Sunday, October 5, 2008

Conflicting Views of Girlhood

Although I enjoy learning about girls' lives and find the subject fascinating, I can't help feeling disconnected from girls and girlhood. Perhaps it is because I have rejected my girl self. Come to think of it, my girlhood was not much different from that of the average girl. I had low self esteem and felt self conscious about my body. I thought I was ugly and that there was something wrong with me. I developed later than most girls; I didn't get my period until I was 17. I was flat chested until college, and I never felt sexually attracted to boys until just a few years ago. I just remember feeling like I wasn't a normal girl and would never be one. Overall, I was just uncomfortable and confused with my body and sexuality.

Adolescence was a tough time for me, and I'm glad that it's over. I am now proud of my sexual self and comfortable with my body. I am confident in my abilities and have become a leader in organizations whose causes I care about. When I look back on my girlhood, I detest the girl I once was and embrace the woman I am now.

However, this rejection of my girl self has affected the way I view girls. Instead of viewing them as fellow humans, I almost feel sorry for them. I am reminded of the "Ophelia" section of Young Femininity, where girls are depicted as constantly in a low self esteem crisis. On the other hand, this presents a problem since "the representation of adolescence as chaos feeds into many of the demeaning cultural stereotypes about girls and young women" (Young Femininity 46). Therefore, as a feminist, the logical solution would be for me to embrace girls as being strong, powerful, and confident.

But I am ashamed to say that I have trouble doing this. I can't forget how terrible a time adolescence was for myself, and I can't help thinking that most girls are going through a similar nightmare. Why do girls have to hate themselves before they can grow into women??!

Maybe I am generalizing my experiences and applying them to all girls today. This is a mistake, since girls' experiences vary by race, class, sexuality, ect. Further, girls don't all just magically become self confident when they become women. Perhaps I have made the same mistake as some second wavers, viewing girls as "victims"of society (Young Femininity 202). I just feel angry that we live in a society that profits from making women and girls feel bad about themselves.

1 comment:

Sarah Wissig said...

I have the same problem of assuming that girlhood was traumatizing for all who experienced it. I think it's natural for people to generalize their experiences to everyone, but it's, of course, good to be aware and critical of this.