The last section of the Gender, Media and Generation conference was directed towards the discussion of methodologies. The workshop reflected longstanding feminist concerns to enable discussions of the personal dimensions of research, with senior academics offering mentoring and advice for the ‘next generation’ of scholars. There is much cause for concern within higher education: the increasing managerialisation and audit culture, the impact of the changes to university funding and tuition fees, rising unemployment and casualisation of contracts, and the threat of yet further hurdles and requirements for academics to ‘prove themselves’ (such as the proposal to shift to a ‘pay to say’ model of academic publishing).
Two key themes emerged for us from the Gender, Media and Generation conference. In another post we explore social class and femininity, and in a final short post reflect on working as feminist scholars in contemporary climate of academia. In this post we explore how race and masculinity were absent presences through the day and how this relates to our own research.
Two key themes emerged for us from the Gender, Media and Generation conference. In another post we explore how race and masculinity were absent presences throughout the day, and in a final short post reflect on working as feminist scholars in contemporary climate of academia. In this post we explore what speakers had to say about social class and femininity and how this relates to our own research.
X-Factor judge and singer Tulisa was in the press last month for her response to comments made by fellow judge Louis Walsh about her ‘WAG’ status. On a recent live show, Louis called Tulisa ‘Mrs WAG’, referring to media reports of her relationship with footballer Danny Simpson. In a quick and defensive riposte, Tulisa replied: ‘Excuse me? You mean I’m a WAF! It means: “Was Already Famous”’. In this post, Kim takes a look underneath the meanings of WAG and WAF and examines Tulisa’s position within wider debates about contemporary fame.
After a lot of work finding schools, we have begun fieldwork and carried out six focus groups in two schools. In this post, we (Kim and Heather) share some of the things that surprised us in our 14 to 17 year-old participants’ talk about celebrities – from arguments about diver Tom Daley to animated discussions of classic Hollywood and Bollywood film stars.
Last week, David Laws, Minister for Education, attacked teachers and careers educators for creating a culture of ‘depressingly low expectations’ and holding back disadvantaged children by discouraging them from ‘aiming for the stars’. Laws argued that the flatlining of ‘social mobility’ (highlighted by Alan Milburn’s recent report) was not simply the result of poverty but a lack of ambition among teachers which led young people to only consider local employers and ‘lower status’ careers:
Even in my own constituency, Yeovil, which would not be regarded as one of the deprivation blackspots of the country, most young people would regard going into investment banking as almost leaving the country, because it’s a different world… They will often be encouraged to think it is beyond them…. there are too many young people who think that the two or three big employers in their local town are the limit of their aspiration.
Laws is not a lone voice here. Only a few weeks ago, Michael Gove spoke at the Conservative Party Conference about a ‘soft bigotry’ of low expectations among teachers which was failing to address the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils.
Scholarship in the sociology of education has critically engaged with the ways in which discourses of ‘aspiration’ circulate across government policy and how these constitute particular kinds of pupil – and parent – subjects. This research, including my own work with Heather and elsewhere with Sumi Hollingworth – has problematised asocial discourses of ‘low aspirations’. As I have previously argued on this blog, such individualising discourses negate the wider economic structures within which aspirations can be realised.
For immediate release, Monday 22 October 2012
Major research project to explore how celebrity informs young people’s aspirations launches today
A detailed 20-month study exploring the ways that celebrity informs young people’s educational and career aspirations is being launched today (Monday 22 October).
The research entitled ‘The role of celebrity in young people’s classed and gendered aspirations’, will be carried out by Dr Heather Mendick and Laura Harvey at Brunel University and Dr Kim Allen at Manchester Metropolitan University. These researchers will be talking to young people about their aspirations and how celebrity culture shapes the way they think about their futures.
The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, comes as last week David Cameron pinned his hopes on Britain becoming an ‘aspiration nation’. However, in recent comments, David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, pointed to growing concerns that celebrity culture is impacting negatively on the aspirations of young people.
A Facebook message appears in my inbox. A 30th birthday party invite from a close friend. The party has a ‘fancy dress’ theme: ‘What did you want to be when you grew up…. ?’ A mixture of feelings comes over me: excitement at celebrating a close friend’s special birthday; anticipation at the varied outfits and guises that will great me; and anxiety as I think about my child self…. What did I want to be when I grew up? Will it be different enough, ambitious enough? Will my childhood dreams of ‘becoming’ reflect where I am now? What will these dreams say to others about the person I have become?…
I was reminded of these thoughts as I listened to a recent podcast of the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour featuring a discussion on school children’s aspirations. The segment opened with the voices of a group of 7-year old pupils from a school in Bromley, South London. What did they want to be when they grew up? The responses were varied, from the ‘traditional’ and solid to the vague and, well, interesting….
This summer, the media were in a constant state of euphoria over Team GB’s success. In the midst of such celebrations, journalists and social commentators fixated on the ‘real’ role models that the Olympics appeared to offer girls and young women. Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Enis and Laura Trott, among others, were held up as ‘authentic’ ‘empowering’ and ‘inspiring’ figures for young female audiences. For example, Girlguiding UK capitalized on the global media spotlight on the Olympic sportswomen’s success to launch their ‘Real Role Models’ campaign. These Olympic heroines have been presented as positive alternatives to the seemingly vacuous Reality TV stars, glamour models and WAG wannabees dominating popular culture.