Girls will be girls?

Facebook is so helpful sometimes! Via a somewhat random friend’s profile, I found this article from the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago. It’s very brief, commenting only a little on the recent spate of books “for girls” and how they present different visions of girlhood. I have a little trouble with calling these visions different strains of feminism, as the article does, but I also haven’t read any of the books so maybe I shouldn’t talk. Anyway, I find this line particularly telling:

Whether girlie or girlist, girls, because they’re allowed more latitude in their identities, can still be girls: Boys, on the other hand, must be boys — unless no one is watching.

This really rings true to me. Perhaps this is a function of growing up in the 80’s instead of the 50’s or 60’s, or perhaps it’s a result of growing up on a farm with an older brother and a mother who almost exclusively wore overalls, but I enjoyed an immense amount of flexibility in my girlhood. I wore hand-me-downs from my brother, loved sports and action figures, and wouldn’t be caught dead (or at least extremely grumpy) in a dress. I did have dolls, but I was much more interested in buying clothes for my Kens than doing just about anything with the Barbies.

There’s a really interesting bit in Forever Barbie about how housewives hoped that the dolls could “cure” their tomboy daughters. I have trouble coming up with the right analog for boys–how do you cure a “girly” boy? Sports? Hunting? G.I. Joes?

I would argue, though, with the question Orenstein raises at the end of her article–“whether any more expansive vision of girlhood can survive without a similar overhaul of boyhood.” It seems to me that the ever expanding bounds of girlhood are, in part, what have allowed girls to achieve on into womanhood–causing a lot of panic over the boys. More women than men are graduating from college! Something is terribly wrong with boys! Why is this always a zero-sum game? Why can’t greater success among girls and women mean there’s something right with them, and not necessarily something wrong with boys and men?

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4 Responses to Girls will be girls?

  1. I totally identify with this – mainly because as a young boy, I dared to be different in some very obvious ways, and that was definitely not okay with a lot of people around me.

    For what it’s worth, I think in the eighties (at least in the UK), people said, “not as many girls as boys are doing well in exams – there is something wrong with the system.” Now that boys are not doing as well as girls, they say “something is wrong with the boys”. The assumption being, of course, that boys and girls should be equal in their exam results.

    I think the approach of the eighties was actually a response (possibly half-assed) to the feminist theory of privilege.

  2. Linda says:

    Did you see the article in yesterday’s NYT Magazine about separating boys and girls in the classroom – http://tinyurl.com/2x9rq7

  3. pandanose says:

    Great article! It reminds me of some of the reading I did last semester (was it for your class, or Liz’s? Now I can’t remember), introducing the idea of “noisy story time.” Basically kids could choose to have story time in a tradition (read: silent) setting, or one where they were free to move around and make more noise. The thing that really irked me was that the article assumed that only boys would want (or need) the noisy option.

  4. STEFFENSEN says:

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