Are girls taking over the world? It would appear so, based on magazine covers, news headlines, and popular books touting girls’ academic success. Girls are said to outperform boys in high school exams, university entrance and graduation rates, and professional certification. As a result, many in Western society assume that girls no longer need support. But in spite of the messages of post-feminism and neoliberal individualism that tell girls they can have it all, the reality is far more complicated. Smart Girls investigates how academically successful girls deal with stress, the “supergirl” drive for perfection, race and class issues, and the sexism that is still present in schools. Describing girls’ varied everyday experiences, including negotiations of traditional gender norms, Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby show how teachers, administrators, parents, and media commentators can help smart girls thrive while working toward straight As and a bright future.
Foreword by Anita Harris
1. Are Girls Taking Over the World?
2. Driven to Perfection
3. Fitting In or Fabulously Smart?
4. Sexism and the Smart Girl
5. A Deeper Look at Class and “Race”: Belongings and Exclusions
6. Cool to Be Smart: Microresistances and Hopeful Glimpses
Appendix: Study Participants
Shauna Pomerantz is Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Girls, Style, and School Identities: Dressing the Part and the coauthor of “Girl Power”: Girls Reinventing Girlhood.
Rebecca Raby is Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of School Rules: Obedience, Discipline, and Elusive Democracy and the coeditor of Power and Everyday Practices.
"A compelling look into the complex topic of female academic success."—Library Journal
"In general, smart girls felt they needed to 'dumb down' their intelligence in order to be popular. If a girl was talking to a boy, she might pretend she didn’t know the answer to a question and ask the boy to explain it to her. Or, she might not raise her hand in class, to avoid being labelled as smart, says Pomerantz."—St Catharines Standard
is unexplored territory. Pomerantz and Raby have conducted a superbly balanced mix of interviews and analysis for a post-feminist and neoliberal age to help us understand why the stereotype of the ‘smart girl’ holds such sway in our culture and how to put girls back on the political and social agenda.”—Leslie C. Bell, author of Hard to Get: Twenty-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom
“Pomerantz and Raby urge us to reconsider the ‘smart girl’ stereotype that pervades popular culture, schools, and common-sense beliefs. With compelling analysis and engaging writing, the book reveals the challenge of negotiating smartness alongside narrow ideals of popular femininity and post-feminist promises of success. A fine contribution to studies of gender, schooling, and girlhood, Smart Girls
vividly depicts the lived experience of educational inequities in a context where these very inequities are widely dismissed as a thing of the past.”—Kate Cairns, author of Food and Femininity
goes straight to the heart of the dilemma—how have high-achieving girls been modified through the discourses and practices of neoliberalism? This is a satisfying, highly readable, and fascinating book.”—Bronwyn Davies, coauthor of Deleuze and Collaborative Writing: An Immanent Plane of Composition