Moving Beyond Conspicuous Leisure Consumption: adolescent women, mobile phones and public space

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Journal Article
Leisure Studies, 2007, 26 (2), pp. 179 - 192
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In this paper we explore mobile phones as a form of fashion accessory for young women in contemporary culture and the possible value of such fashionable items as a source of identity and self-worth. Despite reliance on the usual stultifying stereotypes produced by marketeers to promote mobile phones, we explore the possibility that increased access to public space generates for adolescent girls alternative choices of leisure experiences and possibilities of multiple enriching identities. The findings suggest that mobile phone use can impart a sense of self-confidence, sexuality and autonomy which defies the male gaze in public spaces and may allow adolescent women to reject traditional images of femininity at a formative stage in the life course and take steps to a further array of leisure choices. It may only be a temporary image that assists a sense of self at a vulnerable time in life, or it may infiltrate other aspects of subjectivity and assist an ongoing sense of self-confidence. However, this particular leisure activity can be seen as enabling, allowing entry to an arena, that of public space, that has hitherto been limited by the male gaze and other stereotypes of adolescent women. Through in-depth interviews with teenage mobile phone users and a review of the literature we have examined the success that this form of technology has had with this social group.
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