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Body talk - a power guide for girls

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Research

Poised on the threshold of adult subjectivity, the girl is at once malleable and resistant, a subject overwritten by adult culture and a subject whose dissident teen voice challenges and changes those very rules. No wonder, as many have noted, the teen has increasingly become the target of global corporations eager to exploit this ambivalent subjectivity. Girl Power of the 90s, like punk in the 70s, quickly becomes a brand, a logo, a marketable ID. If we wanted to be pessimistic we could argue that the mass marketing of Girl Power was a typical assimilation - feminist rhetoric was diluted into a pop poster advertising all the nasty evils of the beauty myth which amounted to the same dull clichéd freedom for the gorgeous only.

Girl Power is about buying the look. Socio-economic inequality is masked by a pretty face, too botoxed to ever frown over the material everyday problems girls face in an increasingly conservative and competitive culture. Or we could see the emergence of the girl market as an opportunity to create change and rewrite some of the rules. This is what we hoped to achieve by writing Body Talk: A Power Guide For Girls, a mainstream book which mobilises the increasingly influential rhetoric of the self-help genre in order to communicate some feminist messages about the politics of body image and the importance of solidarity and activism beneath the rather deceptive cover of a gloriously pink book strewn with flowers and fun wavy type font.

Abigail Bray and Elizabeth Reid Boyd. Where the Girls Are: Writing feminism for teen girls in the mainstream media. (forthcoming).

Girls' studies

"How are young women positioned and how do they position themselves in the changing and post-industrial and post-modern Western world? How has girlhood itself taken on new meanings as we enter the 21st century? Who speaks for young women and girls? What is the future of feminist inquiry into the lives of young women? In this regard, girls' studies must move forward into an unknown and somewhat unexpected landscape and at the same time draw on its long tradition in feminist interdisciplinary work.”

Anita Harris. Introduction, All About the Girl: Culture, Power and Identity, Routledge 2004.

Projects

  • Just Saying No? The Youth Chastity Movement in Australia. Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd and Dr Abigail Bray.
  • A pilot study into the Australian youth chastity movement in order to discover how 'just saying no' is reshaping discourses of sexuality, gender and youth culture. Is chastity an attempt to escape the increased surveillance, control and commodification of sexuality which is so much a feature of contemporary youth culture? How might such a resistance be caught up in the production of alternative sexual and cultural ethics? Does the emergence of chastity signal a broader social nostalgia for the certainty of older moral systems?
  • Dr Rose Williams is currently working on the Body Esteem Project for girls with eating disorders with Women's Healthworks in Western Australia, piloting a self help model from the Netherlands.
  • 'The Popular Paradox: Health and Well Being Promotion in Young Women's Magazines' Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd, Professor Sherry Saggers and the Centre for Social research (link) Professor Donna Cross of ECU’s health and wellness Vario Health Institute and Dr Abigail Bray.
  • The aim of this collaborative study, the first of its kind, is to explore how popular young women's magazines function as vehicles for health and well-being promotion and social advocacy in Australia.
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