Fostering complicit femininity: epoch, education and the young female body
McSharry, Majella and Walsh, Brendan (2014) Fostering complicit femininity: epoch, education and the young female body. In: Kelly, Peter and Kamp, Annelies, (eds.) A Critical Youth Studies for the 21st Century. Brill, Leiden, pp. 317-332. ISBN 9789004243750
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This chapter seeks to explore the regulation of the schoolgirl body within the Irish secondary school landscape. In doing so it describes historic practices that reinforced stereotypical behaviours for young women of school and university-going age and discusses how these practices find striking resonances in contemporary schooling. Our focus is on one aspect of regulation – that of the body. Through the body, that form by which we so often seek self-definition and are defined, that to which we are so intimately bound, regulation becomes immediate and in some instances all-encompassing. Increasingly, for young girls in particular, it has become the form of expression – a public manifestation of personality, values and aspirations and to others, frequently, therefore, a symbol of threatened aggression, immorality and anarchy. Regardless of the epoch schoolgirls have been the subjects of quite exaggerated regulation. The manner in which schools expect girls to dress, walk, eat, talk, socialize or move are all subject to a regime of regulations the object of which was to make young women conform to versions of feminine ‘ladylikeness’ that may or may not reflect wider socio-cultural expectations of women in the 21st Century. This discussion maps the embodied surveillance and regulation of girls within the Irish education landscape, drawing particular attention to the contradictions placed upon both classical and contemporary femininity.
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