The Abstracts — Femspec 5.2, Vol 5, Issue 2, 2005

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EDITORIAL REMARKS:

By Batya Weinbaum

The editor explains how the Girl Power issue became the Girl Power Plus issue containing considerably more than the special editors from Canada had collected and submitted, the promotion of Beverly Bow to assistant editor and the idea of a PayPal tip jar on the web page.

CRITICISM:

“The Problematics of Reclaiming the Girlish: The Powerpuff Girls and Girl Power” by Rebecca C. Harris The author defines girl power as a playful form of third wave feminism seeking to reclaim the feminine and mark it as culturally valued. She describes aspects of the movement and how it emerged from The Riot Grrrls in the 1990s. She feels that the girl power icons presented in the media enact without embodying the new female strength. She explores literature on previous representations of powerful women to illustrate the progressive aspects of girl power texts and then presents her criticisms of the texts and messages.

Special Canadian Section: Girl Power, “Editors’ Introduction” by Donna Varga and Roxanne Harde
The editors contend that in contemporary popular culture, fantasy characters such as Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer take their place in a longer history where popular culture and ancient lore intermixed in the creation of popular female characters with superior powers. They advise that the work they have collected finds both positive and negative representations of girl power, since on the one hand girl power can mean independence and social transformation and on the other, consumerism, self-involvement and violence.

“Lucky Jupiter Meets Your Ruler: Otherwordly Sources of Girl Power in Magazine Horoscopes” by Alison Jacques
The author examines glossy teen magazines in the mainstream such asTwist and considers the notion of girl power as it appears in the horoscopes of five American magazines. She asks such questions as Girl Power? Or the Power of Jupiter in Your Confidence Sector? showing how the notions of girl power and the horoscope intersect with advise such as “Be Confident, He Will Notice!”

“Young Females as Super Heroes: Superheroines in the Animated Sailor Moon” by Victoria Anne Newsom
The author claims that girl power is a pleasure-centered form of empowerment tied to ideals found in third wave feminism. Yet she also sees it as a media construct challenging female empowerment by limiting empowerment to a specific type of body and performance by young women. She contrasts girl power characters to stereotypes of the seventies, arguing that these characters represent a “tough girl” style of feminism, encouraging young women to stand up for themselves. Unfortunately this sometimes devolves into making shopping choices. She traces the roots of some of the contemporary female superheroines to Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, the original Charley’s Angels, and Princess Leia fromStar Wars. She looks closely at how the Sailor Scouts are physically portrayed.

“Dangerous Demons: Fan Responses to Girls’ Power, Girls’ Bodies, and Girls’ Beauty in Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Sharon Ross
The author maintains that in terms of Girl Power, the female bodies on Buffy serve as a rhetorical site for discussions of femininity, beauty, physical strength and inner strength. Viewers think through feminist goals as they view the show, which was one of the aims of the show’s creators.

“Girl Power and the Discourse of Aging: the Example of Ursula K. Le Guin” by Douglas Thorpe
Feminist science fiction realizes its potential by complicating our sense of the existing order. Yet usually gender is at stake, not age, even though ageism is as pervasive as sexism. The author asserts the ageism of proclamations of girl power in assuming they are the same as woman power, and drawing women into believing that they need to conjure up their girlish aspects to become empowered. He warns that to tag power with prepubescence obscures the role sexual maturity plays in marking womanhood. To assess the risks and rewards of girl power, the author examines Ursula LeGuin.

CREATIVE WORK

“The Truth in Dreams” by Justin Scott
In Spring 2001, the Femspec intern class ran a contest of creative writing in Cleveland area high schools. This story in which Xena came to the author's high school for a day won the creative writing contest.

REVIEWS

“Canadian Girl Power: Young Women Save the Day, Happily-Ever-After-Ending Unnecessary” by Sheryl Curtis
This review of Margaret Buffie's The Watcher (Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2000) explores the borderland between childhood and adulthood. Seen from the point of view of a child of flower children of the sixties, the author's sixth book sounds like a counter cultural plot offering something different including an Earth Mother character who firmly believes that the bees in her inherited organic honey business have to be kept up to date on all family happenings or they get mad. An alternative to the mainstream for children of progressive parents.

“Young Women (and More) in Anime” by Joe Geary
Geary reviews Susan Napier’s Anime from Akira to Princess Monoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation (New York: Palgrave, 2001). Until the mid-1990s, the only information available on anime was primarily in a few magazines and fanzines. But with the blossoming of popular anime such as Sailor Moon, a large audience has developed for anime on television. Napier's book is the most academically available on the topic. She explores a number of topics including gender roles and representation of history, having in mind the student doing college level literary criticism and analysis.

“Japanese Magic: The Girl-Friendly Films of Hayao Miyazaki” by K. A. Laity and Wendy Goldberg
Laity and Goldberg review Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro (1993), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) and Spirited Away (2002). They claim that until recently, Japan's most famous animator has been overlooked in the United States. Unlike Disney films, romance is at best a minor aspect of his stories. Young girls he creates face their trials in becoming adult, coping with family illness, and relating to nature as a process that they resolve with true wonder and joy even if not without tears and struggle.

“Growing Up to Be Feminists: Reports on Girl Culture” by Mary Beth Long
Mary Beth Long reviews Sharon Mazzarella and Norma Odom Pecora’s edited collection Growing Up Girls: Popular Culture and the Construction of Identity (New York: Peter Lang, 1999) a book that focuses on girls’ reactions to mass-market creations rather than on their own participation in fantasy. The book contains essays on mass-produced novels, advertising, magazines, fashion and movies as well as a handful of interviews between academic feminists and their daughters.

“Reading Scared: Feminists Confronting Future Feminists” by Amanda A. Putnam
Reading Helen Harper’s Wild Words, Dangerous Desires: High School Girls and Feminist Avant-Garde Writing (New York: Lang, 2000) was a disappointment as the author discovered how far feminists are from our goals in terms of impact on future generations. The research project discussed in the book was the sharing of feminist avant-garde writing with teen age girls.

“Marwen's Web: Living on the Loom of the Mother” by M. Sean Saunders
Saunders reviews Martine Bates’ The Dragon's Tapestry (1992), The Prison Moon (1992) and The Taker’s Key (1998), published by Alberta's Red Deer College Press. The series together is called the Marmawell Trilogy, a young adult project that examines power. The author explores the ideas that those who receive power must also assume responsibility for its use, and that personal power should be put in service for others. The books are set in a kingdom called Ve, where an order of women called Oldwives have access to the magic, or the spiritually binding force upon which the fabric of life and culture is dependent. The central image through all three books is the weaver's loom.

“Eyes Shining and Feet Kicking” by Vanessa Warne
The author reviews The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women (Boston: Little Brown, 2000) by Tchana Katrin and Trina Schart Hyman. The new collection of feminist folklore anthologizes and retells eighteen stories about clever and courageous women. The phrase “eyes shining and feet kicking” refers to the depiction of women's strength as they are characterized by being willing to fight throughout, across cultures.

CREATIVE WORKS

“Stone Dress” by Sharon Black
Poetic retelling of Rapunzel in which one character, who makes her own dress, is both the maiden and the tower; when she walks, she sets the bones of the earth singing.

“The Rules of the Playground: A One-Act Play” by Carolyn Gage
A play set in the classroom discussing children’s behavior on a playground as a vehicle for presenting issues about the gender sources for violent and aggressive behavior.

“Stories of Sicilian GirlsandDark Play” by Edvige Giunta
Unknown men rape a fifteen-year-old girl and the first poem connects this act to mythology, Jenny Jones blasting on TV and stories spat out on a frantic computer screen. The second poem is a seductive attempt to draw a child into a world where a boomerang is thrown that will cancel time.

“Emily Dickinson” by Lyn Lifshin
A short poem that connects Emily Dickinson to Alice, trying to find/a way through/the glass around her.

“Girl with the Metal Hair” by Abigail Morris
A high school girl with metal hair is compared to one of those sci-fi robots of H.G. Wells and everyone is afraid of her. She hated rain because of the rust and feared storms.

“Language of Paper Dolls” by Emily Self
A remembrance of the magic of paper doll language and casting spells, and "closed whispers under covers."

“Runners”by Kristine A. Somerville
Imagistic short fiction of running through the suburbs in streets with space age names.

FILM REVIEW

“Summer with the Ghosts” by Batya Weinbaum
If ever homeschooling needed a model curriculum film, this one shot in Austria would qualify. The delighted adventures of a girl shadowing her father on a film shoot because her mother is traveling giving concerts back in Canada includes numerous romps with ghosts shot in Austria. Has girl power elements in that the girl is a problem solver, at home with adults, males and machinery.

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