159: Supporting Girls’ Relationships with Dr. Marnina Gonick

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I've been wanting to do this episode for a loooong time. We covered episodes a long time ago on how children form social groups, and what happens when they exclude each other from play, but I wanted to do an episode exploring this issue related to slightly older girls, and from a cultural perspective. There are a lot of books and articles out there on the concept of mean girls and I wanted to understand more about that. Why are girls 'mean' to each other? Is it really a choice they're making...or is it a choice in response to a complex set of demands that we put on them about what it means to be female in our culture? I had a really hard time finding anyone who was doing current research on the topic, and I mentioned this on a group coaching call in the Parenting Membership. A member, Caroline, said: “I know someone who can speak to this!” Caroline had explored girls’ relationships in young adult literature for her master’s thesis, and knew Dr. Marnina Gonick’s work. Caroline introduced us, Dr. Gonick agreed to talk, and we all had a great conversation about girls’ role in our culture, how they are affected by it, and how they are agents of change as well. Dr. Gonick is Canada Research Chair in Gender and also holds a joint appointment in Education and Women’s Studies at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She has written two books on the topic of girls’ relationships as well as a whole host of peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Gonick also introduced me to an expert on boys’ relationships and we’re currently working to schedule an interview in a few weeks so there should be more to come on that soon!

Dr. Marnina Gonick’s Books:

Young Femininity: Girlhood, Power and Social Change 2004th Edition

Between Femininities: Ambivalence, Identity, and the Education of Girls (SUNY series, Second Thoughts: New Theoretical Formations) (Affiliate links).

Jump to highlights: (03:36) What it means to be a girl. (05:27) The importance of understanding girls' experiences in general. (06:36) Dr. Gonick's perspective on the book Reviving Ophelia. (08:35) How damaging patriarchal society is for girls. (11:24) Positive and negative impacts of girl power feminism in girls. (12:50) Politics in feminism. (14:46) The Social Barriers to Girl Power. (16:44) Critiques about the film Mean Girls and how it's related to women empowerment. (18:34) Relational aggressiveness between boys and girls. (20:50) Jen's take on bullying, based on the book "Confessions of a Former Bully." (21:45) Why cultures in the school play a big role in bullying. (24:19) Finding an acceptable outlet for girls to express their relational aggression. (26:17) Factors that influence a child to become racist and disrespectful. (28:07) Corporations and institutions became interested in the girl power movement. (31:34) Ways in how girls discover their sense of identity/sexuality. (35:16) Why girls wearing sexual clothing are being labeled as slutty. (39:28) How heterosexuality emphasizes femininity. (41:24) Girls are going to be mean to each other human nature makes it inevitable. (43:37) How important is it to understand our feelings and our childs’ feelings. References: Aapola, S., Gonick, M., & Harris, A. (2005). Young femininity: Girlhood, power, and social change. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
Bethune, J., & Gonick, M. (2017). Schooling the mean girl: A critical discourse analysis of teacher resource materials. Gender and Education 29(3), 389-404.
Dellasega, C., & Nixon, C. (2003). Girl wars: 12 strategies that will end female bullying. New York: Fireside.
Gonick, M. (2003). Between femininities: Ambivalence, identity, and the education of girls. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Gonick, M. (2004). VII. The ‘mean girl’ crisis: Problematizing representations of girls’ friendships. Feminism & Psychology 14(3), 395-400.
Gonick, M. (2006). Between “girl power” and “Reviving Ophelia”: Constituting the neoliberal girl subject. NWSA Journal 18(2), 1-23.
Gonick, M., Renold, E., Ringrose, J., & Weems, L. (2009). Rethinking agency and resistance: What comes after Girl Power? Girlhood Studies 2(2), 1-9.
Gonick, M., Vanner, C., Mitchell, C., & Dugal, A. (2021). ‘We want freedom not just safety’: Biography of a Girlfesto as a strategic tool in youth activism. Young 29(2), 101-118.
Goodwin, M.H. (2006). The hidden life of girls; Games of stance, status, and exclusion. Malden: Blackwell.
Kehily, M.J., Ghaill, M.M.A., Epstein, D., & Redman, P. (2002). Private girls and public worlds: Producing femininities in the primary school. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 23(2), 167-177.
Ludwig, T., & Adams, B. (2012). Confessions of a former bully. Decorah: Dragonfly.
Renold, E. (2006). ‘They won’t let us play…unless you’re going out with one of them’: Girls, boys, and Butler’s ‘Heterosexual Matrix’ in the primary years. British Journal of Sociology of Education 27(4), 489-509.

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