Young women’s identities are an issue of public and academic interest across a number of western nations at the present time. This book explores how young women attending an elite school for girls understand and construct ‘empowerment’. It investigates the extent to which, and the ways in which, their constructions of empowerment and identity work to overturn, or resist, key regulations and normative expectations for girls in post-feminist, hyper-sexualised cultural contexts.
The book provides a succinct overview of feminist theorisations of normative femininities in young women’s lives in western cultural contexts. It includes familiar sexist discourses such as sexual double standards, as well as more recent commentary about the regulation of young women’s subjectivities in neoliberal, post-feminist, hyper-sexualised cultures. Drawing on ethnographic research in the context of an elite girls’ secondary school, the author explores how empowerment for young women is constructed and understood across a range of textual practices. From visual representations of young women in school promotional material, to students’ constructions of popular celebrities, the question of how girls’ resistance to normative femininities begins to develop is examined.
This rich empirical work makes a unique contribution to the study of elite schooling within the sociology of education, drawing on important insights from the field of critical girlhood studies, and posing a challenge to popular feminist notions about media literacy, young women and empowerment. It will be of interest to scholars and postgraduates in the areas of gender studies, sociology, education, youth studies and cultural studies.
Table of Contents
1. Beholden to No One: Elite Schoolgirls in the 21st Century 2. "Normative" Femininities: From Romance and Domesticity to Raunch and Visibility? 3. (Re)searching for Girls’ Resistance 4. Becoming "Lady Bountiful": Elite Schooling, Social Class and Girl Citizenship 5. ‘Hey Skank Face, You Can’t Dress Properly!’: Revisiting Sexuality and Social Class 6. ‘She’s Doing it for Herself’: Negotiating Sexualised Popular Culture 7. Conclusions: "Elite" Schoolgirls, Normative Femininities/Sexualities and Resistance
Claire Charles is Lecturer in Education Studies at Deakin University, Australia.