Phenomenal bodies, phenomenal girls
Hughes, Hilary Elizabeth
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Drawing on philosophers (Ahmed, 2006; Fanon, 1986; Heidegger, 1927, 1962, 1992; Merleau-Ponty, 1962) and social science scholars (Dahlberg, Dahlberg, & Nystrom, 2008; Vagle, 2009, 2010, 2011; van Manen, 1990, 2000) for this phenomenological study, I asked what it was like for the seventh grade girls who participated with me in a year-long writing group to experience moments where they found themselves in bodily-not-enoughness: moments when someone or something was telling them they were not enough of something in their bodies. Using a multigenre magazine format for the dissertation, I describe how I learned—as an adult, a qualitative researcher, a middle grades teacher, and a teacher educator—from these seventh grade girls how to be-enough in my own body, by illustrating various moments when some of the girls seemed to talk-back-TO those societal messages telling them they were not pretty-enough, thin-enough, English-speaking-enough, white-enough, popular-enough, or smart-enough by embodying some kind of resistance-to those messages. I then suggest that if we as adults, qualitative researchers, middle grades educators, and teacher educators wish to try and understand better how female young adolescents of color experience living in their bodies, we should begin listening differently so that we can begin seeing/knowing/thinking the bodies of young adolescents, and more specifically young adolescents of color, as something other than problems. Finally, I suggest that the Cartesian mind/body dualism that continues to permeate American education leaves little-to-no room for Merleau-Ponty’s (1962) notions of the body being our anchorage in the world—that the surrounding world only becomes meaningful for us because of our bodies and bodily experiences; and if we continue living as if there is no body in education as seen through the profound absence of bodytalk in K-12 and teacher education, we will continue to close off spaces for children, young adolescents, and preservice teacher education students to (re)envision living in their bodies as anything other than not-enough.