Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series with the question, “What does it mean to be a girl?” In the series we have explored the way society defines and confines girlhood, as well as gender in general.
By De’Liza Galimidi
Girls will be girls. How would the dialogue change if this replaced the trite and utterly harmful “boys will be boys?” When we hear “boys will be boys” we all get this stereotypical sense of what it means to be a boy — rough, mighty, and masculine.
But what does it really mean to be a girl?
Thinking about what makes a girl has always circulated throughout my thoughts. In the midst of my childhood I found myself turning away from the sterotypical representation of being a girl — princesses, the color pink, the constant talk of playing with dolls, and motherhood-themed games. At the tender age of five, I never felt that these actions made me anyless of a girl. But in the eyes of others — those who were much older — it did. Entering my teenage years my identity as a girl was challenged yet again. The constant superficial comments of peers asking, “why aren’t you wearing makeup” and “you’re a girl, don’t act like that” began to fill my ears. To this day I never fail to cringe when I hear older women scowl and order those like myself to “be ladylike.”
But it wasn’t until I found Nora Ephron’s article: A Few Words About Breasts (PDF), that I truly examined this whole phenomena of the female gender identity. In Ephron’s blunt fashion she dissected her lack of womanhood through the development of her small breasts. In the late author’s eyes, the value of breasts largely dictated her feelings of what it felt like to be a woman. It is odd to think that these biological parts, mammary glands, could harness so much power over our female identity. If large breasts made Ephron feel like a woman, what is the special formula, the spirit, the essence that makes us identify as a girl?
As I continued this exploration the perfect opportunity to get more insight on this question arose. I was sitting inside a Starbucks hammering away at my keyboard, focusing on completing my next writing piece. I began to notice my attention no longer wanted to be fixed on finishing my paper, but became engaged in this interesting, thoughtful conversation about literature that was being conducted by the three teenage girls sitting at the next table beside me. Out of impluse I turned to them and asked, “What does it mean to be a girl?” The girls were taken aback a bit by my strange question. A moment later one of the girls said, “painful.” The first of many bold and powerful answers was given — response after response, each one left me more interested than before.
That dialogue made me want to pose this question to all of you readers: What does it mean to be a girl?
This question is open to people of all genders and sexualities. We want more than just, one perspective. We want to hear from you! Tweet us @TheSinCitySiren and @DeLizaGalimidi, post on The Sin City Siren Facebook page, leave us a comment, or send a good old fashioned email (thesincitysiren[at]yahoo[dot]com). You’ve got until Friday at noon!