In the keywords essay on “Girlhood”, Jacqueline Reid-Walsh discusses the social issues involved in defining what the term “girlhood” means and how it has change to reflect society over time. Through the historical lens, Reid-Walsh discusses how the position of certain materials items such as dolls and toys has shaped the idea of what being a girl means. She argues that these items were intended to teach young girls in the eighteenth and nineteenth century the customary roles that they are expected to hold in their adult years. The essay continues to point out the importance of girl’s toys and the role they play in teaching young girls “how to become conventionally feminine in appearance and behavior”. The question then arises, if girls do NOT play with dolls or specific “girl marketed” toys, how does that change their definition of “girlhood”?
While “girlhood” is represented as the conventional appearance and behavior of “typical” girls, in the book Kirsten Learns a Lesson, her definition of girlhood is paralleled with the playing of toys and other socially acceptable material belongings. Kirsten grows up believing in the magic of dolls and assumes a stereotype perpetuated from years previously that playing with dolls will inevitably put her in the assumed household woman role. While Kirsten appears in long dresses and plays with dolls similar to other girls her age, she is representing the eighteenth-century definition of “girlhood”. The “Girlhood” essay asserts this notion that the definition is ever-changing over time, and Kirsten is just one example of how she embodies the definition specifically for her time period.
Microsoft has taken the definition of “girlhood” and shaped it to reflect the twenty-first century. Recently, they aired a 2019 super bowl commercial that depicted a young girl and her love of playing video games. While the commercial was aimed at fostering an inclusive environment for people who may not be the traditional video game candidates, it pushed the boundaries to reflect the ever-changing social scene of video games. The idea that a young girl would love to play video games and aspire to be in the technology industry in her adult years, leaves the definition of girlhood frayed from the traditional “doll and dress” sense. Microsoft does not perpetuate the idea that girls will grow up to stay in the house or take care of the children, instead, they reflect the society’s invitation for girls to enjoy technology and other less feminine materials. Microsoft is changing the idea that there are strict boundaries between “boy toys” and “girl toys”, and they are inspiring the change for the definition of “girlhood”. Just like the essay suggests, “girlhood” is defined to reflect the current time period it is in, and thanks to technology giants such as Microsoft, that definition is changing to encompass a larger sector of pre-domanitly male focused toys.