Monday, February 17, 2014

Raby article

This blog post will be focused around quotes from the article "A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence" by Rebecca Raby.

"While heavily regulated, teenagers are also in the contradictory position that they are supposed to be beginning their ‘prime’ of life, in this culture that idolizes and celebrates youth" (Raby 430-431).
I think we can all agree that at least part of the reason that 'teenagehood' became a rite of passage that has turned into a stereotype is because of Western culture's obsession with youth. However, the sense of envy (I'm really struggling with a word to describe my thought) that society feels toward teens also has a huge counter from all the negative stereotypes. All these conflicting feelings being focused so heavily on teens surely aren't doing anything to prevent them from internalizing stereotypes or to help them overcome the 'monstrosity the have become' so to speak. Put 'em down and keep 'em down.

"Again we see a paradox within the discourse, in that teens are supposed to acquire their independence and identity through the neo-liberal freedom of spending. Yet for many Western teenagers, they are not spending their own money but their parents’ (Chisolm et al., 1999). And what does this mean for young people who have no money at all? Or for those young people in the developing world who labour to produce many of the goods that Western teens are buying?" (Raby 437)
While Raby does pepper her article with discussion of class, there is no discussion of huge class disparities. Some of the teens she interviews are attributed to 'lower class' by Raby's subjective standard, but none of these teens are hungry or on the streets. The fact that they are participants in this survey already connotes a sense of privilege. Even more Othered than the typical middle-class teen (almost all of them self-identified as middle class) are teens who are impoverished and force to turn to illegal and/or immoral means to provide for themselves and their families. I believe that these people, moreso than the interviewees, are the group that are characterized as the 'social problem.' I'd be interested to see a study in which impoverished teens are interviewed about how they feel about their characterization as a social problem.

"Agency can be viewed as a product of both the discursive formations in which we are embedded, and the fissures within such discursive formations that allow for insight and therefore resistance" (Raby 442). 

This, to me was the most interesting part of the entire article. Raby spends time explaining how teens are Othered by society through their actions and perceived naivete. However, what many may not think to contemplate is a teenager's agency over their actions. At least one of the teenage girls interviewed (Vienna) says she believes teenagers rebel because it is what society expects them to do. While this may be true to some extent, Raby also argues that teenage rebellion can also be a conscious act of resistance. Raby's position counters her subjects' perception of teen-dom (many of the positions in the article characterize teens as an Other, even testimonies from the teens themselves) and instead gives power to the agent. Teenage rebellion as a trope neglects the notion that teenagers can still objectively identify power structures and consciously (not a result of hormones, immaturity, etc.) act against them.