The challenges and complexities of negotiating normative femininities and creating safe spaces in all-girl settings

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Chiodo, Linda ORCID: 0000-0003-4966-381X and Morda, Romana ORCID: 0000-0001-8101-5287 (2023) The challenges and complexities of negotiating normative femininities and creating safe spaces in all-girl settings. SN Social Sciences, 3. ISSN 2662-9283


Contemporary culture is increasingly characterised by postfeminist and neoliberal sentiment, presenting a very complex, and contradictory context for young women to navigate. Schools represent one of the key places in which young people can learn, enact and potentially resist sociocultural norms and inequalities in relation to gender. For young women these spaces provide opportunities to negotiate and challenge essentialist ways of ‘doing’ gender. Informed by social constructionism and feminist poststructuralist understandings, the current paper draws on findings of an ethnographic study conducted within an all-girls secondary school. This study explored the everyday practices and discourses related to normative femininities and successful girlhood embedded within this setting. Data was collected from eleven students (8 semi-structured interviews; one focus group) and three teachers (semi-structured interviews). Field notes and archival data were also collected. The safe space concept was used to interrogate and discuss the opportunities and limitations school settings present for young women in their negotiation of normative femininities. It was found that the girls-only context, the promotion and presence of feminist ideals and the valuing of student voice characterised this school setting as a potential safe space for at least some students. Findings also highlighted that the prevalent reinforcement of normative femininities and the focus on academic achievement had implications for the ways in which students participated within this space. The opportunities, challenges and limitations of educational settings as safe spaces for young women will be interrogated.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1007/s43545-023-00759-8
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 5205 Social and personality psychology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords femininity, all girl spaces, safe spaces, young women, schools
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