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Women without Class

Women without Class: Girls, Race, and Identity

Julie Bettie
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Women without Class
    Book Description:

    In this examination of white and Mexican-American girls coming of age in California's Central Valley-now with a new introduction-Julie Bettie turns class theory on its head, offering new tools for understanding the ways in which identity is constructed in relationship to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.Documenting the categories of subculture and style that high school students use to understand their differences, Bettie depicts the complex identity performances of contemporary girls. The title,Women Without Class, refers at once to young working-class women who have little cultural capital to enable class mobility; to the fact that analyses of class are often insufficiently informed by understandings of feminist and ethnic studies scholars; to feminist analysis itself often becoming complicit in our failures to understand women as necessarily subject to class-based analyses.Bettie's research and analysis make a case for analytical and political attention to class, but not at the expense of attention to other axes of identity and social formations.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95724-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction to the 2014 Edition
    (pp. xiii-xlii)
    J. Bettie

    In the ten years since since the publication ofWomen without Class, inequality has grown exponentially. In this introduction to the new edition, I briefly contextualize the book’s empirical findings for a new historical context, considering economic crisis and class formation in the new economy, the emergence of postrace discourse, post–civil rights multiracialism, postfeminism, new femininities, and the queering of domestic life.

    Since its publication,Women without Classhas been employed in many literatures, including those of cultural studies and social theory, feminist studies, Latina/o studies, working-class studies, girls’ studies, whiteness studies, and educational inequality. In this introduction I...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Portraying Waretown High
    (pp. 1-31)

    As a new school year was about to begin, I spent many hours on the phone, chatting with high school teachers in California’s Central Valley about my research interest. I was trying to find an advocate who would help me gain entrance into a school to conduct a comparative study of girls from different class and racial/ethnic locations.¹ When I explained my interests, many of the teachers (all women) suggested I read Mary Pipher’s 1994 bestsellerReviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, popular among school teachers and parents. One even exclaimed, “Oh, you absolutelyhaveto read this...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Women without Class
    (pp. 32-56)

    Recent scholarship reveals a renewed interest in class, and this growing literature involves various investments in class as a conceptual tool.¹ My intent is not to reassert the primacy of class, but to reconfigure it as an analytic category in light of the foregrounding of gender and race in feminist and ethnic studies and a related antifoundationalist turn in social theory. I enter this discussion wary of the investments of nostalgic leftists who offer a return to class analysis as a solution to the supposed problems of identity politics, and I hope to demonstrate a move away from reductionist ways...

  7. CHAPTER 3 How Working-Class Chicas Get Working-Class Lives
    (pp. 57-94)

    Since I spent my first days at Waretown High in a college-preparatory class (a class that fulfills a requirement for admission to either California State University or University of California institutions), the first students I met were college bound. Later I came to know these girls through the eyes of non-college-preparatory students as “the preps.” They were mostly white, but included a handful of Mexican-American girls. Some of the white girls were also known as “the 90210s,” after the popular television show about wealthy high schoolers,Beverly Hills90210. The preps eagerly volunteered to help me out with what they...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Hard-Living Habitus, Settled-Living Resentment
    (pp. 95-138)

    I went into Waretown High with the by now tired race-class-gender mantra that characterized the scholarship of my generation of graduate education firmly in one hand and my desire to foreground (but not privilege) class and to come to some understanding of class as a cultural identity in relationship to race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in the other. I was both pleased and surprised when an event that marked students’ understandings of cultural distinctions based on class occurred on one of my first days at the school. At the time, I did not yet have a full understanding of the informal...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Border Work between Classes
    (pp. 139-166)

    Many school ethnographies are comparative studies of students across class categories and make generalizations about the experiences of middle-class students and of working-class students.¹ In order to speak about these class categories as if they are two clearly distinct peer groupings, one must ignore many students who are exceptions to the rule that class origin equates to class future. While the correlation is strong between parents’ socioeconomic status and a student’s membership in a middle- or working-class peer group, tracking experience, academic achievement, and consequent class future, it is imperfect, and there are always at least a handful of working-class...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Sameness, Difference, and Alliance
    (pp. 167-189)

    I began my relationship with Waretown girls seeking to understand the ways in which class subjectivity is constructed in relationship to gender and racial/ethnic identity in historical context. As I traveled among the various groups of girls at Waretown High, there were days on which similarities among them seemed ever present and days on which difference abounded.

    Apart from the handful of upwardly mobile working-class girls, the exceptions to the rule, it was hard not to notice that the mass of vocational-track working-class students across the difference of race/ethnicity—las chicas, skaters, hicks, cholas, and smokers—had something in common....

  11. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 190-206)

    In junior high and early high school, multiple social forces conspired simultaneously to shape Waretown girls’ lives: a more difficult curriculum, tracking, talk of college and adult futures, an awareness of what parents can and can’t afford and expect, and the push toward compulsory heterosexuality. Girls sorted through all this and began drawing conclusions about what is or is not “for the likes of me and my kind,” as friendships were increasingly organized by race/ethnicity and class and as girls began to formulate identities based on the possible futures they imagined for themselves.

    Working-class performers, across race/ethnicity, had their dignity...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-222)
  13. References
    (pp. 223-246)
  14. Index
    (pp. 247-252)