The Evolution of “Girlhood”

The key term “Girlhood” is defined in many different ways. According to Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, girlhood can be a chronological age when one is a girl, the state of being a girl in a biological and gender sense, or even all girls collectively as a group. While these are the ways the Keyword’s for Children’s Literature points out, I believe that the term has shaped itself into many more meanings. These meanings very heavily depend on the time period as well as the specific instance and social norms occurring at that time. In Zitkaka-Sa’s story from the American Indian Stories, the idea of girlhood is represented as changing oneself to fit an image of a proper girl and, in the future, a woman, while in the movie Wonder Woman, girlhood is represented in a much broader and empowering way that switches up the social norms of the past.

In the story of Zitkaka-Sa, girlhood is examined in a way of growing up learning how to be a proper woman and preparing to be a good mother in the future. Zitkaka-Sa’s girlhood experiences are all focused around developing good domestic skills a woman of that time period was expected have. She learns this through her mother and the stories her mother shares,  through her involvement in her community that has these domestic norms and expectations for girls, as well as in the formal schooling she receives. Much of Zitkaka-Sa’s girlhood revolves around changing herself to fit into society as a woman. Whether it is changing her physical appearance in the horrible hair cutting scene, or changing her values and innate action, her girlhood is defined by changing herself to fit society’s expectations in this important time of development.

In comparison, girlhood is represented as a time of self discovery in the movie Wonder Woman. Because of recent events such as the MeToo movement, girlhood as been transformed into an empowering term. Girlhood is now seen as girls coming together and supporting each other to become strong, confident individuals. As seen in the movie Wonder Woman, this new version of girlhood is apparent in Diana’s life, as she is training at a young age to become a self dependent, accomplished woman. Girlhood is not about changing yourself to fit a stereotypical idea of a female anymore. In today’s day and age, it’s about embracing your unique skills and talents and using them to succeed in other ways such as gaining an education, getting a job, and being the supporting member in the family in more ways than solely embodying a domestic figure.

Just through these 2 examples, we are able to see how the term “girlhood” has developed itself into many different meanings throughout time. My belief, and hope, is that this term that is defined as representing a chronological time period in a woman’s life will continue to be continues to be challenged, changed, and formed into a positive attribute for girls and woman everywhere.

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of “Girlhood””

  1. Wonder Woman is a great thing to compare to! It is so interesting to see how the term girlhood has changed throughout time given current events like politics or pop-culture. I’m interested to see what this term continues to change throughout the future, for the better!

  2. For me, it is fascinating to see the parallels and crossovers between individuals’ growth of girlhood internally and the general societies’ growth of girlhood externally. Over time, individuals’ growth of girlhood are constantly adjusting to meet the society’s expectation and conception of girlhood.

  3. Wonder Woman is a really great comparison to traditional norms of girlhood because both are so different in the way they are performed to a greater public. Wonder Woman entails a lot more confidence and self esteem than the traditional norms which tell a girl that they are inferior to men and they should not try to make waves in society. In what ways does Diana in Wonder Woman express her independence and positive self-concept? How is that different than how a girl in the traditional sense of girlhood behaves?

  4. I loved when you said “girlhood is not about changing yourself to fit a stereotypical idea of a female anymore.” I wrote my blog post on the movie Mean Girls and all of the girls in that movie needs to hear your quote. I liked how you discussed how the term girlhood is changing with time periods, whereas in my post I talked about how the term changes as the girl changes age and for the older/teenage girls in high school they try to transform into the “perfect” and “popular” high school teenage girl and that was the norm, but because this movie in now many years older it has changed and we see girls in high school not conforming to the norm and still sticking to their own style and showing off their own unique personalities, that other girls may not agree with. I’m with you and I hope that this term changes for the better and can be turned into a positive attitude for all females.

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