatically in the past two decades. This book seeks to contribute to the dialogue.

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