What does it mean to be a girl?
Usually, this is met with laughs. Some will tell you it means wearing layers of makeup. Some will say it means shopping, painting your nails, being air-headed, and not being able to meet high expectations.
The struggles young girls face in our westernized, modern society is subtle and noticeable, startling yet unsurprising. The largely thrown-around phrase “play like a girl” is meant to bring to mind a feeble, untalented person not capable of showing any great skill. The word “girl” has been burned onto our minds as the lowest of insults, warped into something completely beyond its actual meaning. While this isn’t the same for all households, it has more or less been defined by society that girls are “weaklings”. A girl’s voice is often shut up and locked away, her victories undermined, her talents praised but always pushed down to a level where it can be contained instead of revolutionizing the world like they should.
Why is that? Why does a mere label have so much effect on the futures of young girls today? The logic behind social construction can never be explained. It just always has been; a form of tradition society is unwilling to release completely. Girls in poorer countries are deprived of an education because their minds are not deemed fit for the exploration of such knowledge. Girls get married at a young age, much of the time against their will, because the family’s connections with others are more important than her freedom. Even girls who are sent to receive a higher level of education are pushed to choose careers in pathways that will make her seem more “eligible” as a bride, as if that is the only thing that she exists for.
Perhaps it is physical strength that has a role in the matter. A girl is born less strong, physically, than others, and it is immediately perceived as a representation of her inner “weakness”. She should be assigned to “homely” chores around the house, and shouldn’t be trusted with more important affairs. Girls everywhere are deprived of having the right to choose their pathways in life, because of an ideology we are unable to let go of.
We are extremely lucky to be living in a world where the futures of young girls are becoming more and more of a priority. Nations around the world are gradually realizing that a girl is more than just a form of social construction, and instituting programs that raise awareness for the cause. A girl’s voices are being heard more and more, and helping others to do the same.
So what does it mean to be a girl?
It means being brave and strong. It means being kind, and beautiful, and standing up for your rights. It means striving to make your victories known to the world and staring it down when it tries to push you down. It means having people acknowledge the fact that you are more than just a shell of a human being. It means demanding your hard-earned respect. It means being anything and everything your heart desires.
In short, being a girl means being you.