Seminar: Girls and Girlhood

UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY NETWORK FOR CHILDHOOD & YOUTH RESEARCH
End of year Seminar: Girls and Girlhood

Tuesday, 25 November 2008
3-5pm, Rm 618 Education Building A35
Rsvp d.bottrell@edfac.usyd.edu.au

On Tuesday 25 November our Network will have its final seminar for the year.  The seminar will be held from 3-5pm in Room 618 of the Education Building.  It is hoped that the seminar will provide members with opportunities to discuss relevant issues and to forge links with others with shared research interests.
We are very lucky to have three great presentations:

Girls Today: Girls, Girl Culture and Girls’ Studies
Catherine Driscoll, Chair, Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, The University of Sydney.

‘The bad girls don’t really work hard and then they get really popular’: an exploration of girls’ relationships to school work.
Carolyn Jackson, Lancaster University

Picture me as a young woman: Making sense of young women’s photograph collections from the 1950s and 1960s
Penny Tinkler, University of Manchester

Girls Today: Girls, Girl Culture and Girls’ Studies

Catherine Driscoll,
Chair, Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, The University of Sydney.

The history of modern girlhood is entwined with anxieties about cultural norms and cultural change that are foundational to ‘girlhood’ and ‘girl culture’. This paper sketches a history of discourses on girls, girlhood and girl culture as the necessary genealogical context for a subsequent discussion of the field of contemporary girl studies. It finally focuses on girlhood studies’ particular interest in locating, describing and problematizing girls’ voices and girls’ agency.

‘The bad girls don’t really work hard and then they get really popular’: an exploration of girls’ relationships to school work.
Carolyn Jackson, Lancaster University

Interviewer: If it was really cool to work hard in school and you got status from working hard, would you work hard?
Sandy:  Yes I would, I would if it was [cool].  But because at the moment it’s not, I just don’t [work hard]. I don’t try and I don’t intend to.

In the UK concerns about ‘Laddism’ or ‘laddishness’ are central to the on-going discourse on boys’ educational ‘underachievement’.  Many politicians, researchers, parents and teachers are mindful that many ‘lads’ regard ‘coolness’ and popularity as incompatible with being seen to work hard academically. Indeed, some are looking for ways to make ‘school = cool’ for boys.  By contrast, girls’ relationships to school work are generally ignored and/or are assumed to be unproblematic; such assumptions are misguided.

In this paper I explore year 9 girls’ (aged 13-14 years) relationships to academic work. I draw upon interview data from an ESRC funded project. During the project I interviewed a total of 153 pupils (75 girls, 78 boys) and 30 teachers. Participants were from six schools in England (4 co-educational and 2 single-sex), selected to ensure a mix of pupils in terms of social class, ‘race’ and ethnicity, and a mix of schools in terms of examination results, and gender of intake (single-sex and co-educational). The paper focuses on the ways in which the ‘it’s-not-cool-to-be-seen-working’ discourse that is associated with boys is also dominant for girls. I explore the ways in which girls negotiate this discourse, and also consider the implications for particular groups of girls.

Picture me as a young woman: Making sense of young women’s photograph collections from the 1950s and 1960s
Penny Tinkler, University of Manchester

Many young women growing up in the 1950s and 1960s collected photographs. These included pictures they: took themselves, commissioned, bought and were given. These photograph collections have frequently been preserved, often in their original settings (such as albums, picture frames, lockets). Whilst there have been several historical studies of photographs of young people, especially children, there has been no attempt to research and analyse the photographs produced and consumed by young people in the past. Indeed, studies of domestic photography, both past and present, have privileged the perspectives and photographic practices of adults.

This paper reports on a pilot project that examines the photographs collected by young women (aged 12 to 25 years) in the 1950s and 1960s.  Illustrated with practical examples and drawing on ideas about photo elicitation, oral history and the analysis of domestic photography, this paper outlines how photograph collections can contribute a youth-oriented perspective on girlhood and ‘growing up’ female in the post-war period.

Best wishes,
Kelly Freebody and Dorothy Bottrell

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