Girlhood as a Period of Growth and Exploration

Throughout the course so far, we have looked at several keyword essays to gain a preliminary understanding of our readings before completing them. One of these essays stood out to me initially, and that was the essay on Girlhood. Girlhood can be defined in many different contexts such as chronological age, biological sex, a phase of physiological development, participation in girl culture, and more. Taking each of these possible definitions into consideration, we can use them as a lens through which to view the themes of the texts we have analyzed. 

One reading that demonstrates a traditional idea of girlhood is Little House on the Prarie. Throughout the story, Laura and her sister closest in age, Mary, often stay home with their mother Ma while Pa ventures off into their new environment to represent the family as a whole. On the homefront, Mary and Laura work to help their mother make beds, clean clothes, and wash dishes so that the house will be immaculate upon Pa’s return. These domestic responsibilities perpetuate the idea that girlhood is about building housewives who shall marry young and function as the caregiver to their children, husband, and the house. 

The Edge of Seventeen, on the other hand, focuses on an adolescent girl called Nadine who over the course of the movie, undergoes an existential identity crisis. It is not her lack of choice that causes such an internal struggle, but the fact that she is free to decide who she wants to be. This comes in direct contrast to Lauren in LHOTP who is destined to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a homemaker from the moment she was determined to be a girl at birth. 

Girlhood doesn’t have to be a period preparation for a predetermined role in society but rather a time of growth and exploration which will help lead a girl in whichever direction she may choose. The point is that there is much more to being a girl and growing up as a girl than learning to become a housewife. As the human race progresses even further, it is my wish that ideas of girlhood will become fiercely unique for each and every girl.

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