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.

5 thoughts on “Girlhood as a Period of Growth and Exploration”

  1. I like your comparison between girlhood in history and girlhood in current society. I feel as though as society evolved, the idea of girlhood did as well. Girls today are free to express themselves and create their own identities, while in the past they had a tendency to do what was viewed as socially acceptable, like Laura doing what her mother and father expected her to do.

  2. The connection you made between Little House on the Praire and Edge of Seventeen I thought was very interesting. I agree that the idea of girlhood in the past was very structured in the sense that girls were told to act a certain way and do certain things, not being able to express themselves in the way they may have wanted. In the world today I think this stereotype has evolved, more public female figures are in a position of power and more inclined to make decisions on their own.

  3. I think your point about the idea of girlhood evolving is a good idea. Girls now express themselves so much more than they used to. Girls are not limited to certain societal ideas like working in a kitchen and they can have any career they want.

  4. I thought your point about girlhood evolving was very interesting. I think within the last few decades or so, more media is coming out with female protagonists, and writers and directors are more freely exploring the different paths girls take in their lives. There is no longer just one way to grow up and experience girlhood, and it’s exciting to see these new paths represented in the media.

  5. I definitely agree that girlhood is about so much more than learning how to become a wife, mother, and homemaker. Your analysis of Mary and Laura’s roles in Little House on the Prairie indeed reflects that our society has progressed a long way in terms of how we view the role of young girls in the domestic sphere. The Edge of Seventeen certainly depicts a very different struggle facing young adolescent girls in our contemporary world. Nadine does not have to struggle over the realization that she is supposed to fit into one role but instead is lost in facing all the possibilities and opinions being laid out before her. This was a great comparison to demonstrate the changing representation of girls in entertainment and pop culture.

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