Successful Girls? Complicating Post-Feminist, Neoliberal Discourses of Educational Achievement and Gender Equality

Citation:

Ringrose, Jessica. 2007. “Successful Girls? Complicating Post-Feminist, Neoliberal Discourses of Educational Achievement and Gender Equality.” Gender & Education 19 (4): 471–89.

Author: Jessica Ringrose

Abstract:

This paper examines how an ongoing educational panic over failing boys has contributed to a new celebratory discourse about successful girls. Rather than conceive of this shift as an anti-feminist feminist backlash, the paper examines how the successful girl discourse is postfeminist, and how liberal feminist theory has contributed to narrowly conceived, divisive educational debates and policies where boys' disadvantage/success are pitted against girls' disadvantage/success. The paper illustrates that gender-only and gender binary conceptions of educational achievement are easily recuperated into individualizing neo-liberal discourses of educational equality, and consistently conceal how issues of achievement in school are related to issues of class, race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship and location. Some recent media examples that illustrate the intensification of the successful girl discourse are examined. It is argued that the gender and achievement debate fuels a seductive postfeminist discourse of girl power, possibility and choice with massive reach, where girls' educational performance is used as evidence that individual success is attainable and educational policies are working in contexts of globalization, marketization and economic insecurity. The new contradictory work of 'doing' successful femininity, which requires balancing traditional feminine and masculine qualities, is also considered. (Abstract from original)

Topics: Education, Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Globalization, Privatization

Year: 2007

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