Being a girl isn’t easy to begin–we have to deal with things like “legitimate rape,” “binders full of women,” periods–and now there may even be an outright war on girlhood. Dude, seriously?
Here’s what’s up: A psychologist wrote a whole bunch on the war on girlhood here, but to sum it up for you, it comes down to this: A lot of things are being sold to us in the guise of making us “better,” but are actually just making us feel awful about ourselves. It’s also important to note that in this case “better” doesn’t mean “smarter,” “happier,” “more powerful,” or “healthier.” In the war on girlhood, “better” means “prettier.”
For example, a lot of the toys marketed to girls are designed as a really unattainable ideal. Have you ever seen an actual woman who, without the aid of a lot of bizarre, Big Ang-esque plastic surgery, looked like a Bratz Doll? Of course not. At our age, we obviously know that. And the creators of Bratz Dolls know that. They’re not meant to look realistic–they’re toys. Complaining about that is like getting mad when our cars don’t actually turn into Optimus Prime in real life. But! Because Bratz are sold to a younger group, that gets ingrained as normal to them.
Similarly, when Lego came out with their Heartlake City set designed for girls, people flipped out. The bricks were pink, there were lots of cupcakes but not any cops or firemen like in the regular sets. A little messed up, no? But Lego had actually done research, and that’s what little girls were buying–anything beauty related. So while it may not be the most feminist move, Lego did what any business would do and got in on the action. You can’t necessarily fault Lego for that, can you? (Though we’re not sure why they couldn’t have a cop with a ponytail or something. C’mon, people!)
Research finds that girlhood is being threatened by the beauty obsession, and it’s happening more often and earlier than ever. Eating disorders are up, and we’re obsessed with being perceived as hot or pretty even before we’re at the age when we actually want to make out with anyone. (While there’s no question that body image issues are a problem, eating disorder numbers may just look like they’re up because more people are seeking help now, which is a good thing.)
Basically, it’s hard to point fingers at any one person or entity for the war on girlhood and the reason why our body images are suffering as a result. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg argument : Do businesses shove lip gloss andlabiaplasty down our throats because they’re evil or because we want it? And do we want it because they’re telling us to or because we just like to look nice? And conversely, doesn’t looking good make you feel better?
The war on girlhood is a tough one to win, because it’s unclear who we’re fighting: the media for making us insecure? Advertisers? Ourselves for buying into it and thereby encouraging it to continue?
The best way to combat the war on girlhood is to enjoy being you–whether or not what you’re into is “girly.” (Who defines that anyway?) Instead of focusing on looking perfect, focusing on looking like you (because you’re rad). Focus on your health and the way you feel more than how you look. And remember: You’re amazing and smart and you have an awesome future ahead of you. That’s beautiful. Everything else is just extra sprinkles on the sundae.
Do you think there’s a war on girlhood going on? Have you felt pressure to look perfect? Tell us in the comments!