CCHU9006 Arts and Humanities

Girl Power in a Man’s World

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)
  • Gender, Sexuality, and Diversity (GSD)

Course Description

Girl Power has emerged as the subject of much popular, policy and scholarly interest as we move further into the millennium. This interest has been sparked by competing debates about girls and young women whose lives have long been shaped by male-dominant societies, and yet, who have, with the rapid changes resulting from a globalizing political economy, recently experienced a surge of new opportunities and challenges. These range from choices about personal health, sexuality, education and occupations to changes in their roles in their interactions with family, peers, and colleagues. Boys and men have also had a significant role in “Girl Power”. The relevance of girls’ empowerment – the emerging opportunities, the traditional demands, and the choices created – clearly extends beyond the borders of developed countries. Indeed girls’ and women’s issues are core to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that specify targets to be attained by 2030 to end poverty, mitigate inequality, and protect our planet. Against this background this course considers (i) notions about girlhood from its early biological emphasis to contemporary frameworks that are informed by anthropology, psychology, economics, sociology, and politics; and (ii) the cultural meaning and consequences of girl power in both developed and developing societies, paying particular attention to the ways in which the male dominant world has both assisted and hindered girls’ development.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain and apply key theories and concepts relating to how we define girlhood from both historical and contemporary perspectives.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of how a myriad of modern disciplines – such as anthropology, psychology, economics, sociology, medicine and politics – shape our perception and definition of girlhood.
  3. Apply a holistic comprehension of girlhood on a multiplicity of dimensions (e.g. social, economical, political) that embrace the human condition both locally and globally.
  4. Analyze the immediate and long-term social issues that emerge when societies limit how girl power is both explicitly and implicitly defined.
  5. Analyze the role that culture plays in normatizing girlhood, taking examples from both developed and developing societies.
  6. Critique how girl power is both assisted and hindered by patriarchal-oriented social norms, and critically understand the complex relationship between girl power and masculinity.
  7. Demonstrate a broad perspective of the issues defining girlhood and how these insights impact the daily lives of students – both male and female.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Fieldwork / Visits 15
Reading / Self-study 30
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Group project and presentation 30
Total: 141

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Book review and analysis 30
Group project 40
In-class assessments 15

Required Reading

  • Alon, T. M., Doepke, M., Olmstead-Rumsey, J., & Tertilt, M. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on gender equality (No. w26947). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for? Child Development Perspectives, 1(2), 68-73.
  • Bian, L., Leslie, S. J., & Cimpian, A. (2017). Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests. Science355(6323), 389-391.
  • Global Education Monitoring Report Team. (2018). Achieving gender equality in education: Don’t forget the boys. Policy Paper, 35. Paris, France: UNESCO.
  • Global Education Monitoring Report Team. (2018). Gender review: Meeting our commitments to gender equality in education. Paris, France: UNESCO.
  • Gonick, M. (2006). Between “girl power” and “reviving Ophelia”: Constituting the neoliberal girl subject. NWSA Journal, 18(2), 1-23.
  • Harris, A., & Dobson, A. S. (2015). Theorizing agency in post-girlpower times. Continuum, 29(2), 145-156.
  • Heise, L., Greene, M. E., Opper, N., Stavropoulou, M., Harper, C., Nascimento, M., …, & Gupta, G. R. (2019). Gender inequality and restrictive gender norms: framing the challenges to health. The Lancet393(10189), 2440-2454.
  • Hyde, J. S., Bigler, R. S., Joel, D., Tate, C. C., & van Anders, S. M. (2019). The future of sex and gender in psychology: Five challenges to the gender binary. American Psychologist74(2), 171-193.
  • Kehily, M. J. (2008). Taking centre stage? Girlhood and the contradictions of femininity across three generations. Girlhood Studies, 1(2), 51-71.
  • Liben, L. S. (2016). We’ve come a long way, baby (but we’re not there yet): Gender past, present, and future. Child Development, 87(1), 5-28.
  • Pahlke, E., & Hyde, J. S. (2016). The debate over single‐sex schooling. Child Development Perspectives.
  • Rao, N., Weber, A. M., Ranganathan, N., & Ip, P. (2020). Creating equality for girls: On the right track but still a long way to go. The Lancet. Child & Adolescent Health4(7), 490-491.
  • Shannon, G., Jansen, M., Williams, K., Cáceres, C., Motta, A., Odhiambo, A., …, & Mannell, J. (2019). Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health: where are we at and why does it matter?. The Lancet393(10171), 560-569.
  • UN Women (2020). Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Gender Snapshot 2020.
  • UN Women (2020). The Digital Revolution: Implications for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights 25 Years after Beijing.
  • United Nations Children’s Fund, UN Women and Plan International. (2020, March). A new era for girls: Taking stock of 25 years of progress. New York: Gender Section, UNICEF.
  • Wenham, C., Smith, J., & Morgan, R. (2020). COVID-19: The gendered impacts of the outbreak. The Lancet395(10227), 846-848.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor N. Rao
Faculty of Education (Human Communication, Development, and Information Sciences)
Tel: 3917 7604
Email: nrao@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor N. Rao
Faculty of Education (Human Communication, Development, and Information Sciences)
Tel: 3917 7604
Email: nrao@hku.hk
Professor K.A. Laidler
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2059
Email: kjoe@hku.hk