Jarvis, Christine (2015) How to be a woman. Models of masochism and sacrifice in young adult fiction. In: Popular Culture as Pedagogy: Research in the Field of Adult Education. Transgressions: cultural studies and education (112). Sense, Rotterdam, Boston, Tapei, pp. 135-150. ISBN 978-94-6300-272-1

Buffy, Bella, Veronica, Katniss, Clary, Tris and Saba : For two decades post-feminist heroines have faced life-threatening trials as part of their progress to womanhood. In this chapter I consider how young adult popular fictions operate as forms of pedagogy for young women by offering them particular models of maturity and womanhood. I explore the recurrence and reformulation of a persistent pattern of behaviour in which heroines engage in risky and/or masochistic behaviours for which they are emotionally rewarded.. These recurrences function as a form of vicarious experiential learning in which readers and viewers learn that emotional gratification and adult status are conferred through self-harm and self-sacrifice. Popular culture is not a monolithic form and young adult fictions are no exception. An analysis of fictional examples of this behaviour pattern challenges the idea that heroines today are empowered agents as a result of the legacy of feminism. At the same time, the analysis belies any notion that fictions are universally hegemonic and oppressive – fictions can and do disrupt and interrogate this pattern of emotional masochism. Scholars of public pedagogy have explored the complexities, contradictions and subtleties of the pedagogical process. Sandlin O’Malley and Burdick (2011) in their review of public pedagogy literature acknowledge that some scholarship has demonstrated how “the teaching and learning inherent within daily life can be both oppressive and resistant” (p. 144). Jubas and Knutson (2012) also see public pedagogy as an arena where contradictions and tensions are in play. They argue that we can see “New examples of dialectic or tensions … between the authority of the producer and the consumer; between traditional structures which ground identities and help people make sense of cultural texts, and personal agency which frees people to choose and invent identities and meanings” (p. 86). This analysis aims to contribute to understandings of the complexities of public pedagogy by showing how fictions aimed primarily at young women both resist and accommodate patriarchy.

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