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Being ‘nice’ or being ‘normal’: girls resisting discourses of ‘coolness’

Paechter, Carrie F. and Clark, Sheryl. 2016. Being ‘nice’ or being ‘normal’: girls resisting discourses of ‘coolness’. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 37(3), pp. 457-471. ISSN 0159-6306 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this paper we consider discourses of friendship and belonging mobilised by girls who are not part of the dominant ‘cool’ group in one English primary school. We explore how, by investing in alternative and, at times, resistant, discourses of ‘being nice’ and ‘being normal’ these ‘non-cool’ girls were able to avoid some of the struggles for dominance and related bullying and exclusion found by ourselves and other researchers to be a feature of ‘cool girls’ groupings. We argue that there are multiple dynamics in girls’ lives in which being ‘cool’ is only sometimes a dominant concern, and that there are some children for whom explicitly positioning themselves outside of the ‘cool’ group is both resistant and protective, providing a counter-discourse to the dominance of ‘coolness’. In this paper, which is based on observational and interview data in one school in the south of England, we focus on two main groupings of intermediate and lower status girls, as well as on one ‘wannabe’ ‘cool girl’. While belonging to a lower status group can bring disadvantages, for the girls we studied there were also benefits.

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Identification Number (DOI):


gender; girls; coolness; discourse; friendship; being ‘nice’

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies > Centre for Identities and Social Justice


3 May 2016Published
27 October 2015Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2015 09:55

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 09:38

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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