Girlhood is a relatively recent term-word in the English language, coming into common use only in the 1700’s. Author Reid-Walsh notes that our first record of it’s use was in as a descriptor for the period in a young woman’s life of “virtuous adolescence”. Especially through a modern lens, it is easy to recognize how this both expects and dictates some set of standards for this group of people.
In the texts we have read thus far in the semester, there is a common trend that is evident both in texts by and about white perspectives on being young and female historically and Native American perspectives on the expectations white society had for them. In Zitkaka Sa’s accounts of her time in Quaker schools, she details how the responsibilities of the household, humbleness and meekness, and an acceptance of this role in society.
A recent article I came across describes that recent research into teaching methods for young children of STEM subjects discovered that in teaching young girls, using phrases like “let’s do science” rather than “being scientists” encouraged more girls to engage with and succeed with STEM subjects at this early level. Researchers noted that the difference between these very similar phrases is that “being scientists” inserts a reference to an identity, of science figures that the children may be aware of. In all young children, this image is likely in our current time of male, white, old figures who are not the role models that in all other aspects of their lives, young girls will be being taught to being examples of who they should and can be. The author of this study Marjorie Rhodes explains that, “The roots of gender disparities in science achievement take hold in early childhood, … (and) This research identifies an element of children’s environments that could be targeted to reduce early gender differences in science behavior among young children.”
Cultural representations and judgments on identity are extremely influential in children’s development of self-image, self-esteem, and social standing in their societies. Children, today as they always have been, are influenced by how they see society talk, critique, and include or exclude people they see as themselves.