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

Wardman, Natasha and Gottschall, Kristina and Drew, Christopher and Hutchesson, Rachael and Saltmarsh, Sue (2013) Picturing natural girlhoods: nature, space and femininity in girls’ school promotions. Gender and Education, 25 (3). pp. 284-294. ISSN 0954-0253


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.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published version, in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Education
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2017 04:09
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2017 04:09
Uncontrolled Keywords: gender; femininity; girls’ education; educational marketing; elite education; social semiotics
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130308 Gender, Sexuality and Education
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9502 Communication > 950205 Visual Communication
C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9304 School/Institution > 930402 School/Institution Community and Environment
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1080/09540253.2012.756857
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/30206

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