Tag Archive | "femininities"

GEA presentations in the USA at the American Educational Research Association: an example of feminine educational ‘success’?


GEA Policy Report – June 2013 – Reporting from AERA

 

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting held in San Francisco in late April-early May 2013 held much of interest to GEA members, targeted as it was on “Education and Poverty: Theory, Research, Policy, and Praxis,” and to other critical issues in education. Other critical issues to education, for once, included gender, as well as race, ethnicity and class. Policy and praxis were also treated as expansive concepts and not confined to governance or government only. Interestingly, too, the conference meetings were truly digitized and there was much use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter and we were invited to see conference highlights each day with a daily email reminder through our own programmes and emails etc.

 

At times, it began to feel as if paper and the presentation of papers might be from a bygone era. This did not quite happen as there were a multitude of paper sessions and presentations, mostly using power point in one form or another. Nevertheless, whilst sessions were in progress people would be tweeting and commenting into the ether, making for a much wider, richer and fuller experience (although I still have not [yet] mastered the intricacies of twitter and so do not know quite how widespread the practice has become).

 

Most importantly, however, there were several sessions by GEA members, and associates, including regional representatives from around the world. One of the co-organisers of the next interim GEA conference and co-editor of Gender and Education – Julie Mcleod – also gave presentations, making it feel as if our presence was well and truly on the map. Advance notice of our interim conference to be held in Melbourne Australia at the University of Melbourne in November-December 2014 was made, making it feel as if it was already becoming a reality and would be both a virtual and a real experience if AERA is anything to go by.

 

Feminist activism and pedagogy in diverse contexts: revisiting the paradoxes of feminine educational ‘success’ became a critically successful session, chosen as it was for special review and evaluation by the AERA team. It was organized by Jessica Ringrose (a GEA executive member) and included in the Women and Education sig (special interest group). It reprised and extended the symposium presented the previous week at the GEA biennial conference at London South Bank University. It was an altogether bigger event than in London, although the room allocated was probably much smaller it was packed full of feminists, and over 100 attended the session, despite the early (Monday) morning start of 8.15 am. It did feel a bit as if we were going back to school!

 

Jessica presented an extremely lively and spirited argument about the objectives of the session being about the politics and practice of gender equality in education in the 21st century (despite her severe illness). The papers were to, and did indeed, range across the challenges surrounding and sustaining feminist engagement in educational spaces, given ‘post-feminist’ assumptions that feminism has already achieved its aims in the ‘global north’. Together we were to and did explore diverse femininities and how different girls face different paradoxes in negotiating the reactive discourse of feminine educational ‘success’. We also all engaged with a mass of empirical data on women and girls from a range of international locations and the panel presenters included contributors from international projects. As Jessica argued collectively the papers demonstrated how feminist activism is challenging a range of raced, classed, gender and sexual inequalities and the dilemmas facing different girls and women as they struggle to achieve and succeed in the new global marketplace. The question of understanding and challenging what is meant by success is becoming increasingly problematic in a commodified and commericalised marketplace of education across the board and sexualisation.

In the US, the panel included Ileana Jimenez, a feminist high school teacher from New York who had been unable to afford to come to England, and Marnina Gornick, the Canadian feminist educator, was the discussant of all the papers (who had also not come to the UK). Neither Jane Kenway from Australia nor Debbie Epstein from the UK were well enough to come to the US (although Debbie had presented the paper in London at the GEA conference) to present on Classy girls and not so classy politics from their international (Australian-funded) ethnographic study of 9 elite independent schools with 2 girls and 1 boys, and the rest co-educational. The schools are located variously in the UK, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Barbados, Hong Kong, India, Singapore. (I therefore presented the paper that Debbie had given in London).

 

In both the US and UK, I set the scene with my paper on my forthcoming book entitled Feminism, gender and universities: politics, passion and pedagogies. I reflect upon feminist activism in global academe over the last 50 years to consider what has been achieved by academic feminism as both a political and educational project. Has feminism transformed women’s lives in the direction of gender equality and gendered power relations? What remains to be done, given paradoxical social and political transformations in neo-liberalism, and what should be undone and refashioned towards a more feminist-friendly future?  I have developed a collective memoir and life history drawing on the stories and narratives of over 100 international feminist academics and activists from the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA etc and drawn into social and feminist networks, including education feminism through AERA. The stories together mount a critique of what can now be seen as a misogynistic numbers game with the claim that gender equality in education has been achieved in higher education, given the majority of women undergraduate students in universities in the global north as shown by UNESCO’s Atlas of Gender Equality in Education (March 2012).

 

Ileana Jimenez followed with a most engaging presentation on her work on Teaching Feminism In High School: Moving from Theory to Action. She showed how teaching theory provides students with scholarly frameworks for understanding systematic oppression along lines of race, class, gender and sexuality and gave us numerous examples of how she succeeded with doing this in her classrooms in NYC and Washington. She also added examples of creating partnerships with local and national women’s and girls’ activist groups to allow students to apply intersectionality as a feminist theory to real-world issues, including the sexualisation of girls in the media, the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as street and school harassment. She argued that students not only learn to analyse these issues but also act on them by leveraging a variety of platforms, ranging from blogging to direct advocacy and activism. She also showed us how these practices impact upon student empowerment, as they find both their written and activist voices as social change agents on the ground, online, and on air.

Emma Renold (also a member of the GEA executive) presented the joint paper with Jessica Ringrose entitled ‘Disengaged’ girls doing teen feminism: mapping the contradictions in a feminist pedagogical-research assemblage (Jessica having presented it in London). They show the limitations and possibilitiers of a girl power group in a Welsh school that was organized to raise the achievement of ‘disengaged’ girls. They presented an analysis of the group activities which included girls’ teaching about domestic violence, ‘sexualisation’ and healthy sexual relationships to younger students, as well as participating in activist events and conferences. They also showed the contradictions and difficulties girls face in doing and becoming teen feminists and becoming part of a feminist pedagogical assemblage. They also illustrate the ‘schizoid’ condition of being positioned simultaneously as ‘underachievers’, ‘feminists’ and ‘teachers’ but also having to teach about healthy sexuality whilst simultaneously being embroiled in their own complex ménage of gender and sexual teen relations/hips.

 

Victoria Showunmi from IOE London gave the final presentation of the AERA session on her work entitled Using feminist critical race theory and intersectionality to explore Black girls’ narratives about the British education system. She presented another extremely lively and thought-provoking paper about how the continuous surge of focus on boys’ [under]achievement and girls’ success has erased the classed, racial and gendered complexities of educational achievement. From a research, policy and activist perspective this has left a significant gap in understandings around Black Minority Ethnic (BME) girls’ experiences in the UK education system, she argued. She therefore explored why some BME young girls appear to succeed and achieve in education, whilst others may find the pathway too stressful and ‘drop’ out. She took the opportunity to explore the issues raised to find a way of creating a voice for BME girls in UK schooling, challenging the longstanding myth that ‘all black girls’ are achieving in education.  Her paper provided some wonderful examples of these contradictions. (At GEA in London Emily Henderson also gave a spirited presentation on her thesis work on gender theory replacing Victoria who was unable to attend).

Marnina Gornick drew the threads together of the session by asking several pertinent questions about feminine educational ‘success’ in the current neo-liberal context and inviting further contributions. The session ended on an inconclusive note as we were out of time, but excited by how we were bringing together theory, and praxis around these challenging and difficult issues for the future.

Miriam E. David

June 7th 2013

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The Importance of Girl Things


Why are girl things so despised? Consider the derisive response to music girls like, movies and television shows girls watch, social networking sites girls inhabit, activities in which girls engage, and the clothes girls wear. The criticism is always snide and condescending: girl things—which appeal to, attract, star, and represent girls—are considered, at best, vacuous and, at worst, distasteful. In a 1999 article, gender and cultural studies scholar Catharine Driscoll argues anything perceived as a “girl thing” is instantly dismissed without consideration of the importance it might have in the lives of real girls. While the Spice Girls and their fans offer an infamous example of this girl-targeted derision, there are no comparable examples of bashing boy-things; no ubiquitous hatred for boys and their things. Read the full story

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Into the Woods


As a practicing middle school English Language Arts teacher and researcher in the Northeastern US, I am interested in the stories adolescents tell about their lives. To this end, my research in classrooms is ethnographic and privileges the stories girls tell about their experiences of being marginalized, silenced, and punished, often by other girls. One story in particular has resonated with me, and I have come to refer to this story as “The Story of the Sluts” – thus named, however crudely, because that is how the story was presented to me by the girls who told it. It all came about when Lily (a pseudonym), an eighth grade student, was meeting with me during a writing conference about revisions for a short story she was writing in my class. During this writing conference, it came out that a party had taken place the previous weekend. Lily explained that two of my other students, Melanie and Kelly, had gone ‘into the woods’ with two boys who also attended our school. Read the full story

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‘Hello my little Barbies’: Nicki Minaj and Masquerade


A few months back a youth work colleague voiced concern about the young women she works with listening to a rising new female rapper, Nicki Minaj.  She felt that the lyrics and the image were over-sexualised and liable to provide a potentially poor role model for the young people in the youth project with whom she worked. This also followed a YouTube sensation of two very small British girls, Sophie-Grace and Rosie belting out Minaj’s tune ‘SuperBass’ which was proudly recorded by their mothers. The YouTube hit enabled the young girls to have their precocious 15 minutes of fame as they sat next to US chat show host, Ellen DeGeneres and performed with their idol, Nicki on the Ellen talk show. Read the full story

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Bad Animals Sitting Sweetly: Some Thoughts on Naughtiness, Gender and What We Learn in School


Let it be known that my six-year-old daughter is a child rife with frolicsome mischief.  

The experience of parenting said child fostered my interest in naughty youngsters, the connections between misbehavior and personhood and how all children—especially girls– are socialized in schools. Thus socialized through behavior management practices, many are taught to equate obedience with learning and conformity with personhood. Recently I came across two different pieces in the mainstream media that piqued my interest along these lines: The first was Bill Lichtenstein’s September 9th New York Times reflection on the all-too-common strategies for ‘managing students in US schools and the second was a BBC interview with Michael Kenny, the first male graduate of Norland College.   Read the full story

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Fame, Folk devils and Generation X-Factor


In recent months a number of articles have appeared in the UK national press, reporting renewed concerns about the impact of celebrity and consumer culture on young people’s aspirations. Celebrity culture features in these as a contemporary folk devil, conjured up as the source of various societal ills, and diverting attention from the structural causes of inequality. Read the full story

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Selling Science as ‘a Girl Thing’


When the EU launched a short viral video to publicise their It’s a Girl Thing! campaign to get more women into science, it all kicked off in the blogosphere and twitterverse. The 45 second promo, which looks like a cross between a cosmetics ad and a girl group music video, begins with a young good-looking lab-coated male scientist looking up from his microscope to the shocking (and arousing?) sight of three attractive young women dressed in very high heels and even shorter skirts. These women giggle and provocatively gesture their way through the ad, intercut with overflowing test-tubes, models of molecules, lipstick and other girlie and scientific ephemera. Oh, and one of them gets to elegantly scribble symbols on a transparent board. At the end their fashionable shades transform into equally fashionable safety goggles. The music, with its single lyric, reminds us: ‘Science – It’s a Girl Thing!’ So is this how to ‘sell’ science to girls? Read the full story

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Rejecting home for homeland: Carrie Madison and gender roles in TV’s Homeland


Homeland is a US television series based on an Israeli show, Prisoners of War. It centres on CIA agent Carrie Maddison, played by Claire Danes, who in dramatic opening scenes is told by a source that a US marine has been ‘turned’. When a few days later US marine Nicholas Brody, played by Damien Lewis, is rescued after eight years in captivity, Carrie is convinced he’s the marine in question. Alongside Brody’s heroic homecoming we follow Carrie’s increasingly obsessive attempts to prove him a traitor. Carrie’s an unusual female character so in this post we begin a conversation about her which we plan to continue as events unfold each Sunday night. We hope you’ll join in. The show is full of twists and turns so don’t read this unless you’re up to date with the latest episode shown on the UK’s Channel 4 (or you don’t mind knowing what happens in advance). If you’ve seen ahead of this and you add comments please alert us to any spoilers. Read the full story

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Ever faced the Walk of Shame? Designing Disgust


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Ever faced the Walk of Shame? Designing Disgust


Harvey Nichols, exclusive designer company, self-positioned as the ‘world’s leading international luxury fashion destination, a one-stop-shop for the most exclusive brands in fashion, beauty and food’ asks us directly via YouTube if we  have ‘ever faced the walk of shame’? Read the full story

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Gender and Education Association

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