Resisting the norms

Lauraine Leblanc has more than an academic knowledge of her dissertation topic, "The Flowers in your Dustbin: Girls in the North American Punk Subcultures of the 1990s." As a teenager in Montreal, Leblanc was thrown out of high school for shaving her head.

"The educational system was corrupt," says Leblanc, who received her doctoral degree at this year's Commencement. "I had an A average and not one detention. I transferred to an alternative school where they cared about academic performance rather than appearance."

After earning her master of arts degree from Emory in 1994, Leblanc pursued a doctorate from the Institute for Women's Studies. Her dissertation focuses on how female punk rockers, ranging in age from fourteen to thirty-seven, use their subculture to resist mainstream gender norms. Leblanc interviewed forty young women in San Francisco, Montreal, New Orleans, and Atlanta for her study.

" 'Punk' is a subculture that is anti-authoritarian in a very spectacular way," says Leblanc. Punk girls, she adds, reject the images of femininity projected by the print and broadcast media. She found they had "very good self-concepts based on an alternative culture they had created for themselves. My message to parents of middle school girls who are 'acting out' is not to see it as a problem but as away for the girls to deal with a society that has created roles that are fundamentally unhealthy for them."

Leblanc's message is frequently borne out in the stories of the girls she befriended during her research. For example, one of her interviewees enrolled in the London School of Economics, green mohawk and all, to pursue a master of sociology degree.

A past recipient of the American Association of University Women's American Dissertation Fellowship and an Emory dean's teaching fellowship, Leblanc is currently preparing her dissertation for publication. She also works for the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center, implementing a curriculum on sexual harassment for DeKalb County middle school students.
--Nancy Seideman

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