Girlhood

Jacqueline Reid-Walsh informs the reader both about the technical term as well as the extensive history surrounding the term, “girlhood.” In the beginning of her essay, Reid-Walsh raises some deep and thought-provoking questions, such as “who is included and who is excluded from being a girl?” This particular one resonated with me throughout the article, because from a male’s perspective this thought had never crossed my mind. Societal norms have created these exclusive boundaries, unfairly deciding who can and who can’t be a girl. As the essay progresses, Reid-Walsh shifts her focus onto explaining the history of girlhood found in literature, from its very first appearance in Samuel Richardson’s Clarrissa in 1747-1748 to present day. 

In Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood, by Diane Young Holliday, the term “girlhood” plays a large part in determining specific roles within the clan. While all of the children within the clan must help with methods of survival, girls and boys had predetermined roles that acted as a form of gender separation. Girls were handed roles of gathering food, cooking, and home arrangements while the boys were put in charge of hunting. For Mountain Wolf Women, “girlhood” also meant that older men were in charge of the girls’ decisions, including schooling and marriage. 

Incredibles 2, directed by Brad Bird, had the powerful theme of female empowerment throughout the entire movie. Elastagirl was given a much more significant role this time around. Although Elastagirl is a grown woman and a mother of two, the theme of “girlhood” still applies because of the connotations that this term holds, just like Reid-Walsh discussed in her essay. When I think of the word “girlhood,” I think past the dictionary definition of simply being a girl, and think of roles of women empowerment and courage and equality to men. The common theme throughout Reid-Walsh’s essay, Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood, and Incredibles 2 is that the roles women portray in stories, fictional or fact, matter a great amount in terms of the effect it has on readers and viewers, especially girls.

6 thoughts on “Girlhood”

  1. Disney movies are great examples of popular culture that pushes for female empowerment and the breaking down of the word “girlhood” and the norms that come with it. While I too referred to a Disney film, it is interesting to note other places this message is also being portrayed, for example, commercials, public speakers, and university courses.

  2. I like how you used such a modern example of the changing roles and expectations of what girls and women are capable of. Disney is doing a much better job of showing young girls that they can do whatever they want to do as long as they don’t give up. It also shows young viewers that women can be brave and do everything men can do. I think this is especially important because these standards are contrary to what they used to be in the past.

  3. I had never thought of Disney as empowering girls until reading your post. Now as I look over recent films I have been able to find a plethora examples supporting this. One example can be seen in Moana. Growing up, she is meant to do the womanly duties such as gathering food and taking care of others. However, there is a fun twist because she will be the one who someday rules the island. Young girls are empowered watching Moana as she fights to save her island, pushing past obstacles, and independently figuring out that Te Ka is Te Fiti. She blasts past the “princess being saved by a prince” scenario, becoming an empowering role model for girls all around the world.

  4. Many Disney movies have evolved into directly showing the theme of women empowerment. Interestingly, Incredibles 2 was not the first movie that came to mind when thinking of this theme. However, this was a very interesting thought and I am appreciative that you could see this theme within a movie that has many overlapping ideas. I really enjoyed this post and I think you made some very strong points.

  5. I found it interesting that for your outside connection you talked about girlhood past the dictionary definition of being a girl, and talked about the role of a women as empowerment, courage, and especially, the equality to man. In most of our readings we have done so far, there is usually a comparison between the role of a boy to a girl, however, a comparison of the abilities of boys and girls isn’t common. I think the movie you chose fits perfectly with that comparison. The parents in “Incredibles 2” roles were reversed, where the mom goes to work while the dad stays home with the kids. This movie shows that a women can be just as good as a man in his “role” and that a man learns the struggles of taking care of a household which is a women’s role.

  6. I like your comparison of The Incredibles, I really never thought that I really have changed my perspective on Disney movies. The only thing that I find interesting is that in some movies the girls will follow gender norms and then start to deny them like in cinderella, she is cleaning and then defies gender norms by doing what she wants and dressing up.

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