Versions of “Girlhood”

As described in Keywords for Children’s Literature, “girlhood” has been perceived as a defining stage of life filled with innocence and obedience; however, in more recent years the once narrow idea of “girlhood” has been growing wider, as girls have started to define their own version of “girlhood”. 

 Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about “girlhood” as being the less fun, less interesting version of childhood in her book Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls is expected to stay quiet when she is curious and help at home when she wants to go to school. Her many questions are perceived as annoying and pushy, while if a young boy were to ask questions it would be looked at as an intellectual and praised for wanting to learn more. The difference between how boys are supposed to act and how girls are supposed to act is evident not only in the time period of Little House on the Prairie, but also in today’s world. 

Most people have the idea that girls are supposed to play with dolls, while boys should go run outside and play sports; but, there have been recent pushes to change the traditional way of thinking. In the 2006 movie She’s the Man, a group of girls are denied from trying out for the boys soccer team when their team gets cut. The main character, Viola, pretends to be her brother and plays for an opposing team in an attempt to show her school that girls are just as capable as boys in athletics, specifically soccer. She has to make many changes to her “girly” personality in order to fit in with the boys. To Viola, her “girlhood” included playing soccer, even if it meant posing as a boy. 

Throughout history, girls have been pressured to follow a specific version of “girlhood” that is defined by age, sex, activities, and even schooling. Media today has been working towards encouraging girls to find their own definition of “girlhood” and applying it to their daily lives.

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