Sunday, September 6, 2009

Let's hear it for the grrlz!

Long pants, t-shirt, and a hoodie. In 96 degree Florida sunshine. I was 13 and full of insecurities. The threshold of adolescence is a term commonly mentioned in girls studies theory. It marks the time period in which most girls go from being dynamic outspoken youths to inadequate and silenced souls. So what is girls studies? Girls studies is the study of the lives of girls and the contexts in which they live; it is the science in which we analyze the social and cultural contributing factors that make or break a girl into the person she is to become in the future. It is through girls studies that we are able to reconcile the breach between girls and women; it is how we are able to learn what happens in between. Through research and evolving theories we are able to further understand the lives of girls and subsequently women. As girls studies evolves we are able to expand our views beyond the experiences of white middle-class heterosexual girls. The issue of LBTQQ girls and their unique experiences is highlighted exclusively in Queer Girls and Popular Culture. So, what’s the point of it all then? Girls studies, as previously mentioned, seeks to explain the female experience from the beginning. Though knowledge of girlhood aids in the understanding of womanhood this is not the sole purpose of girls studies. Girls studies is about understanding our girls and providing them with the knowledge and tools they need in order to survive in a hyper-misogynistic and hyper-sexual culture that is a very inhospitable environment for an uninformed girl.

The research and theories of gender relationships that currently exist show the inequality that girls face on the social level, for example, silencing their emotions and thus, “the giving up of a relationship for the sake of ‘Relationships.’” (Benjamin and Victoria 16) Also, there exists an educational bias which tracks girls away from the fields of math, science, and technology. All these issues are simply a portion of the issues in girls studies. Certainly girls studies researchers should continue learning about educational inequality, media objectification, and the destructive behaviors girls learn; however, it is important to continue exploring the intersectionality of girls’ identities. The reconciliation of race, social status, sexual preferences, and physical abilities all contribute to the identity of girls around the globe and as such should be further explored to ensure the most thorough understanding of a girl’s life and what she needs to reach her full potential. We have made a lot of headway in the understanding of girls, but we need more than Take Your Daughter to Work Day to address and rectify the injustices faced by girls today.

In a field as relatively new as girls studies there is much to learn about the comprehensive identities of girls, including sexual identities. In a society which is both misogynistic and hetero-normative it seems that the existence of a queer girl is a hellish nightmare but luckily we are learning more and attempting to understand the experiences of queer girls. In our society the only place for homosexuality, namely lesbianism, is at the core of reality TV shows where hot 20-somethings become inebriated and make-out in hot tubs. Or rather, lesbian is made to appear cute as sassy as in Katy Perry’s “I kissed a girl.” However, it is up to queer girls and their allies to come into their own and reject the hateful images of homosexuality in order to obtain a much more open, accepting, and safe environment for our girls to live in. The changes girls need is on a societal level not just in our own homes. It is important to understand the both queer and non-queer girls experience that unifying theme of alienation not only socially but also in their lack of adequate representation. This issue of non-acceptance, queer or not, is something all girls face and a pressing issue which needs to be addressed by creating alternative media (i.e. zines, blogs, radio shows, websites) which adequately represent all grrlz.

In a world where children are fragile and impressionable we need to move away from the patriarchal system we currently know and strengthen our kids. Our girls, namely, are suffering and we’re losing them to insecurities, Bratz, kitchen sets, and everything else that encourages traditional gender roles without providing an outlet to encourage creativity whilst addressing the risks of girlhood and celebrating girls at the same time. I know girls studies is absolutely essential to continue studying. It is the only way to help make grrlz into amazing womyn!

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