She hits like a girl: contexts and constructs of femininity, use of violence and living in group homes

Brown, Marion Isabel (2008) She hits like a girl: contexts and constructs of femininity, use of violence and living in group homes. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Public and scholarly interest in youth violence has steadily increased over the past twenty years, as governments and communities strive to address concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. In Canada, the tragic beating death of Reena Virk in 1997 prompted an emphasis on girls' use of violence in particular. Media representations and their resulting public anxiety often represent a chasm between popular and professional understandings of these behaviours and their use by girls, given that outward acting, physically aggressive behaviour conflicts with popular notions of what it means to be female. Further, theoretical constructs for understanding violence have been based on ontological and epistemological positions that take the male experience, literature, and research as normative. -- This qualitative study explored the perspectives and interpretations of 22 young women, ages 14 to 24 years, regarding their experiences of being female, using violence, and living in residential settings. The data suggest that these girls are continually negotiating the terms of what it means to be female, shaping and being shaped by gender stereotypes, role models, interactions with boys, and the ongoing scrutiny of other girls as extensions of themselves. Further, the data suggest that girls fight each other based on principles of loyalty, morality and justice, and to convey specific messages about their relationships with boys, being verbally maligned, and having their personal possessions stolen. Finally, navigating the living space is an ongoing and intricate process for these girls. Understanding the requirements of the physical setting, the formal and informal rules, and the shifting dynamics of staff and residents, ensures that the living context is never fully known. -- Analyzing the data in relation to the literature, this study theorizes that these girls are raised according to discourses of choice yet experience material and discursive constraints; that they are watching and being watched in a state of perpetual surveillance; and that they are continually bargaining femininity, neither resisting femininity nor embracing masculinity in their use of violence.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 9329
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 192-206); Introduction begins on leaf vii and continues on to leaf 2 - formatting error led to leaf 1 omission.
Department(s): Social Work, School of
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Femininity; Group homes; Young women--Institutional care; Young women--Psychology; Young women--Violence

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