Sunday, September 6, 2009

The "Production" of American Girls

In our world today, as girls grow up they are faced with many challenges.
Fitting in, getting along with authority figures, body image and self-esteem are just a few of the things that teens and young girls deal with on a day to day basis. We want to help them through the hell that adolescence can be but how can we if we don’t understand what being a girl is like today? Very basically, Girl’s Studies looks into understanding all the complexities of girlhood. As I understand it, it centers on girls’ lives and culture focusing on their thoughts, interests, life experiences and desires. Girl’s Studies also recognizes the discrimination that girls face (sexism, ageism, racism and homophobia) and aims to not only make people aware of it, but also change it.

One of the goals of Girl’s Studies is to find the “differences between and commonalities among girls” (Ward and Benjamin 21) from all walks of life in hopes of being better able to address their needs. In one of our readings, adolescence is described as “each girl’s own unique hell” (Ward and Benjamin 21). Every girl experiences things differently based on the many aspects of her life such as race, class, ability, and sexuality. But there are also things that young girls face collectively such as deciphering media imagery, and gender bias just to name a few things. By finding a common thread not only are girls more able to relate to each other, but it also allows for “the creation of coalitions and establishing the grounds for larger political and social movements on the behalf of girls” (Ward and Benjamin 25). Only when the population as a whole is more aware of girl’s experiences and how they’re are affected by them, can we begin to make a change.

I read somewhere once that American girls aren’t born, they’re made. The “production” of girls in America starts at a very young age when positive reinforcement is given to passivity, meekness and submissiveness. Many girls begin to “edit their feelings” (Ward and Benjamin 16) until their true thoughts and feelings become unrecognizable, even to themselves. Girls deal with gender bias in schools, health care systems and religious organizations (Ward and Benjamin 21). And then there is the media, always stuffing it down our throats what it means to be the “perfect woman”. The fact that our society is so media driven is a huge reason why Girls Studies is so important. In so many ways, girls often try to base their lives off what they see in movies, magazines and on TV, because hey, if its on TV it must be “right”. Right? But what if, especially in the case of queer girls, you just don’t see yourself? Many brave girls today are challenging what is “right” and “normal” and regaining their self-esteem by not conforming to what the media says is “perfect” and realizing that they are perfect! By studying today’s girls and their transformations we might be able to help a whole new generation of girls become the people they want to be and not what they are supposed to be.


Natasha said...

Wow, I really love the end of your post specifically the production of the American girls. I never thought of it in those terms before, but that is exactly what I think happens. We "girls/women" are all a production of what society thinks we should be, not actually who we are and what we are.

Misty Black Coltune said...

I recall back in the early to mid-nineties (when I was in high school), that girls did not recognize gender bias in magazines because they truly thought that they could live up to every ideal. The fact that it is impossible does not seem to be a thought and so I agree that people need to be made aware of it; especially young girls. We should be able to say, "By the way, this isn't actually attainable, you know. It's Disney" (meaning sexy woman; completely innocent. Like the movie "Enchanted" with Amy Adams.