Exploring girlhood, Part 3: What you said about ‘being a girl’

Editor’s note: This is the third 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. (Click here for part 1 and part 2.)

What great interactions, comments, and observations you’ve all given this week on this question of What does it mean to be a girl? Some of you shared a lot. Others started conversations on social media like Facebook and twitter. One thing is for certain, we can use even more dialogue on this deep topic of gender identity as it intersects with gender roles, sexism, and patriarchy.

Let’s take a look at what YOU all had to say:

Janetkwest posted this comment:

To me being a girl means developing different strengths. As a kid I was jealous of my brother’s freedom to run around and explore as the wished but proud of the strength I developed keeping up with 2 older brothers. I may not be able to out arm wrestle a man, but I can live strong. Life doesn’t hold me back. Being a girl gave me attitude.

And referencing the late Nora Ephron’s post equating breast-size and womanhood mentioned in De’Liza’s postRalston Reports producer and journalist Dana Gentry quipped:

To quote one of my favorite musicals, “I enjoy being a girl!” so I certainly hope breast size is not a measure of my womanhood!

Guys, like “CubanKobra,” chimed in, too:

Although Im a guy I think that there are many unneccesary and unfair steriotypes to girls. However i do believe in certain gender roles (sadly, men not upholding their side makes many of the steriotypes put on women). I believe Women/girls are a gift to men, humanity, and the world; and as a gift should be treasured (but not “papmpered” or degraded by excessive “making easier” for lack of better words). Being a girl is being strong enough to accept the roles of mothers and helpers, but being strong enough to keep men in check when they dont uphold their end. THats the best way I can put it.

Lots of folks retweeted our tweets about this conversation, which makes me wonder how many conversations are happening out there. But I did get a few tweets back to me on the topic, like this one:

Over on Facebook, Hannah Almeida had this to say about my post exploring the stereotypes of girlhood:

As a girl who doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes, I hear this loud and clear. I love math and science, and in fact, in graduate school was known as the mathematician of the master’s program I was in (special ed teaching). I take care of my own clogged drains, helped my dad build himself a trailer from a kit, and when we could see the time he’d be stuck in a wheelchair approaching, we also built a sort of deck and a ramp outside the front door, so the sandy ground wouldn’t keep him inside all the time. I’ve snapped a 5/8′ steel bolt while trying to tighten it with a good old fashioned socket wrench, figured out why the car wouldn’t start and fixed it, and I kill my own scorpions, thank you very much. I’m the strong, quiet type. I hear things like I’m the man of the house all the time. And I hate dressing up a little. It’s as if the second I put on a girly top everyone sees my IQ drop about 50 points. *sigh* It’s exasperating!

Journalist and mom of a daughter Kris Hill posted this on Facebook:

Oh, so many things I could say about this. I remember getting play cooking utensils for Christmas when I was 4 or 5 years old and feeling devastated because I wanted a dump truck, but, no one wanted to buy me a ‘boy’s toy.’ By that time I already decided I hated wearing skirts or dresses. When I was 9 or 10 I decided I didn’t like being a girl and wore boys clothes (I suspect in part because dressing like a girl made me feel quite vulnerable after a man my mother dated tried to grope me). … I went with that until I was 12 then slowly shifted back into a less masculine style, even wore a lot of pink because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do because I’m a girl. But, I’m not nor have I ever been what American society would describe as a typical girl, I’m a tomboy who loves sports, hates makeup, wears skirts and dresses rarely, and it took me a while to be cool with that. I am who I am and if my identity as a woman doesn’t conform with society’s definition, then I don’t care. … I prefer to wear jeans and a T-shirt no matter what the stylists on What Not to Wear tell me I should do. But, it’s funny, I have a daughter who will be 4 in November and she is exactly what society expects a girl to be: she loves pink, princesses, dolls, etc., despite my best effort to surround her with gender neutral toys from the beginning, … On the flip side, she likes a lot of the things you would find in the blue section of a store in terms of toys and shows. She likes to climb and run and play in her princess dress. And I have said more than once that I am glad she is comfortable already being girly, so to speak, because it will be so much easier for her than it was for me growing up. But it’s important to me that she understand being a girl in America doesn’t have to mean being a damsel in distress, it can mean she can play football or learn karate or ride dirt bikes or drive race cars or play softball or become a doctor or a mechanic or a chef or whatever her talent and passion leads her to become and that she can do it wearing a skirt and heels or no makeup and blue jeans or something in between. Being a girl, to me, means being confident in who you are, being strong, independent, empowered, confident in your brains and talent and passionately pursuing what matters because people will be drawn to that even if you don’t fit in the female gender role box. I never have and I never will and I am happy with that even though it hasn’t always been easy.

All this paints a pretty vivid picture of girlhood and womanhood. And it certainly seems to include a fair bit of coloring outside the lines of prescribed gender roles and pink-think. I hope we can continue having this conversation. There’s a lot more to say about it. And I’d love to keep hearing from you about your thoughts on gender (boys, girls, and any other gender identity) and how it shapes who we are.

What does it mean to be a girl? What does it mean to be a boy? Is that all we are?

One thought on “Exploring girlhood, Part 3: What you said about ‘being a girl’

  1. Pingback: What does it mean to be a girl, part 2: Decoding the gender binary | The Sin City Siren

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