In today’s society, the definition of the word “girlhood” depends greatly on who is asked, while decades ago the role of a woman had strict societal guidelines. Many of these seemingly universal, sexist stereotypes of who a woman was supposed to be, more often than not, originated and were perpetuated by literature, specifically children’s literature. The reading short novels has been a large part of the education process for American children, and as a result, these children learn how typical people like them act. Over the years, the values that the prominent figures in culture display for how girls are “ought to act” have wildly changed. From obedience and respect in the children’s novels we’ve discussed to the loud poster of Billie Eilish on my wall, it is evident that society has undergone an era of women empowerment. Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie depicts a specific illustration of girlhood that is at such a stark contrast to how the same theme is represented by women in the media today.
In Little House on the Prairie, the familial dynamic depicts a clear idolization of men. The children are made to appear confused and unaware of their surroundings while the mother does simple chores. The father, however, is always taking care of an aspect of life imperative to the family’s survival. When tracking the protagonist Laura, there is a clear distinction between the way she acts alone or in her head, verses the way she expresses herself around others. On page 66, Laura indicates that she is meant to be “seen and not heard.” Female children were the personification of politeness and blind obedience, never to create tension. On the contrary, it is impossible to ignore the voices of women in media today. Billie Eilish sticks out as a teenager free to express her deepest emotions. In the song You Should See Me in a crown, Eilish presents her confidence and almost entitlement to power and influence. In the chorus she specifically asserts, “I’m gonna run this nothing town. Watch me make ’em bow.” Billie Eilish is just one the many influential, outspoken female role models for our country’s youth. Sure, many young stars can get wrapped up in the world of drama and tabloid exploits, however it is revolutionary that children can now grow up in an environment that cherishes there voices and extends the boundaries of what is possible to achieve.