Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Hirsh Sawhney

Major

American Studies (AMST)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis is an analysis, partially informed by autoethnography, of the representation and construction of identity in the popular children's series The Baby-Sitters Club. Since the publication of Kristy's Great Idea in 1986, girls growing up in the United States (including myself) have been identifying themselves alongside and through characters in The Baby-Sitters Club. In this thesis, I examine the specific and often contradictory ways identities of American girlhood are presented in the books and what these popularly marketed identities can tell us about the kinds of ideas and values that surround girlhood, as a precursor to womanhood, and femininity in the United States. Specifically, my thesis addresses representation of labor and entrepreneurship in a gendered context; the role of the body in female identity construction via diet management, style choices, and romance; and the representation of racial identity in a colorblind framework. I ultimately conclude that the series is reflective of and contributory to a complicated and often-contradictory set of ideas around identity faced by girls. It subverts certain regressive ideals while also operating within a hegemonic and constrictive structure that results in its upholding of others. I argue that the contradictions of identity presented by the texts are reflective of a similarly contradictory American postfeminist sensibility. Finally, I reflect on possible ways, in future media for girls, to uphold the elements of the series that are empowering and celebratory of the joys of girlhood while also changing their framework of identity to be more expansive and inclusive.

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