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‘The girl about town’ : discussions of modernity and female youth in Drum magazine, 1951–1970.

Johnson, Rachel E. (2009) '‘The girl about town’ : discussions of modernity and female youth in Drum magazine, 1951–1970.', Social dynamics., 35 (1). pp. 36-50.


This article examines the trope of the ‘modern miss’ in Drum magazine 1951–1970 as a locus for debate over South African urban modernity. At the centre of Drum’s African urbanity was a debate between a progressive, positively ‘modern’ existence and an attendant fear of moral and social ‘breakdown’ in the apartheid city. The trope of the ‘modern miss’ drew upon both discourses. Drum’s fascination with the ‘modern miss’ reached a peak in the years 1957–1963, during which time she appeared prominently in the magazine as a symbolic pioneer of changing gender and generational relationships. However, this portrayal continued to coexist alongside the image of young women as the victims of moral degeneration. The ‘modern miss’ was increasingly differentiated from adult women within Drum’s pages, which distanced her from the new space won by political activists. By examining constructions of young womanhood, this article points to the gendering of ‘youth’ at the intersection of commercial print culture and shifting social relations in mid‐twentieth‐century South Africa. It is also suggested that understanding the social configurations of Drum’s modernity illuminates the gendered and generational responses of formal political movements as they conducted their own concurrent debates.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Female youth, Drum magazine, Print media, Representations, Commercial youth culture 1951–1970.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies on 25/02/2009, available online at:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:25 August 2015
Date of first online publication:February 2009
Date first made open access:No date available

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