From dress code double-standards to sexual violence policies, a new volume from Dr. Erin Mikulec and Dr. Dawn Beichner explores the relegation of school-aged girls to simply a “distraction.” 

The new book, Distraction: Girls, School, and Sexuality, brings together 19 scholars to discuss the ways in which girls are sexualized through school practices, beginning as early as pre-school and continuing through adulthood. 

cover for the book Distraction: Girls, School, and Sexuality with names of editors Erin Mikulec and Dawn Beichner

“The problem is framed in terms of a higher value placed on the learning of boys than the agency that girls have over their own bodies,” said Beichner, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Illinois State University.   

The book, which takes an intersectionality approach to the topic of schools as gendered and genderizing spaces, showcases essays on topics such as adolescent mothers, activism addressing harassment and violence against Black girls, the school-to-prison pipeline, international perspectives from Singapore and Turkey, and the problems with sexual assault case processing. 

While power relations and the burden forced on young women are recurring themes, Distraction: Girls, School, and Sexuality also devotes scholarship to uplifting young women. Chapters include examinations of students taking on the male-dominated world of computer coding and pushing back against heternormativity.  

“We call on educators and administrators to stop labeling girls and young women as a distraction, and instead give them voice and empower them,” said Mikulec, a professor in Illinois State’s School of Teaching and Learning. “This book is meant to be part of the national dialogue about the sexual harassment of women that is still prevalent in the 21st century in the United States.” 

Distraction: Girls, School, and Sexuality is available now.