Thursday, August 4, 2011

Little Women (not the book though)

One of the things I like at my job is the cart of library books getting withdrawn from the Nonfiction section. Every few days, the old ones get sent away, and new ones are selected to be withdrawn for a number of reasons. The usual reasons are outdated material or poor condition.

Today I was browsing through them, and I found a psychology one that is getting the ax: The Girl Within by Emily Hancock. She writes:

“At the buried core of women’s identity is a distinct, vital self first articulated in childhood, a root identity that gets cut off in the process of growing up.”

She goes on to state that women come fully into their own and become truly themselves only when they recapture the girl we were in the first place- before she got all cluttered up.

I guess I can understand the part about getting “cluttered up”- growing up certainly makes us collect baggage. But I do not feel disconnected from my childhood self at all. In fact, sometimes I feel too attached to it. It seems foreign to me that some women can get so far from the girl they once were because it often seems as though society tries to keep women as girls forever.

Many marriage ceremonies still include the tradition of a father giving his daughter away to a husband, and even some of the more PC ones have the officiant asking “who presents this woman in marriage?” and both parents answering. If/when I get married, I’ll present myself in marriage. And then there is the old adage: “My son is my son ‘till he gets him a wife, but my daughter’s my daughter all of her life.”

I realize this is supposed to be an expression of parental love, but what does that say about the daughter? The son is able to grow up, get married (or not), have a family (or not), and no matter how old the daughter gets and where she goes and what she does, she will always be viewed as a child? How is that flattering?!

And what about the habit of referring to grown women as “girls”? I am guilty of this, and I wonder why/when/how it started. My grandmother once wrote in a letter to me that she recently had lunch with “the girls”; she and her friends were all in the 70’s at the time. This is so confusing to me because in another respect, we are constantly pushing girls (as in children) to grow up so quickly. We barrage them with adult-themed messages through media, we always tell them to act like “young ladies” and “to grow up”, and it’s becoming increasingly clearer that they feel the pressure to grow up at younger and younger ages. Does anyone like hearing third graders talk about dieting?

So we tell them, through words and example, that they must grow up, the understand this, they strive to appear and act older than they are, and then we still view them as eternal children? And it’s not as if it is men doing this to women; they might do this, but we do it to ourselves as well.


After I wrote the first part, I took a brief break and flipped through a Marie Claire magazine.  As I flipped through it, in a weird coincidence, I was accosted with this advertisement for Marie Claire Enfants:

I know that it’s French, not American, but “enfantes” translates to “little children”. Doesn’t this girl look like a miniature version of a runway model? The outfit, the make-up, the knowing look that you’re looking at her.  .  .I am not blaming the French because is it really so different than all the advertisements we have for young girls’ clothing in Gap Kids commercials and the tiny skinny jeans and tank tops that we sell to 8 year olds?

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