Photo Credit: Dao Insights
The commodification of girlhood
Melanie Stibbard, Contributor
Being a girl is different from being a woman. When you’re a girl you are still figuring out yourself and where you fit in the world. You are doing all this heavy lifting while being constantly surrounded by propaganda about who you should be and what you should look like. No matter what you are doing, you’re somehow doing something wrong. Now, this isn’t a new concept by any means, but when you’re still a girl you cannot conceptualize that this system is not okay. You always assume that things are this way because it is supposed to be this way and because you don’t fully understand the world yet. For example, being objectified by older men is not a problem, it just is.
Once you realize how incredibly damaging and harmful it is, and how much it has affected you, you’ve outgrown girlhood. You’ve figured out how the world works and your role within it. Outgrowing girlhood is understanding that the ‘mean girls’ in grade four were just going through life for the first time too and were trying to figure out where they fit in the world. Girlhood may be traumatizing, and we may spend the rest of our lives learning what to do with it, but it isn’t all bad; girlhood is also learning how to braid someone else’s hair, it’s learning how to jump rope, and it’s excitement and hope for the future. On top of it all, it is blissful ignorance of how the world treats women.
Outgrowing girlhood means becoming privy to the way you have been commodified as a girl once you are deemed old enough by men who don’t know you. Your existence becomes something for other people to consume: what you wear, how you style your hair, and what makeup you use (if you use any). Are you cottage-core or a clean girl? What about alt/indie? How best can society shove you in a box and sell you to the world? Like everything else, social media and the internet have heightened this mentality. Everything becomes an aesthetic – a label for women and girls – and a weapon against them.
As a girl, you grow into this world; it becomes yours to inherit. You lose that innocence/naivety of your youth when you reach that conclusion. As a result, you transition out of girlhood. Now you’ve found your role. For many, this harsh reality was thrust upon them before they were ready, and were forced to grow up too soon. Others got to hold on for just a little bit longer. Some embrace this realization, while others deny it. Either way, everyone becomes aware of its existence.
From this, a sense of comradery among women forms because we all experienced girlhood and we know that about each other. On some deep intrinsic level, we are able to understand complete strangers in a way others cannot. It’s the same comradery that spurs women to want to protect girls, why we want to preserve their naivety longer than ours lasted. Being a girl can be exhausting and traumatizing, but the strength that comes as a result is something to be treasured and respected.