Boys and girls still constrained by gender Boys and girls still constrained by gender

Dr Victoria Cann

 

What role does taste play in contemporary youth culture? How do young people reproduce, or alternatively, reject gender norms? Combining her own unique empirical research with a strong theoretical framework, Victoria Cann argues that popular culture affects young people's experiences of masculinity and femininity and forces them to navigate a social minefield in which they are pressured to display tastes deemed gender appropriate.   

Research Overview

The book that I am currently writing captures a four-year empirical investigation into the reproduction of gender in contemporary youth taste cultures. In this work I link the diverse fields of gender and taste studies to show the everyday realities of twenty-first-century youth and their apprehensions - especially those of young boys- about participating in activities, or embracing pop-cultural preferences that have traditionally only been associated with the opposite sex.

In my work I argue that femininity remains a gendered position that continues to hold lower value within most contexts in society, and this has implications for young people of all genders. For boys, there remains a clear distance between them and feminine taste positions, as to be seen to like texts associated with girls (like, One Direction, RomComs and television programme like Glee) renders their performance of ‘maleness’ problematic; meanwhile because girls are so readily associated with femininity they experience considerable freedom. But this freedom for girls is a double-edged-sword; they only really have it because their tastes are considered to matter less. For queer and non-binary youth, the gender binary continues to impact their everyday experiences. 

 

What Next

One of the research participants, Naomi, asked me what exactly it was I was researching. I explained to her that I wanted to know what it was like to be a teenager, and what impact a person’s gender has on what television programmes they say they watch, or music they say they listen to when they’re at school. Naomi, who was often teased for her tastes (all at once too feminine and too masculine) scoffed and said: “that will never change”.

But it is through research that we can start to understand how and why these things are happening. Armed with that information we can start to challenge the pervasive and harmful discourses that can limit who and what young people can be. 

Related links:

Outputs:

  • Cann, V. (2017) Girls Like This: Boys Like That, IB Tauris
  • Cann, V. (2015) ‘Girls and Cultural Consumption: 'Typical Girls', 'Fangirls' and the Value of Femininity’ in H. Warner and H. Savigny (eds) The Politics of Being a Woman, Palgrave Macmillan pp. 154-174, ISBN 978-1-137-38465-2, UEA Repository 
  • Cann, V. (2014) ‘The Limits of Masculinity: Boys, Taste and Cultural Consumption’ in S. Roberts (ed.) Debating Modern Masculinities, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 17-34, ISBN, 978-1-137-39483-5, Full Text UEA Repository, (Chapter)
 

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