Dolls and Dresses

In Janet Shaw’s stories about Kirsten titled, “Kirsten Learns a Lesson” and “Meet Kirsten”, and in this image by Gwynevere Bonacci, the idea of “girlhood” is shown through material possessions and behavioral expectations in both Kirsten’s development along with the little girl in the image. When Kirsten first arrives at her Uncle’s house in America, she is immediately viewed as a developing girl by her aunt and her cousins. Her aunt gives her an old dress and her cousins immediately adopt her into their play group and allow her into their “secret tree house”, which was a place where little boys were not allowed. Since Kirsten is a girl and the same age as them, her cousins assumed that Kirsten wanted to play with dolls instead of the other activities her brothers were doing. Kirsten is seen as an active participant in girlhood the second she puts on the dress her aunt gives her and her cousins take her to play with dolls. Kirsten has a doll but had to leave her behind on the journey. She reveals this to her cousins when they ask. Because Kirsten is wearing a dress and she has possession of a doll, even though it is not with her currently, the girlhood expectations like doll play and helping the women with household chores instead of tending to the farm or hunting immediately commence. This image shows the same thing with the girl’s possession of a doll, hair bows, and lipstick. These are all material possessions that allow people to assume that a young girl is most definitely experiencing girlhood. Along with these items, the girl in the image is surrounded by the female gender sign. It looks as though she is stressed out about these possessions around her because she has her hands over her face. Being a developing girl in childhood consists of many meanings and many expectations. Whether it is conforming to societal views of how a girl should act and what types of possessions she should have while being in the state of girlhood, or cultural development that all female children are expected to participate in, girlhood can be very different for every child and is defined mostly by expectations for material possessions and behavior made by society.

2 thoughts on “Dolls and Dresses”

  1. I like how you explained how Kirsten is an active participant in girlhood through playing with her doll. I think that another idea that goes along with this is how young children play “dress up” and act as though themselves are dolls or models for their outfits. I think it also interesting how young girls focus on their doll’s hair and appearance while teenage girls focus on their own hairstyles and makeup looks. They are still participating in society’s idea of girlhood but in a different way.

  2. I really like the image you used her as an illustration of the pressure that girls feel to act a certain way. We are taught to conform to gender norms instead of doing what we like. The girl in the picture appears to be breaking under the pressure of these expectations placed on her and I think this is very relatable for girls everywhere.

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