1st Edition

Girls, Single-Sex Schools, and Postfeminist Fantasies

By Stephanie McCall Copyright 2020
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    Bringing together feminist theory, girlhood studies, and curriculum theory, this book contributes an in-depth critical analysis of curriculum in single-gender schooling for girls in postfeminist landscapes of "unlimited choices" and resurgences of proper girlhood. The arguments challenge the mainstream assumptions and promotions about the guarantees of female success via small school supports, tailored curricula, protection, school choice and class advantage.

    Single-gender schools are not homogenous; they have different histories, student populations, finances and organization. Recognizing this diversity, Girls, Single-sex Schools, and Postfeminist Fantasies draws on rich data collected in two US secondary schools over a two-year period to identify and explore the ambiguities of success in single-sex schools for girls. Rich classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students reveal the resounding message delivered to girls - that they can "have it all" by going to college. By exploring students’ imaginings, hopes, and doubts around college, the text illustrates how this catalyzes girls’ critiques of their futures and of the schooled storylines of female success. While teachers might trumpet college, career, and limitless horizons, girls seek to understand their social positions and try to make sense of family, passions, and future happiness.

    This book will be of great interest to graduate and postgraduate students, academics, researchers, libraries in secondary education, girlhood studies, sociology of education, gender and sexuality in education, single-sex schooling, and feminist theory.



    List of Tables


    Chapter 1: The education of "successful" girls in single-sex schools

    Chapter 2: A curriculum of girlhood

    Chapter 3: A place for girls

    Chapter 4: High hopes and curriculum as "makeover"

    Chapter 5: High hopes and a pedagogy of privilege

    Chapter 6: Cruel futures, and other postfeminist failures

    Chapter 7: A critical education for girls




    Stephanie D. McCall is Assistant Professor in Professional and Secondary Education at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, USA.

    Stephanie McCall takes us on an eye-opening journey through two all-girls schools to show how girls are positioned differently while still understood as subjects of infinite capacity. McCall’s engaging book brilliantly explores how ‘girl power’ rhetoric about girls’ optimistic futures does not account for oppressions, privileges, and the sexism that permeates our culture. Instead of understanding single-sex schools as bastions of female empowerment where girls can freely thrive in a supportive female environment, using rich ethnographic data, McCall deftly shows how girls are produced within curricular knowledges shaping them in profound, demanding, and invisible ways. Far from ‘genderless’, all-girls schools operate through carefully crafted notions of girlhood that are mobilized differently in public and private educational settings. This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in gender and education, particularly as these topics intersect with a culture that promises girls equality and achievement but delivers little more than ‘postfeminist fantasies’.

    - Shauna Pomerantz is Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University, Canada. She is co-author or Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism


    Many books have been written about single-sex schooling. This one takes the discussion to an especially timely level. Here Stephanie McCall offers a clear-eyed view of all-girls’ schooling across the spectrum of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and social class that draws on both empirical research and insights from practical experience in coeducational and single-sex institutions. This is a must-read for anyone interested not simply in all-girls’ schools, but in the larger context in which they operate, including current discourses on knowledge, the myth of "having it all", social and economic barriers to success, and what it means to be "female" in a world in which gender fluidity is a reality to be recognized.

    - Rosemary Salomone is the Kenneth Wang Professor of Law at St John's University School of Law, USA


    As leaders of an all-girls school, we must see every single member of our school community as connected agents of change. Our work is to learn together to do two things: first, recognize the systems and symptoms of paternalism and white supremacy; second, build concrete strategies to replace those systems in tangible ways. Doing this work requires a learning space where we can examine the complexities of identity, we each bring with us, understand the stories we tell ourselves about what girlhood means, and re-envision our roles in shaping and enacting this definition. Stephanie's passion for this work is rooted deeply in her knowledge of the seriousness of the stakes and of the purpose of theory: to inform and inspire action. Because she rolls up her sleeves and does the work alongside schools, she brings unique perspective and a clear commitment to action throughout this book. This should be a foundational text not just for all-girls schools, but for all schools.

    - Tara Haskins is the School Leader and Tom Krebs is the CEO of Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, Missouri, USA