Super-Girl: strength and sadness in Black girlhood

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This paper complicates notions of Black girlhood by examining the dual experiences of gendered racism that result in both strength and sadness in Black girls’ educational experiences. I highlight the need for a curriculum of liberation to combat historical and current social conditions negatively impacting school-aged Black girls, such as harsh disciplinary practices, low academic expectations, and sexual objectification. The Super-Girl phenomenon serves as a metaphor illustrating the balance and imbalance of multiple social constructs. Utilising constructivist grounded theory [Charmaz, K. 2006. Constructing Grounded Theory. London: Sage], the key concepts in the research derived directly from the voices of 18 school-aged girls (8–13) as well as my observations, interpretations, and related experiences. Data collection utilising observation notes, interviews, written responses, and activity products provided from monthly sessions over the course of two years, offer critical insight into some of the complexities of Black girlhood. The most striking common themes abstracted from their voices were concepts related to ‘strength’ and ‘sadness’ in their lives. Thematic narratives were found to be most relevant to (1) negative teacher–student relationships, as well as, (2) policed bodies and sexual objectification. This work offers specific recommendations for future girl empowerment programming, curriculum, and evidence-based intervention development that can aide in liberating Black girls.

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Gender and Education

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