CFP: “Let’s Hear It For The Girls”: Girlhood, Media and Popular Culture, 1990-present

Saturday 12th March 2016 – University of Warwick

From Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted (1993) and Anita Harris’s All About the Girl: Culture, Power, and Identity(2004) to the Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) and Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games’ ‘Girl on Fire’ – this brief list indicates the areas (literature, academia, television and film) into which the girl – and concern for the girl – have proliferated. While this ‘girl’ has long been a figure of concern, bearing the weight of cultural hopes and fears, the last twenty-five years have seen not only an explosion of interest in the girl but also in the state of being a girl, producing a host of discourses surrounding both the ‘girl’ and girlhood.

Since the 1990s’ dawning of ‘girl power’ (with figures such as the Spice Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the ‘Riot Grrl’ musical movement at the forefront of this craze), it seemed that ‘being a girl’ was increasingly considered a state of empowerment, pride and independence. Since (but not necessarily because of) this landmark period, girls have never before had more opportunities available to them; however they have also never experienced such pressure to look and act a certain way in order to meet an ever-changing, specified ideal. There is also an increased concern regarding the sexualisation of girls, particularly on the streets, in school, in their entertainment, but also – and ever increasingly – online.

This conference thus aims to address the following key questions: What does it mean to be a girl in today’s media landscape? What options and problems are facing today’s girls, how are these presented and resolved in media addressing the girl, and how have these changed (or not changed) since the 1990s, the decade of so-called ‘girl power’? Other specific areas papers might address include, but are not limited to:

• Representations of girls and girlhood in the toys, films, literature, and other media entertainments offered to them (including how these are marketed);
• Body projects, including: the role of the body in securing one’s identity;
• Representations of race, sexuality, disability, and their intersections with issues of girlhood, the body, and identity;
• The roles of digital media, the internet and social networking in the experiences of contemporary girls, particularly regarding the formation of identity;
• The relationship between the physical body and the digital, including implications on/for identity;
• The proliferation and function of ‘girl-centred’ campaigns, e.g. #bringbackourgirls, Amy Poehler’s #SmartGirls, Covergirl’s #GirlsCan, Always’ #LikeAGirl; Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’.
• Role models: the images and examples of ‘being girl’, both positive and negative, available to girls within both ‘reality’ as well as fictional texts.

We welcome papers from all disciplines. Please send 300-word abstracts, including a title and short biography, to girlsandgirlhood@gmail.com by Friday 16th October 2015.

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