Picturing natural girlhoods: nature, space and femininity in girls’ school promotions

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Gender and Education, ISSN: 0954-0253, Vol: 25, Issue: 3, Page: 284-294

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Wardman, Natasha; Gottschall, Kristina; Drew, Christopher; Hutchesson, Rachael; Saltmarsh, Sue
Informa UK Limited
Social Sciences; Sociology
article description
This paper furthers a discussion about the ways in which idealised versions of gender permeate the aesthetic presentation and impression management strategies of elite private schools. Specifically, we consider how the written text, layout and images used in 12 Australian private girls' school prospectuses function in constructing discourses of 'natural' femininity. Far from being merely factual sources of information, we see school prospectuses as strategic texts that idealise and commodify gendered subjectivities that are likely to appeal to the perceived clientele of a particular school. Drawing on feminist and poststructuralist theoretical frames and utilising social semiotic techniques, we analyse how these promotional texts align the feminine subject with nature and the natural world. This alignment serves the dual function of constituting femininity as naturally beautiful, fragile, passive and vulnerably at-risk, while at the same time ameliorating such risk through more empowered (yet constrained) notions of interconnectedness. The tensions between such contradictory discourses of traditional and neoliberal femininity create impossible subject positions for girls, as in order to succeed with one version of femininity, they must simultaneously fail at another. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.