Phallic Girls?: Girls’ Negotiation of Phallogocentric Power

  • Emma RenoldEmail author
  • Jessica Ringrose
Part of the Explorations of Educational Purpose book series (EXEP, volume 21)


This chapter critically responds to Judith Halberstam’s concern that studies of masculinities are confined to boys and boyhood and Angela McRobbie’s despair that the “phallic girl” with her licensed mimicry of masculinism disavows any resistance to regulatory gender/sexual regimes. Inspired by Judith Butler’s notion of performativity and her desire to trouble and undo gender/sex/sexuality binarisms, this chapter queers the field of masculinity/boyhood studies and addresses postfeminist concerns about the lack of a politics of resistance by foregrounding the seduction of contemporary tomboyism for young tweenage girls in their negotiation of an increasingly (hetero)sexualized girlhood (Mitchell & Reid-Walsh, Seven going on seventeen: Tween studies in the culture of girlhood. New York: Peter Lang, 2005). A central aim of the chapter is to problematize the binary logic of sexual difference that has informed past and current, even queer theorizations of tomboyism by queer(y)ing the ways in which girls’ ditching of or deviation from normative femininity is often theorized as performing masculinity. We argue, following Butler, that interpreting tomboyism as mimesis in this way misses how girls can manipulate norms, exceed them, and rework them and thus “expose the realities to which we thought we were confined as open to transformation” (Butler, Undoing gender. London: Routledge, 2004, p. 217). The chapter concludes by asking what would it mean (theoretically, methodologically, and empirically) to create gender taxonomies that are flexible enough to recognize a more capacious femininity that can embrace subversion and resistance without ejecting such queer performances into the realm of masculinity and thus reproducing dominant discourses of masculinity as “power” and femininity as “lack.”


Sexual Harassment Sexual Identity Subject Position Hegemonic Masculinity Compulsory Sexualization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V.  2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiff School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityWalesUK
  2. 2.Institute of Education, University of LondonLondonUK

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