On the roof of an abandoned building, Dutch girls Frankie and Dora sipped bubble tea and bathed in the summer sun. “There are often parties here.” Frankie twiddled his chin at the pile of empty wine bottles. The two girls wore retro jeans, DIY sneakers, paired with cultural shirts-they like “personal customization”-Frankie’s is an art exhibition commemorative shirt, and Dora’s is printed with pop singer Billie Ai Leish’s T-shirt.
They found this place through Douyin. The sweet and greasy milk tea is available on Instagram. Teenage girls love to drink it from Chengdu to California. The two of them had recently become self-willed, ignoring their parents’ instructions on the blockade order, and sneaked out to participate in an African-American rights protest. They don’t agree with this: just because they are girls, there are things they can’t do.
Like other tens of millions of girls of the same age living in rich countries, Frankie and Dora are living in an unprecedented girlhood: the social and economic equality enjoyed by their mothers is closer to that of their fathers than in any previous era; they It is necessary to distinguish between good and bad in a dazzling online world; they are trapped in the torrent of ever-changing times, and their hearts are stirred by political and climatic changes. This new girlhood has both strong personal characteristics and universality.
A significant change is that people start to look at the identity of girls independently. For centuries, the world has often defined the temperament of girls based on the characteristics of boys. They are rough, they are docile; they are noisy, they are quiet; they are out of touch, they treat others kindly; they are rebellious, they keep themselves safe. At the end of the last century, things suddenly took a turn, and the girls were encouraged to become active, straightforward and confident.
In general, society is more tolerant of girls, which has benefited them a lot, but they are not all satisfactory. In most wealthy countries, girls are always a little bit more melancholy than boys, especially since puberty. They are easy to be mean to themselves and each other. For example, Frankie, she will “suddenly feel that she is extremely ugly and emotionally collapse.” The world also doesn’t know how to treat these new girls. Faced with the fact that girls are still frequently “consumed”, people often simply regard them as innocents who need to be protected, guard against manipulation by bad men and social media, and guard against shy and ignorant nature leading them astray. But at the same time, they were touted as Greta Thornberg’s powerful allies, as if the whole world could pin their hopes on them.
Being liberated from girls’ “models” and boys’ “benchmarks” does not mean that girls are not forced to play roles that sometimes contradict each other. They are still girlfriends, daughters, body masters and women of tomorrow. Each role can give us a glimpse of their future and feel the richness of their current lives.
| Girlfriends |
The friendship between girls provides an inexhaustible source of inspiration for female creators from Jane Austen to the Spice Girls to Elena Ferrante. When asked “what’s so good about being a girl”, “girlfriends love” is the answer that girls blurt out.
For girls, the first real girlfriends gave them the first experience of friendship beyond family affection. Even if “I love Xiao Ming” finally let love prevail, the girl’s first experience of intimacy still starts with writing “Lili and Meimei are good friends forever” in the diary or the bathroom door. Frankie and Dora can become good friends because of trust. It goes without saying that when life is suffering, they can always rely on each other. The two put their hearts to heart and talked, “She is like my diary.” Anyone who was an adolescent girl or had an adolescent daughter understands that the intimacy of a girl’s friendship is not entirely a good thing. Compared with boys, girls are more likely to be isolated by their partners and fall victim to malicious rumors.
Friendship between boys usually develops on the axis of activities that are of interest to each other, which is a “side-by-side” friendship. Girls are more inclined to complain to each other, develop empathy, and form “face-to-face” friendships. Out of emotional exposure and connection, the friendship between girls may be more weighty, more dramatic, and of course longer lasting. At least in the United States, boys and their close friends always gradually become estranged during adolescence, while the relationship between girls of the same age is better than ever. The Denver girls Cyrene, Kea, Grace and Orenda played freely together, trying new things together, such as watching movies, checking in to Asian restaurants and planning online events. When discussing heavy topics, they would touch each other’s shoulders, clasp each other’s hands, open their arms generously, and whisper heart-warming words in their ears.
| Daughter |
Parents’ attitudes towards their daughters and their daughter’s response to this may be the biggest difference between girls in the new era and girls in the old era. Many girls believe that home is the place where they are least likely to encounter sexism. In 2018, a survey interviewed girls aged 10 to 19 in the United States, asking them when and where they felt they were being treated differently. The results showed that half of them felt that they were in sports, 1/3 said they were in school and online, and only 1/8 said they were at home. According to a 2014 survey, only 6% of American adult respondents hold a negative attitude towards parenting methods that parents encourage girls to encourage boys.
Ironically, gender stereotypes such as being quiet, sentimental, and good at language are now helping girls. When they were toddlers, they spent more time reading picture books than boys; fathers didn’t discuss various emotions with their sons, but they might talk about sadness with their daughters; mothers were also more likely to say complicated words to their daughters. In this world where soft skills are increasingly valued, these undoubtedly give girls an advantage.
The mother has a profound influence on her daughter. If the mother disagrees with the gender stereotype that the girl lacks mathematics talent, then her daughter may have better mathematics performance; the mother and her daughter openly talking about menstruation and sex will greatly reduce the possibility of her daughter engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors. Studies have shown that girls are more keenly aware of their parents’ encouragement. The 12-year-old Sara likes rock climbing, baking cookies, dissecting things, and dreams of becoming a surgeon. Her most proud works include a frog, a squid, and a dog shark. Dad stimulated her interest in biscuits and anatomy, and mother would bake halal bread with her every Friday. Sarah is full of curiosity about everything, she can’t think of anything she doesn’t want to try.
Daughters can also encourage parents, especially fathers, to change their values. Studies have found that fathers with school-age daughters are more likely to fulfill their duties and responsibilities in the family, and are less likely to stick to traditional gender roles. Having a loving daughter at home will also influence the decision-making of politicians, judges and even CEOs.
Most girls think that their parents’ understanding of the Internet and social media is too one-sided, and it seems that it is just an addictive spiritual opium. The British Communications Authority found that parents are increasingly worried that the Internet will do more harm than good. Anorexia, pornography, erotic text messages, self-harm, detached aesthetic standards, celebrities who admire plastic surgery… all these make parents restless. Compared with their sons, parents are more likely to restrict their daughter’s mobile phone usage frequency. A mother said bluntly: “My daughter matures earlier than her son. She has learned a lot from the Internet, but she also knows the heavy taste of sadomasochism in “Fifty Shades of Ash.”
| Body Master |
Although the definition of girls has been broadened, there is always one thing that makes them feel that they are being scrutinized all the time: their bodies. More than half of the 10-19 year-old girls in the United States believe that charm is the most popular feminine trait in society. Among the 14-19 year-old respondents, 7/10 said that they were judged as sexual objects.
Occasionally, a man yelled “A piece of blondie” at Frankie who was riding a bike. 13-year-old Anna was called by various names when she walked down the street, just because of her dress. A man sent a private message to 14-year-old Amy on Instagram, but she didn’t want to tell her parents. One of the reasons girls do not want to make these comments public is that they are afraid of not being liked. In their view, society regards kindness as a feminine trait second only to charm.
What part of yourself as a girl do you least like? Most people will say “menstruation”, “thick legs” and “hysteria”. But more girls mentioned people’s requirements for them, such as “being like a lady” and “keep smiling”. As early as 1950, a study pointed out that girls are generally very concerned about “fat and thin, tall and short, late or precocious, blackheads and acne, myopia, irregular teeth, unsightly nose and chin recession” and other issues. The British Children’s Association stated that British girls are more dissatisfied with their appearance than in other aspects. In the 1990s, Naomi Wolfe claimed in his best-selling book “The Myth of Beauty” that consumerism’s admiration of women’s appearance led to the prevalence of anorexia in girls’ circles. Since 1999, the number of suicides among girls aged 10 to 14 in the United States has more than tripled. Over the past 12 years, the number of British girls hospitalized for self-harm has increased by nearly two-thirds, and the proportion of girls with signs of depression has increased.
Other changes made us feel relieved. Taking sports as an example, more than a century after the “Father of the Olympics” Coubertin made it clear that women’s participation was “boring, ugly, impractical, and improper”, more girls participated in sports than ever before. Those girls who have less psychological problems generally accept their bodies calmly.
Amy Oppen of the University of Cambridge revealed that although there is already evidence that there is a negative correlation between social media usage and girls’ happiness index, the relationship is very small, as small as the effect of wearing glasses on happiness. A Canadian study found that the early psychological problems of girls may become an incentive to use social media in the future, rather than using social media to cause psychological problems. “My parents may think I am an idiot who can’t tell the truth from the Internet.” Isla from Brighton rolled her eyes. According to a small study, 20% of boys believe that online pornography is a true portrayal of sex, but only 4% of girls. Social media is not the root of all evil. The girls believe in “my body is the master” and don’t think uploading a selfie will make them seem superficial. They are keen to show their creative vibrato videos and Tom Bole homepage.
| Women of Tomorrow |
Due to the improvement of the quality of diet, the puberty of western girls has been much earlier. A quarter of African-American girls enter puberty before the age of 7, and the proportions of Latino and white girls are 15% and 10%, respectively. At the same time, the start of sex is getting late. The extension of education time also gives them more room for development. In 1972, a group of working-class girls in London prioritized their lives: love, husband, and career. Now, the top ones are “fun work”, “change the world” and “economic independence”, “love” is in the middle, and “getting rich” and “children” are at the bottom. For girls in the new era, self-reliance is very important.
At the University of Colorado Boulder, a group of girls had just finished all night for an extra credit math class. They are not too cold about love and marriage, but they have a clear plan for their future. Jenny plans to major in chemistry and piano, and then go to medical school to become a surgeon or professor of medicine. Lu intends to obtain a double degree in computer science and engineering, and then go to the Aerospace Agency to work in artificial intelligence.
High expectations are undoubtedly a kind of pressure. “Do you think you can change the world?” Sarah was a little panicked when she heard this question, “What? Me? God, I can’t solve all problems!” But when you realize that “you” refers to everything As a girl, she breathed a sigh of relief, “Of course we can.”