Childhood & Youth Studies: Holley Wlodarczyk and Kysa Hubbard, Apr. 17, 2014
Women and/or Children First: Girlhood, Sexuality and Safety in Suburban Visual Media
Holley Wlodarczyk, Ph.D., CSCL
In the 2011 network trailer for ABC’s hit sitcom, Suburgatory, a teenager complains about how her single father uprooted her from city life following “condomgate,” seeking a more wholesome suburban haven. Despite this popular consensus that suburbia is the best place to raise children, certain trends in visual culture contest longstanding myths of suburban safety and security. Looking at a range of media texts that explore issues of danger to the family unit in which women and children are positioned as the most vulnerable potential casualties, this paper addresses the figure of (pre)adolescent girlhood as situated in this cultural landscape, and how both physical and moral threats to girls in this liminal state between childhood and adulthood pose a fundamental challenge to the notion of suburbia as “safe space.” The place of girl children and teenage girls in this context is itself not culturally fixed, fluctuating between the status of dependent child evoking innocence and naiveté, and an emergent feminine sexuality that is yet to be domesticated by marriage and motherhood. While suburbia is widely understood to be the ideal environment in which this transition might be safely navigated, a variety of televisual, filmic, and photographic texts illustrate hazards specific to suburban girls that lurk within the familiarity of their homes and neighborhoods, further complicating common assumptions about both girlhood and suburbia.
In the Name of Whose Protection? Class, Race, and the (Unconscious?) Eroticization of Girls
Kysa Hubbard, Ph.D., CSCL
This talk explores the intersection of class and race in the cultural eroticization of girl children, considering, among other things, how deeply rooted – mostly unconscious – historical associations between gender, class, race, and sexuality permeate contemporary cultural images, narratives, and debates surrounding and constituting the Eroticized Child.