The word “girlhood”, as discussed in Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s Keywords essay, can be thought of as both a developmental stage and a cultural construction. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, the cultural construction aspect of girlhood goes hand and hand with being obedient and well mannered. Girlhood meant to the Ingalls girls that they participate in gendered domesticated labor, and do not question their elders. They are frequently portrayed cleaning up around the house or helping “Ma” make dinner while “Pa” is out, without complaint. “Mary and Laura washed the dishes while Ma made the beds in the wagon. They put the clean dishes neatly in their box; they picked up every scattered twig and put it in the fire; they stacked the wood against a wagon wheel. Then everything about the camp was tidy” (Ingalls 42). These daily chores emphasize their role as “girls” in the family.
In the “Dream Crazier” commercial produced by Nike, similar ideologies of girlhood are portrayed. The commercial illustrates the constraints of what girls and women are expected to do. It highlights how being a girl continues to suggest that you should do as others tell you, and stick to activities associated with being “female”. “A woman boxing was crazy. A woman dunking? Crazy. Coaching an NBA team? Crazy.” However, as a society we have worked to break down these barriers, allowing girls and women to do things that don’t necessarily fit into the traditional expectations of girlhood. A woman winning 23 tennis titles or winning multiple Olympic gold medals was once considered “crazy,” but by pushing through these cultural constraints, women like Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe were able to achieve goals they were originally told were “crazy”.
While Little House on the Prairie and Nike’s “Dream Crazier” commercial have similar definitions of girlhood, Little House on the Prairie represents girls playing into these standards and limits, while the Nike commercial shows girls defying the expectations.