Jacqueline Reid-Walsh wrote the Keywords essay on girlhood. In it she discussed the complexities of defining what it means to be a girl. The simplest definitions focus on the age of the person to determine whether or not they are a girl or not. But factors such as geography, culture, and race also change the definition of who experiences girlhood. Overall, girlhood is defined by the lived experiences of the individual. I argue that the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and the TV series Gilmore Girls challenge the simple idea of defining girlhood based on the person’s age.
The novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott puts on interesting spin on girlhood by simply referring to the four March sisters as little women instead of girls. The four children are all a young enough age to be considered girls and yet they are commonly referred to as women. The children are forced to take on responsibilities such as working to earn money in order to support the family while their father is fighting in the war. They have less time to run and play and live care-free lives. This experience of needing to support their family even at such a young age emphasize the idea that girlhood is based on lived experiences and not only age.
The show Gilmore Girls also has an interesting take on the theme of girlhood. The show focuses on a daughter and her mother and how they traverse the ups and downs of life together. The show begins when Rory Gilmore is a teenager in high school and Lorelai Gilmore is an adult. If girlhood is solely based on age, then Rory would be the only girl. But as the title implies, there are multiple (two) girls. Girlhood is thus more than age and Lorelai is experiencing girlhood even though she is an adult. Lorelai had Rory when she was only sixteen which forced her to grow up too quickly and leave behind her girlhood. But Lorelai never really grew up and is constantly acting like a child. One example is that Lorelai always chooses to use the silent treatment when someone upsets her instead of practicing good communication and talking through the issue. She also constantly gives her parents sass. Lorelai’s early transition to motherhood proves that girlhood transcends the age of the person and is more accurately defined by lived experiences.