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Embracing Girlhood

Embracing Girlhood

EMBRACING GIRLHOOD by Elizabeth Robinson of Valentina Leon, Avion Collins, and Olivia Schotthoefer / Assisted by Joelle Beauchamp and Maddi Hill / styled by Marisa Fisher / featuring 'Dancing with Minerva' designed by Cassidy Marshall / hair and makeup by Brynn Beauchamp

By Jaden Merimee

What is girlhood? Ask a thousand women, and you’ll get a thousand answers. Girlhood is a transformative journey marked by curiosity, resilience, and self-discovery. The feminine experience is all about exploration. Our existence is a constant battle for recognition. From childhood to adolescence, all the way into adulthood, we are forced to navigate the complexities of identity, relationships, societal expectations, racism, assault, and so much more. Girlhood is a time of laughter and tears. Beauty and horror. It’s a lifetime of dreams and aspirations. It’s a never-ending challenge, regardless of its size.

Girlhood is not something that can easily be put in a box and labeled. Girlhood is something we have that encompasses a feeling, a memory, an experience and an overall community. Girlhood is the mindset that brings girls together. It is not an aesthetic but an act of empowerment.

Girlhood pertains to supporting one another as girls and embracing ourselves and each other for who we are despite the challenges we face. In today’s society, women face being stereotyped, oversexualized, unsafe, underestimated and more.

The feminine experience allows women to feel safe and be ourselves. It builds trust amongst women in just being there for one another. It’s the mindset of finding the beauty in being a girl, especially throughout the pressures faced in the world.

Girlhood is the moments of playing mermaids in the pool, tanning at the beach, keeping your girl’s drinks safe, staying up all night talking with one another, accomplishing your goals and so much more. The list goes on because every moment, every accomplishment, every struggle and every feeling we face as girls is girlhood. Girlhood sheds light on all moments, the good, the bad and the scary. The feminine experience allows girls to connect with a community and themselves.

While it brings out a sisterhood, girlhood is so much more. It is a diverse set of experiences women go through. Every woman has their own personal meaning of girlhood. While it shares a connection amongst girls, it incorporates an individual experience.

With how women are subjected to the vast amount of stereotypes and racism that undervalue our place in this world, girlhood helps to embrace our quirks.

Girlhood can incorporate the embellishment of femininity without judgment or subjecting us to it being all that we are. It can incorporate the masculine energy girls bring without criticism of who we are and how we present ourselves.

For some, girlhood centers on the broader challenges women face, while others associate it with familiar experiences from childhood. It’s also seen as a way to heal your inner child, as well as protecting that girl in you from the fear of being sexualized. In a world where no matter what women do, they will be judged, girlhood brings awareness to shed light on their core selves.

After asking women in a survey what girlhood meant to them, many said that it is about the experiences girls face. Whether the experiences are about growing up or their femininity, with each other or individually, women have their own personal meaning to this community feeling.

“Girlhood is the embodiment of the feminine mindset in that there is a respect for one's sister girls, there is an appreciation of beauty, and the drive to better oneself as an individual,” Paige Korman, a survey respondent, said.

She said the difference with womanhood is that it is the grown-up sister of girlhood. She said while girlhood is more playful, open and rambunctious, womanhood is mature, reserved and beautiful.

“Womanhood is Meryl Streep while girlhood is Millie Bobby Brown,” Korman said. “Both are beautiful in their own way but one of them has a certain dignity and respect that the other one lacks.

Emma Regalado, another respondent said that girlhood is the community and support that she finds with other women. She said it can include some experiences like women lending tampons and hair ties to each other, teaching each other how to do makeup and crying on a shoulder in the girl's bathroom.

Regalado said she finds womanhood to be more mature.

“I felt girlhood when I told my friends about my crushes and they promised to keep it secret,” Regalado said. “I felt womanhood when my childhood best friend helped me escape my abuser. Girlhood is instinctive, womanhood is a vow made to girlhood.”

Madison Schamber said that from childhood girls play with dolls, makeup and outfits without social expectations or standards. She said girlhood is about embracing that childhood innocence for yourself and no one else.

“Girlhood to me is embracing femininity without barriers of judgment,” Schamber said. “It is the right to be unapologetically female without feeling shame.”

Schamber said she finds a difference between womanhood and girlhood. She said womanhood is about becoming an adult and freely exploring your sexuality, appearance and values. She said womanhood is about embracing femininity, sexiness as well as masculinity and how those identities co-exist.

“Girlhood is more innocent to me, the childhood wonder of femininity and what it means to grow up as a girl with no knowledge or pressure of sexism, societal ideals of women and beauty standards,” Schamber said. “I think you can experience both at the same time, or identify more closely with one experience, and also have lots of overlap between them.”

Bottom line, girlhood is a message to women recognizing our individuality as girls yet community as women. It comes with the good and the bad, the issues and the memories, because being a girl is complicated, being a girl is beautiful, being a girl is powerful and being a girl is unique.

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