Theoretical Approaches to Studying Girls in the West

The main theoretical approaches to studying girls and young women are feminism, of course, and youth subcultures like punks or hip-hop; both involve resistance to dominant authorities.[1] Youth subcultures were first studied at the University of Chicago starting in the 1920s with a focus on street gangs as a way to cope with poverty. Youth subcultures were made famous at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies starting in 1964. Their early studies were criticized by feminist scholars for focusing on class conflict by working class “lads” and their public spaces, ignoring what girls did in more private spaces. With the development of global marketing aimed at youth and neoliberal individualization, class and political resistance became less relevant. Instead, scholars discussed nonactivist neotribes such as club scenes, lifestyles, networks, communities, etc. Anita Harris stated in 2008, “There is no longer any such thing as the truly ‘resistant’ youth subcultures, because youth style and cultures have been appropriated by the consumer industries, depoliticized and packaged back to youth.”

Globalization and the Internet changed girls’ way of doing politics starting in the late 1980s with girrrl power media, including zines, music including punk and rap, the Internet and its blogs and webcams, culture jamming of commercial media, and graffiti, thereby creating a “new form of citizenship” in postmodern subcultures. The editors of Riot Grrl zine wrote in 1992, “We’re tired of being written out–out of history, out of the ‘scene’, out of our bodies … for this reason we have created our zine and scene … be proud of being a grrrl.” Feminist girls around the world created a Third Wave in reaction to the Second Wave, discussed in Chapter 11, based on a more fluid and hybrid notion of gender and resistance to multinational corporations’ power, surpassing national governments as the target to resistance.

[1]Anita Harris, ed. Next Wave Cultures: Feminism, Subcultures, Activism. Routledge, 2008, Introduction.




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