CFP: Tween Culture in Girlhood Studies (1/?/04; collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Claudia Mitchell

Seven going on seventeen: Tween culture in girlhood studies


Claudia Mitchell
Faculty of Education
McGill University
Tel. 514 398 1318
Fax 514 398 8260

Jacqueline Reid-Walsh
McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women
Tel 514 398-3680
Fax 514 398-3986


'Tween culture is the 'new girl on the block' within consumer markets, youth
culture studies and in the emerging field of girlhood studies. Girls
(roughly) between the ages of six/seven and eleven year - 'tweens so named
because they are between girlhood and adolescence - are now a marketing
niche in and of themselves for television shows, magazines, videos,
advertising, clothing-lines and retail services such as hair salons.
Whistle-blowers, as Lynn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan (1992) first named
them, girls in this age group who are "on the edge of adolescence" and
seemingly 'wise beyond their years' - nine going on forty as some adults
describe them -- they have long been considered a rich feminist memory-site
for examining the genesis of women's sense of self. At the same time, no
longer 'little girls' and not yet 'big girls', these girls are frequently
the focus of adults' moral panics about the death of innocence, a spin-off
of Britney Spears/ mini-Pops, Spice Girls phenomena.

The focus of this collection - 'tween culture-locates itself within the
growing body of literature on girlhood studies that has emerged over the
last decade ---ranging from girlhood in adult literature and memoirs,
histories of girlhood, girlhood within girl-child education and
international development literature, to the sub-set of girlhood studies
dealing with popular culture and media studies. In this growing body of
literature, the notion of girlhood itself has become increasingly diverse:
girl power, girlhood and innocence, girl zines and web sites, young women
such as Monica Lewinksy presented as part of girlhood and so on. To date,
however, relatively little of this literature has focused specifically on
this younger age group -'tween girls.

The essays in this book will investigate a range of issues related to
girlhood, drawing on work on age studies and the politics of childhood, as
well as work related to the cross-section of mainstream, contemporary girls'
popular culture, framed particularly though not exclusively, in the contexts
of the perceived and actual downward age of the user. For example, what used
to be popular items of the later teenage years now seem to be the interest
of young pre-teens. For example, four long-lasting popular texts -- Nancy
Drew, Seventeen Magazine, teen romances and Barbie -- provide, we argue a
perfect lens for exploring this particular time period in girls' lives.
Nancy Drew has been around since 1929; Seventeen magazine since 1944, teen
romances since the mid 1940s and Barbie since 1959. While these texts have
undergone many changes over time - including the age of their readers -
their longevity invites a reading on the changing nature of girlhood. In a
sense the various manifestations and versions of each of these texts provide
a barometer on reading contemporary girlhood but, taken together, they also
provide a cumulative reading on girlhood. The continuing Nancy Drew
mysteries for example, have a protagonist who is in her late teens, and,
unlike the classic Nancy Drews, are now read primarily by 8-10 year olds.
Seventeen magazine, as we have discovered in our research on girls and
magazine reading is now read by nine and ten years olds as well as slightly
older teenagers; teen romances now 'reach down' to girls as young as 7 and 8
particularly through the junior-Sweet Valley High romances. At the same time
Barbie, who is a teenage fashion doll and was once played with by 11 and 12
year olds, is often played with primarily by very young girls, and only
secretly by 8 and 9 year olds. Indeed Mattel, noting this trend, has begun
marketing a new "My Scene" Barbie who is meant to appeal (anew) to girls in
the eleven-year old grouping. It is for this reason we try to avoid in this
book definitively "placing" 'tweenhood at a particular age. Indeed, as
beauty pageants, nursery school concerts and fancy-dress figure skating
competitions increasingly involve pre-school girls-as-adolescents, the idea
of "tweendom" comes to signify younger and younger girls.

While there has been a great deal of research and writing done in the last
decade on different aspects of girls' popular culture, such as romance
fiction, television shows, films, magazine reading, Barbie, and so on, this
has tended to be done in a piecemeal way, often focusing on a specific
textual or archival form. The category of "girl" has often been used very
loosely, denoting anyone from past infancy upward to young adulthood. During
the same period, the commodification of girls' culture and the marketing
towards girls has intensified, and is even moving downward. As a recent Los
Angeles Times article indicates, the 'tween age is now considered to start
at seven, with new stores and catalogues being constructed so affluent
"tweens" can persuade parents to buy them clothes, music and other goods.
At the same time, many artifacts of popular culture marketed towards girls
also exist in a virtual realm as well as the physical: there are virtual
versions of most material artifacts (virtual dolls, magazines, music,
games), there is a vast array of virtual critical reception and discussion
of the impact and effects on girls of web-sites targeting girls. And there
is an explosion of online marketing with virtual storefronts, catalogues and
clubs targeting girls as consumers. Again, during this same period there has
been significant outcry in the popular media and in research reports about
the sexualizing of young girls, such as in the response to beauty pageants,
girl bands and other phenomena including sexualized clothing as in the case
of thong underwear (Leslie Ernest "Tweens: From dolls to thongs" LA Times
June 27, 2002).

The combination of factors - increasing commercialization, the downward
shift of the age of the target audience, the expansion of the markets into
Central and Eastern Europe, for example, along with North/South linkages and
other features of globalization, the growth in both public response and
academic criticism, along with an in girlhood studies both in development
contexts as well as in the context of commodification- have created a unique
context for the study of 'tween culture and girlhood. Many responses
though, both in the popular press and in and analysis in the academic press,
have tended to be isolated discussions of a transient event and to exist in
an ahistorical or decontextualized way. This collection of invited articles
will seek to address this gap in scholarship.

The volume will contribute to research in girl studies in the following
ways: first we will call upon a range of contributors' from Canada, the
United States, Britain, Australia, Israel, Central and Eastern Europe, South
Africa and India who work with different methods, approaches and texts of
girlhood. Theoretically, we will draw upon a range of cultural studies/
media studies approaches within a perspective infused with the emerging area
of age-studies. By focusing on "preteen" girls we will contribute to the
existing research on girlhood, which has tended to be primarily on older
adolescent girls and young women. One way we will do this is to provide a
focus on relatively long-lasting texts and artifacts and study them
historically. Another way will be to examine both transitory texts, such as
the "Spice Girls", or "Mini Pops" and more recent texts, such as "Buffy, the
Vampire Slayer" to In so doing, we will include essays which
shed light on pre-teen girls engaging with new media (web sites, guest
books, chat lines, etc.). Our collection will also give visibility to the
diverse ways that particular texts of girlhood and girlhood culture - and
indeed girlhood pleasures themselves -- are read within broader global
contexts. These range from a consideration, for example of Barbie in Israel,
the "Miss Sixty" phenomenon in Moscow, or the Balkishori ('preadolescent
girl') in India, and are framed within such issues as stalking on the
internet and sexual trafficking.

The Market

This book is an important one for scholars of consumer culture who are
particularly interested in youth cultures, scholars whose work focuses on
age as a social constructions, as well scholars working in the emerging area
of girlhood studies itself, and we anticipate that it could become a
required or supplementary text in courses in Communication and Cultural
Studies, Women's Studies and Education (including courses on gender and
education as well as courses in childhood studies). McGill University's
Faculty of Education, for example, offers a graduate course on Childhood as
a Cultural Space as does MIT. Concordia offers a graduate course on Children
and Media as well as a course on Childhood and Gender.

This is a growing area as we see in the range of books on girlhood that have
been published during the last few years: Tinkler's Constructing Girlhood
(1995), Saxton's The Girl (1998), ' Millennium Girls: Today's Girls Around
the World (1998). As well there have been a number of influential studies on
girls and popular culture during the last decade or so, notably:
Christian-Smith's Becoming a Woman Through Romance (1990), Walkerdine's
School Girl Fictions (1990), McRobbie's Feminism and Youth Culture: from
'Jackie" to 'Just Seventeen' (1991) and Mazzarella and Pecora's Growing Up
Girls: Popular Culture and the Construction of Identity (1999). While there
have been some very recent work on girlhood and media studies as we see in
Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice: Cinemas of Girlhood edited by Gatewood and
Pomerance (2002), along with work specifically focusing on Barbie (Lord's
Forever Barbie and Rand's Barbie's Queer Accessories for example) there is,
to date no book that we know of that focuses on 'tween culture specifically.
There is also no book that we know of that mines the longevity of certain
popular culture texts for studying the changing nature of girlhood.
Beyond the usual academic audiences, however, we anticipate that a book like
this would have appeal to a more general readership. The issue of gender in
childhood continues to be a "hot topic" as we see in the ongoing work of
Carol Gilligan, the flourishing 'what about the boys? movement, attention to
childhood issues within the politics of innocence (see for example Judith
Levine's Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex), and
so on

The Editors

Claudia Mitchell is a Professor in the Faculty of Education, McGill
University where she teaches and conducts researches in the areas of
childhood as a cultural space, girlhood studies, gender and development.
HIV/AIDS, Visual Studies, and teacher identity. She is the co-author (with
J. Reid-Walsh) of Researching Children's Popular Culture: The cultural
spaces of childhood (Routledge Taylor-Francis, 2002); and with S. Weber,
Reinventing Ourselves as Teachers: Beyond Nostalgia (Falmer, 1999) and That'
s Funny, You Don't Look Like a Teacher: Interrogating Images of Identity in
Popular Culture (Falmer, 1995).

Jacqueline Reid-Walsh teaches Women's Studies at McGill University and
children's literature at Bishop's and Concordia Universities. She engages in
research in the areas of eighteen-century literature and culture, and
children's popular culture. She is the co-author (with C. Mitchell) of
Researching Children's Popular Culture: Childhood as a Cultural Space, along
with numerous articles on conduct books, Jane Austen, 18th century social
dance, Barbie, Nancy Drew, teen romances, and girls' digital culture.
Features, Requests, and Special Needs

1. Estimated length of book: 180-200 pages (360-400 double-spaced
manuscript pages) including index and references. Each chapter will be
between 5000-6000 words in length.
2. Several of the chapters will include photographs
3. There will be an extensive author index and an extensive subject

Submission guidelines

Length of each chapter is approximately 5000- 6000 words on 8 1/2"x11"
paper, doubled spaced. Abstracts and final manuscripts should be typed in
12pt font, preferably Garamond or similar, and double-spaced in MLA style.
Peter Lang recommends the use of Webster's (10th ed.) for usage. Please
include a short biography at the end listing name, address, phone number,
e-mail address, biography and institutional affiliation.

Submission date: January 2004

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Received on Mon Feb 03 2003 - 16:57:30 EST