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Shaping the Girl-self on (Social) Media 

Cecilia Brioni (Trinity College Dublin)
YouTubHer: Girlhood and Online Content Creation on YouTube Italia 

In 2021, YouTube Southern Europe asked five female Italian YouTubers (La Scimmia Yoga, ShantiLives, Fraffrog, Graceonyourdash and Tech Princess) to create a video each about their personal and professional experience on the platform. These videos are part of the online campaign #YouTubHer, aiming to inspire girls to open their own YouTube channel. This paper examines how young female content creators represent their professional self in these videos. I argue that these self-representations are influenced by the postfeminist idea of an individualist success that is mostly realised through normative feminine practices and behaviours like fashion, makeup or authenticity (Duffy and Hund, 2015). At the same time, however, the #YouTubHer campaign puts an accent on these female content creators’ entrepreneurial, technical and professional skills, thus offering a representation of online female entrepreneurship that is not just based on individualism and commercialisation, but also on competence, professionalism and collaborative effort.

Shauna Pomerantz (Brock University) 
Polaroid Intensities: The Immanent Possibilities of Ongoing Girlhood

My paper unfolds around encounters with girlhood through a set of Polaroid images taken of me in my bedroom when I was 10 years old. The Polaroids are part of a network of contingently bound relations, or what Deleuze and Guattari (1987) call an assemblage. When the various bodies in the assemblage relationally connect through the nodal point of the Polaroids, possibilities for immanent girlhood emerge. As a “developmental life stage,” girlhood is always configured as “the past.” Caught in a trap of linear temporality, we must move on to grow up. But this binary temporal thinking leads to a separation between life-stages and diminishes the potential of ongoing girlhood as an affective force. Rather than subscribing to unidirectional time, by drawing on immanent theorizing this paper asks: How does girlhood continue in adulthood – not as a static, inert past, but as an immanent experience of time, memory, and affect? And how might acknowledging this continuation challenge notions of Western development and, instead, reconfigure girlhood as ’constantly transforming relations’ (Coleman, 2008, 168)?

All are welcome to attend this free event, which will be held online via Zoom at 18:00 GMT. You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register.

6 October – Seminar 1
Girlhood from Society to the Screen
13 October – Seminar 2
Girlhood from History to the Screen
20 October – Seminar 3
Girls on Paper
27 October – Seminar 4
Queering Girlhood
10 November – Seminar 5 - This seminar was cancelled. Giulia Blasi will now be part of the final roundtable taking place on Monday the 5th of December 2022
Writing as a Girl: Language, Generation and Trends
17 November – Seminar 6
Shaping the Girl-self on (Social) Media
24 November - Seminar 7 - This seminar has been rescheduled and will now take place on Monday 21 Nov 2022 from 6-7:30pm
Girls Beyond the Western Canon
5 December – Seminar 8
Girlhood Studies: New Perspectives

Download guidance on participating in an online event (pdf) 

Following the international success of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend tetralogy (2011–2014) and the HBO series inspired by it, attention has intensified in the new media on the topic of girlhood and coming-of-age stories. At the same time, the #metoo campaign introduced aspects of feminist discourse into the mainstream, with girls becoming especially sensitised to the issues raised.  

This seminar series offers a fresh focus on girlhood and asks how we might understand it today. Understood first as a liminal concept – a connection between childhood and womanhood –, girlhood gained more space and autonomy with the rising of mass society and thanks to specific trends of consumption and the recent introduction of social media. The debate around girlhood involves questions of gender, identity and representation which continue to evolve, and which demand renewed scrutiny. The social changes that occurred in the seventies in Western society invited us to rethink the very idea of ‘womanhood’, but how the concept of ‘girlhood’ evolved is yet to be fully addressed. 

The topic of girlhood in academia started to gain popularity in the 1990’s thanks to Angela McRobbie’s work, with a specific look at girls’ culture as a subculture in the international context (McRobbie 1991; McRobbie and Garber 1993). Studies on girls’ culture and the representation of girlhood related to magazines and new media such as Susan Driver’s Queer Girls and Popular Culture: Reading, Resisting, and Creating Media (2007), paved the way for a more developed analysis of the relationship between female youth, queer and feminist theories. Paola Bonifazio, Nicoletta Marini-Maio and Ellen Nerenberg published a very relevant study on the topic in the open access journal Gender/Sexuality/Italy in 2017, shedding light for the first time on girl cultures in Italy from early modern to late capitalism. Today Girlhood Studies are experiencing a productive and lively revival, as girlhood emerges as an autonomous field worthy of recognition. 

The cycle of seminars will explore the construction of the notion of ‘girlhood’ from a transnational and transmedial perspective, charting its development across contemporary Western culture. Building upon recent scholarship on genders as a cultural phenomenon, the series aims to isolate ‘divergent representations of girlhood’ (Hopkins, 2017) in history, literature, society and media. Each seminar brings into conversation scholars, researchers and practitioners working variously in the fields of literary, cultural, and publishing studies, the history of education, and gender and sexuality.