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Unformatted text preview: Ladettes and Modern Girls: troublesome young femininities Carolyn Jackson and Penny Tinkler Abstract Ladettes are argued to be a sign, and product, of contemporary development and change; their fortunes are presented as inextricably related to the conditions of late modernity. Using the past to shed light on the present, this paper considers whether fears and claims about the behaviour of some contemporary young women in Britain are exclusive to the present. Two data sets inform the discussion: first, representations of ladettes in national and local newspapers from 1995 to 2005; second, materials relating to the modern girl published in the popular print media between 1918 and 1928. Although there have been important changes in the con- ditions of girlhood since the 1920s, this historical comparison highlights continuities in the representation of troublesome youthful femininities.We explore similarities and differences in the characteristics attributed to the modern girls of the twenties and the ladettes of recent years, and the dominant discourses that underpin popular constructions of troublesome young women. half dressed, loud voiced, cigarette smoking She doesnt really care whether she gets married or not, so long as she can earn a comfortable living and have a good time . . . [she] crawls home at three or four in the morning, a haggard, weary-eyed creature, unable to raise her head from the pillow till lunch-time the next day. Ladettes are, according to many press reports, a late twentieth and early twenty-first century phenomenon and a product of womens increased equal- ity with men in late modern society. But as the above quotes from the 1920s reveal, the ladette is not unique ( Times , 8 August, 1921: 9; Girls Weekly , 24 January, 1920: 3; Webb-Johnson, 1927, reproduced in Braithwaite et al ., 1986: 90). Drawing on two case studies of popular (especially print media) construc- tions of youthful femininity the modern girl of the 1920s and the ladette of recent years we explore features of young women defined as troublesome. Using the past to shed light on the present, we consider whether fears and claims about the behaviours of some contemporary young women in Britain are exclusive to today. The Sociological Review , 55:2 (2007) 2007 The Authors. Journal compilation 2007 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review . Published by Blackwell Publishing Inc., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, 02148, USA. There are several reasons why this question is important.As Pearson (1983) has shown, there is a recurring amnesia about the youth of each generation which means that todays youths are always perceived as shockingly different from those of yesteryear.This amnesia obscures recurring patterns of concern and representation. Such patterns are, however, revealing both of social rela- tions and the historically-constituted discourses through which we know and...
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