The prevalence of the discourse of 'successful girls' (and failing boys) in Australia and internationally has been widely documented. Against the much-vaunted lifting of barriers to opportunity for girls and women, it might reasonably be expected that their educational experiences and career paths are expressive of wider opportunities, greater confidence and autonomy. This article draws on qualitative research with young women in regional Australia to argue that supposedly outmoded but evidently durable patterns of educational and occupational experience remain and are accompanied by new burdens and anxieties. Importantly, young women are now obliged to account for these unfashionable arrangements, using the ubiquitous belief in choice and the possibility of self-actualisation to demonstrate the volition and agency deemed appropriate to a post-feminist ethos. Thus, techniques of reflective selfhood and neoliberal accountability are mobilised to justify social reproduction, while at the same time showcasing invigorated notions of meritocracy and social mobility.
- Young women