Lyn Michel Brown has authored several really important books for thinking about girls development. Girlfighting is one of many books that address relational aggression among girls (the idea that girls fight with words and exclusive behaviors) however she approaches it with a keen feminist perspective. Brown argues that sexism disempowers girls from knowing /naming the people and institutions that they are really mad at. It is often unsafe to express anger toward a more powerful target and without literacy around the idea of sexism a girl might not even know that her sense that things aren't fair has historical and cultural and structural dimensions. Instead she blames herself, blames being a "girl" or blames/puts-down other girls and women as a way of gaining power or distancing herself from girlhood. Brown helped to establish the non-profit Hardy Girls, Healthy Women as a way of developing a space for girls to both live more fully, live in connection with other girls, and begin examining the messages that they get about gender through a critical lens.
Brown recently wrote, with co-author Sharon Lamb, a book that keeps me up at night. Packaging Girlhood analyzes the ways that the media shapes the message that girls, boys and adults all get about what it means to be a girl today. They find that girls have a very narrow range of "acceptable" choices -- movies, books, ads, television, etc. come together to present an image of girlhood that is either "for the boys" or "one of the boys." For all of us who came of age before text-messaging and ipods, the explanation of viral marketing is hugely important. They also provide some ideas about how to teach girls to become more critical consumers (step 1 - start with ourselves).
Some of my friends felt that there was a "selection bias" to the text - that the authors found what they were looking for. The book was written for a popular audience so there isn't an in-depth methods section to analyze. However, I think that even if that is true, the astonishing amount of similar images that occur in popular media are going to have an impact on our consciousness and consumer behaviors, even if there are also alternative images available to us.
If you get the chance to see a presentation about this material, do it! This is a visual project and the images matter and are compelling when viewed in and out of context. Keep up with the latest on their blog.
Lyn Michel Brown will be featured at two local conferences this fall.
In Portland, HGHW offers :
Beyond Bully Prevention: Strategies That Work
Join us November 5, 2007 in Portland, Maine for a cutting-edge conference: Beyond Bully Prevention: Strategies that Work. Designed for teachers, school counselors, school social workers, administrators, and all adults who work with youth; this conference moves beyond popular notions of bully prevention that overlook school expereinces that make children and adolescents feel unsafe.The conference brings together experts in the field of adolescent development to discuss bullying as an educational hindrance and work out strategies to address the social factors that produce it.
Workshop topics will include girlfighting/ building girl allies, relationships between stereotypical masculinity, violence and boys' academic success, bias-based harassment of GLBTQ youth, the effects of sexist and racist media messages, the impact of poverty and social class on students' school experiences, and the misuse of technology and cyber-bullying.
and in November, the University of New Hampshire is offering:
Special One-Day Conference
IMAGES IN THE MEDIA,
GIRLFIGHTING, HORMONES & MORE
Tackling Gender Issues
Facing Teens & Pre-Teens