Goodbye Girlhood

A recent Washington Post Article, “Goodbye to Girlhood as Pop Culture Targets Ever Younger Girls, Psychologists Worry About a Premature Focus on Sex and Appearance” by Stacy Weiner, describes that younger girls are beginning to be targeted by the media in a sexual manner. Ranging from TV shows to magazine ads, young girls are seen flaunting tight jeans, low-cut shirts and body-hugging apparel. This article provided many shocking stats such as in 2003, tweens, ages 7 to 12, spent $1.6 million on thong underwear. Additionally, 77 percent of prime-time TV shows portray sexual material. The article claims that this new way of exposing girls to sexual popular culture at a younger and younger age has cut their childhood years significantly. A large part of American girlhood is discovering your inner beauty and true self, however the media is corrupting and shortening this time to do so. The effects of this corruptive popular culture not only shorten a girl’s girlhood, but also affect her young adult life. According to the article, studies show that female college students concerned with their appearance often score less on tests than others. In Karen Sánchez-Eppler’s Keyword essay, “Childhood”, she discusses childhood as a time of innocence separate from adulthood. She also mentions the idea of “protecting the innocence” in children during their childhood (38). Clearly, this article shows that society is doing just the opposite. Childhood is a stage in life, separate from adulthood in a “magically and wonderfully” way (40). This suggests that childhood should be a stage in which kids learn who they are as a being, their beliefs and worth, prior to indulging in the sometimes corruptive and mature adult life.

After reading Little Women, the four girls struggle to overcome their flaws and discover their womanhood. During Meg’s visit to Vanity fair, we see her for the first time represented as a sexual being and corrupted by the ways of the high-class life in which she becomes, “nothing but a doll” (93). However, most the story portrays the four young ladies as finding who they truly are and what they want in life. This suggests that they are still in their childhood and separate from the adult world. Ma often delivers the message of the importance of finding what makes you happy and not what brings in money or fame. I think that Ma’s message should be heard more by young girls in order to prevent this sexual corruption and allow girls an innocent girlhood to discover who they want to be, not what society wants them to be. I also believe that they should hear this message in order to prolong and enjoy their youthful girlhood instead of being forced into this mature adulthood.

5 thoughts on “Goodbye Girlhood”

  1. This article was a really important find. The fact you included about girls aged 7-12 already buying thong underwear, shocks me. I knew that girls of younger ages were being exposed to sexualized media, but I had no idea that girls THAT young were buying that kind of clothing. When I was 7, people’s parents including my own barely let us get our ears pierced. This just shows how dramatically it has changed. Also, I like how you defined girlhood by incorporating innocence, and as a time to discover who you really are. I don’t think this really has a maximum age, because like you said in Little Women, those girls were almost 17 and still finding themselves. However, I do agree that it can be taken away at too young of an age due to corruption and societal pressures.

  2. Your post reminded me of a couple of tweets that pop up every once and a while. It shows a picture of what a 14 year old girl is dressing like and looking like today and then a picture of what a 14 year old girl was dressing like and looking like we did when we were that age. The caption jokes about how 14 year olds today are looking like 24 years old and when we were 14, we looked like we were 14. My brother is 16 and whenever I go home to high school football games or any other event, I’m always shocked about what other girls are wearing. I feel like these girls are wearing stuff that I didn’t start wearing until I was a lot older. But at the same time, I’m not really surprised because those clothes are what everyone else is wearing. I don’t think we should blame the girl wearing the outfits–they are just following the trends. If society really deems this a problem, I think that advertising and the media need to begin with changing their image portrayed to girls that age.

  3. I always thought our society was going to turn around and stop sexualizing women since women are now getting more noticed for their accomplishments and their worth. However, after reading this it seems like it is getting worse and worse. I also think social media isn’t helping things when it comes to keeping girlhood longer. Young girls are starting to see pictures of models on social media at an earlier age and will compare themselves to them and start to emulate them.

  4. I often see posts on Facebook comparing what being a middle schooler was like when we were in middle school and what it is like now. It always amazes me how sexualized and “grown up” they seem. An interesting thing to think about is did we grow up kind of like the March sisters did in exploring who we are and having a separate childhood and adult hood and is that separation gone for the youth of today?

  5. Today, it seems that children can’t wait to grow up. They try to dress older than they actually are and as a result, their actions reflect this. This can be dangerous for them as they may start to participate in actions that can lead to serious consequences. The media is only adding to this problem as they promote such things. Children should stop rushing to grow up because eventually they will learn that growing up is not as fun as it seems.

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