The Impact of Girl Culture on Girlhood

The word “girlhood” is very ambiguous in terms of what lessons or experiences girls acquire during this specific period of time. As mentioned in Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s Keywords for Children’s Literature, girlhood is described as the time period in a girl’s life where they are growing up, learning, and forming an identity based on their surroundings and experiences. Jacqueline Reid-Walsh makes it clear that girlhood is a variable stage in a girl’s life depending on the girl. As stated in class, every scenario of girlhood varies in chronological age, phase of psychological evidence, state of mind, participation in “girl” culture, legal status, state of youthful “innocence”, absence of sexual activity, and many others. I am interested in the role of “girl culture” during girlhood and how it varies in different pieces of literature.

In the book, Mountain Wolf Woman: A Ho-Chunk Girlhood, the main character, Mountain Wolf Woman, is a developing girl going through girlhood. The “girl culture” has a significant impact on Mountain Wolf Woman and her journey through girlhood. The common girl learned trades such as picking berries, shucking corn, planting, making clothes, and many more trades than were women of the tribes were expected to complete. The elderly women were there to teach these young girls to perfect their craft and become a useful woman in the tribe. This “girl culture” was common in Native American tribes where the men and boys would do the hunting and killing while the women would stay back and cook, clean, and get everything prepared for the men when they return from their hunt. The “girl culture” is a significant factor in Mountain Wolf Woman’s girlhood. 

The movie, Brave, shows how “girl culture” affects Merida during her girlhood. Like Mountain Wolf Woman’s mother, Merida’s mom teaches her to act as an acceptable woman, dress correctly, and be respectful of the men in her life. Unlike Mountain Wolf Woman, Merida doesn’t let the “girl culture” surrounding her impact her girlhood. Merida’s girlhood consists of shooting arrows and beating men in archery contests. Her actions were those of men’s doing and it was frowned upon because of the “girl culture” surrounding her. The movie stems from Merida’s transition through girlhood and how her and her mother’s disagreements over the “girl culture” and Merida’s girlhood. Overall, the movie does a great job of showing a different version of girlhood and showing it’s different in every girl.

Jacob Schleicher


2 thoughts on “The Impact of Girl Culture on Girlhood”

  1. It is very intriguing how compared Mountain Wolf Woman and Merida’s girlhood. It is interesting how you talk about Merida go outside the normal girlhood culture while Mountain Wolf Woman seems to stay inside the culture of girlhood.

  2. I really like how you used Merida to show how she breaks the typical idea of what girlhood is. I think Mulan also breaks this stereotype. Instead of staying at home with her family, she decides to go to war (pretending to be a man) so that her father wouldn’t have to. I think that Mulan relates to Merida in that she is also brave and does things that most people wouldn’t think a girl would do.

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