Theorizing agency in post-girlpower times
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Post-structuralist youth studies theorists have argued for nuanced perspectives on agency that are not reliant on an assumption of subjects as rational and internally coherent individuals, and understand subjectivity and social structure as produced in concert. These are important theoretical developments that have shaped recent scholarship on girls' identities and cultures. In this paper, we seek to give them some further sociological grounding by thinking through their resonance for the specific debate about young women and what feminist agency consists of, or looks like today. What we wish to further flesh out is how more familiar, modernist ideas about girls' agency have started to reach their limits not merely because of the post-structuralist turn, but because of the socio-cultural conditions of neoliberalism, post-feminism and post-girlpower. We unpack some recent shifts and complexities around three concepts: choice, empowerment and voice. These are the terms by which the possibility of girls' and young women's agency has traditionally been understood in feminist scholarship and much work in girls' studies. However, when we interrogate these concepts within the specific neoliberal, post-feminist, post-girlpower context, their usefulness for either understanding or enabling feminist agency is thrown into question.
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