Being a girl in the twenty first century can mean a plethora of different things. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women follows the lives of the March sisters, specifically Jo March, who doesn’t identify as the lady-like figures her sister’s are and aspire to be. Jo is a stereotypical tomboy, who fills in as the father-like character in her family and provides readers with a unique protagonist. Little Women is a perfect representation of what girlhood was like during the Civil War era; full of high standards and nit-picky expectations. In Keywords for Children’s Literature, Jacqueline Reid-Walsh conveys that the term girlhood can have multiple cultural meanings and can change depending on personal opinion. Little Women centers on the conflicts that young women face throughout their lives, many of those conflicts having to do with gender and gender roles. Jo’s need to steer away from the actions and lifestyle of a conventional female show that girlhood does not mean the same thing to everyone and that being a girl does not imply that one has to be “girly”. Ideas about girlhood are also represented through the phrase “like a girl” which is the inspiration behind Always’ most recent ad campaign, #LikeAGirl.
The campaign features a series of video representations of girls in today’s society, breaking down gender stereotypes and growing stronger together. The videos portray girls doing things like running, swimming, and playing various other sports. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage confidence in young girls so they never feel inferior.
What it is truly like to be a girl has drastically changed throughout time, as has the way we define the term “girlhood”. Girlhood is now more equitable with society’s idea of boyhood. In Little Women, Jo aspired to live like a boy but was ridiculed by her sisters, however, gender norms have become more fluid and today Jo’s refusal to embody gender stereotypes would not be scorned. The phrase “like a girl” should cease to exist. Actions should never be attached to a certain gender. The Always campaign is proving to be effective, but it is discomforting to think that people aren’t inspired until they see things like advertisements endorsing equality.