Theses Doctoral

"We Flawless": Black and Latina Adolescent Girls' Readings of Femininity in Pop Culture

Hood, Mia

This study discusses how adolescent Black and Latina girls read the femininities made available in pop culture texts and how they take up those femininities when they narrate personal experiences. The purpose of the study is to explore how girls engage in pop culture on an ongoing basis, how these everyday engagements shape their understandings of themselves as girls, and how these engagements are themselves performances that both maintain and threaten the boundaries between boy and girl. In addition, this study witnesses the deconstruction of those meanings (Derrida, 1967/1997), exploring how attempts to make femininity mean something ultimately undermines itself.
As pop culture has come to saturate everyday life, American schools, following the Common Core State Standards’ (NGA, 2010) mandate for curriculum driven by “sufficiently complex,” canonical texts, have narrowed the scope and purposes of literacy instruction in schools. This research serves as a starting point for curricula that support young people in making sense of pop culture and their relationship to it.
Situated within a poststructural feminist theoretical framework, this study uses qualitative methods to make the literacy processes through which girls make sense of pop culture texts visible and to elicit narrations of the personal experiences in which girls take up the femininities made available pop culture texts. The findings suggested that girls make sense of these femininities by reading both in-narrative and out-of-narrative—standing back from the text and treating it as a text. In their readings and discussions of pop culture texts, the girls cited and inscribed discourses of femininity, constituting themselves as respectable girls by deliberately making judgments about women’s physical appearance on screen. Specifically, they acted to draw a line between what they saw as appropriate and what they saw as inappropriate. This repetitive act was one way they performed respectable femininity, stabilizing discursive meanings of gender and also holding open the possibility of the line being placed differently. The findings also suggested that storytelling as a site of discursive agency as the distance between the moment of experience and the moment of narration held open the possibility of reformulation and renegotiation of meanings.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Siegel, Marjorie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 23, 2018