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Rather than focusing on girls in the classroom, the book explores adolescent female identity in a myriad of kid-defined spaces both in-between the formal design of schooling, as well as outside its purview--from bedrooms to school hallways to the Internet to discourses of cheerleading, race, sexuality, and ablebodiness.


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These are the geographies of girlhood, the important sites of identity construction for girls and young women. This book is situated within the fledgling field of Girls Studies.

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All chapters are based on field research with adolescent girls and young women; hence, the voices of girls themselves are primary in every chapter. All of the authors in the text use the notion of liminality to theorize the in-between spaces and places of schools that are central to how adolescent girls construct a sense of self. The focus of the book on the fluidity of femininity highlights the importance of race, class, sexual orientation, and other salient features of personal identity in discussions of how girls construct gendered identities in different ways.


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Search all titles Search all collections. Your Account Logout. Geographies of Girlhood. Edited By Pamela J. Bettis, Natalie G. Edition 1st Edition. First Published Imprint Routledge. For girls, the issue of continuity and change between childhood and adolescence was very sensitive and the dramatic contrast represented by Jennifer's room raised questions about the appropriateness of Donna's own room.

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Given this contrast, if Jennifer wanted to "grow up real fast," did that suggest that Donna was failing to grow up? Whereas Jennifer tried to negate the past by getting rid of everything, Donna seemed to be preserving the past by keeping her stuffed animals. Despite pressure to change that accompanied the transition to junior high, some girls managed to continue the activities that they had previously enjoyed.

It was unwise, however, to talk about these practices at school— where the standards of adolescentness were sometimes viciously enforced Merten, , To engage in patterns of play that were continuous with grade school suggested that girls did not subscribe to the adolescent ethos. Such girls were often the objects of ridicule. Nevertheless some girls continued these patterns by inviting their friends to their house where they could play without their school peers being aware of it.

Carla described what happened when she was at her friend April's house: Like with April, I'll play a board game with her.

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I would never play a board game with Brenda. Brenda is more active—she's not the board game type. We go over to April's house and play Monopoly or something. More little kids' stuff, I guess. I could play Barbies with April because she still has all of her Barbies. Don't tell her I told you. They are all in the bottom of her closet.

We just got those out one night as a matter of fact and we watched cartoons. Things I'd never have done with Brenda. Yet she also made it clear that both April and she knew that doing so was now inappropriate "little kid stuff. Other girls, even highly successful ones, also considered home a place where they could get away from the popularity pressures at school. Cheryl was very popular, and at school she associated with her popular cheerleader friends.

However, before and after school she spent time with her neighborhood friend Lisa, who was not nearly as popular as Cheryl. At school, although she was friendly to Lisa, Cheryl did not spend time with her and explained their relationship in these terms: "She's always there. She just got to know the friends at school a couple days ago. Well, Lisa knew them in fourth grade but they didn't like her. After fourth grade, she went to a different school. But she is my best friend since fourth grade. She treats me better.

Not that they treat me bad, but Lisa is always there when I need to talk to her. She is always understanding. She always knows what to say. She is never off with someone else when I need to talk to her. She is nicer. Popularity was the primary concern in school but not at home. Cheryl made it clear that she was not the kind of girl who judged all relationships through the lens of popularity, and she used home to make this identity statement.

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Therefore, some girls sought to enact adolescent scenarios at home and to thereby change who they w7ere in that setting. That is, girls used their rooms to enact practices that symbolized discontinuity. Home was a place that girls went to smoke, drink, and become sexually involved. In this respect home, or someone else's house, became a place where girls could go to engage in and conceal actions of which adults disapproved.

The willingness to violate adult expectations by engaging in such prohibited actions signaled that a girl was no longer a compliant child and was instead becoming more independent. Also girls demonstrated independence by leaving their homes and going elsewhere without parental approval.

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It was not unexpected for girls to retreat to their rooms in order to be away from their family. In fact, some parents consider such retreats a nor- 2. Other parents were less willing, however, to accept their daughter's withdrawal from family life. Carol had previously accepted her parents' protectiveness, but since entering junior high she began to resist it. She described an incident that occurred when her mother came into her room.

Her mother said: "You act like you don't even need us anymore. Like you're just here and not even a part of the family. I hate that. I want to live on my own. I can't wait until I go to college. I want to go out of state. I want to get away. Getting away was framed also as simply getting out of the house and away from parental supervision. Carol continued: "Most of the time now I've been going to Dawn's house to get out of my house, 'cause I don't like my parents giving me lectures.

Getting out of the house was definitely the adolescent-like thing to do. Going to friends' houses whose parents were not home was viewed by many girls as especially desirable. As Morgan noted about her friend Cynthia: "Cynthia is lucky because her parents work and like she can have people over when her parents aren't home. Her parents don't mind that. If I had people over when my parents weren't home, my parents would kill me. She knew that her parents would not give her permission to be at a boy's house, much less be there when his parents were not home.

Therefore Morgan and her friends resorted to deceiving their parents about where they were going: "We will say we're going to track practice because our parents don't want us going over to boys' houses without the parents being home. I can't tell my mom because she will go like, 'I don't want you to go over to a boy's house. If her boyfriend could not be there, she said she would not go either. Having peers over to one's house or going to their's also provided opportunities for actions adults found problematic.

Grace told of drinking at a friend's house: Well, I was over at Jenny's Monday, me and Rayann and Jenny all got bombed. Then we went back to Cindy's. Cindy had two six packs of beer and we each had four. I didn't feel anything and we started drinking some wine. I started swaying back and forth and Heather started giggling.

When I got drunk, it was funny. We were trying to say stuff.