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The Subtle Politics of Self-esteem Programs for Girls

Kenway, J., Willis, S. and Nevard, J. (2003) The Subtle Politics of Self-esteem Programs for Girls. In: Kenway, J. and Willis, S., (eds.) Hearts and Minds. Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis group.

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Our purpose in this chapter is critique, not as an end in itself, but as a possible stimulus towards new directions in our thinking on the issue of girls and schooling. We offer this study in the belief that as feminist educators we must be constantly and restlessly critical, not only of the implications of the sex/gender system for members of our sex, but also of our own discourses. For if feminism cannot criticize itself, it cannot ‘serve as the bearer of emancipatory possibilities that can never be fixed and defined once and for all’ (Elshtain, 1982, p. 136). Our focus is upon the selfesteem discourse as it manifests itself in discussions of girls’ education. We believe it is important that a form of ‘ideology critique’ is conducted on this literature for the following reasons. Discourses often direct and affect our behaviour in subtle ways which we are not particularly conscious of and have wider social implications which, on quick inspection, are not apparent. Dredging such ‘subtexts’ to the surface provides us with a better sense of what we are meaning to others and to ourselves. It also allows us to ask whether this is what we intended to mean and, if not, what of our language, imagery, style, logic, etc. we need to change so that the effects of our politics may more closely resemble our intentions.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis group
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