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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Popularity and the cult of feminity : negotiating identity in youth culture Clark, Sheryl

Abstract

Adolescence has been described by researchers as a period of gender intensification. Simultaneously, research has pointed to the often negative effects this transition has on adolescent girls including drops in self-esteem. This thesis details the narratives of twelve preteen and teenage young women as they approach and enter adolescence in Vancouver youth culture. The girls describe the ways in which they negotiate, accommodate and resist normative notions of femininity. It is found that despite differing positionalities of 'racial,' class and ethnic status, the young women are similarly swayed by their relation to the "popular" girl. This status is normatively 'white,' hyper-feminine and upper middle class. The young women define themselves by outlining what they are not, and who is 'other'. This reinforces social hierarchies and creates a tense and often rigid set of social classifications amidst peer groups. It is argued that such a hierarchical structure can be viewed as a crystallization of broader social patterns in Vancouver and Canadian society.

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