© Ru Pearson
Learning to honour and reclaim girlhood in a Barbie world has become a new path for women to embrace their girly passions without shame, subverting the stereotypes associated with femininity altogether.
In the early days of modern home computers, weighing just a little less than a small elephant, I remember experimenting with my microsoft word skills to create collages and headlines for my own makeshift girls-only magazine covers. I dreamt of recreating the magic the glitzy aisles of local newsstands offered little me back then. Evidently, I’ve kept that dream in the back of my mind and only a few short months ago, when I started writing for INJECTION and the realisation that little me’s big dream had come true somehow, I started thinking about girlhood and its importance.
Can you be a happier girl by becoming a woman first? I am sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘growing up too fast’ too many times and too little too late to matter. So, what if growing up, maturing, could be the way to pick up where you left off and enjoy the things you liked as a girl without the pressure of abandoning your passions in the name of growing up to become a woman? After all, men are allowed to carry their boyhood interests throughout adulthood and no one bats an eye, so why shouldn’t you shamelessly pick up your old Taylor Swift CD’s or binge-watch the Winx cartoons on a rainy day? Why not connect again with what you were forced to let go off too soon or disregard for fear of being shamed? If there’s a time to say ‘yes’ to all these questions, it must surely be now. Since the pandemic, more and more nostalgia is filling the creative sphere but nostalgia puts into question almost all it touches these days. Looking back on how ruthlessly today’s generation of women have been treated as girls, the figure of the young girl or the teenage girl is finally populating the critical discourse it is owed.
Through the TikTok trend of collecting memories into a carousel of flashbacks that sift through the highs and lows of being a girl and the pivotal moments that form the fibre of future women, a new introspective consciousness has formed. A new understanding and a new - found empathy for our younger selves spurts from looking back at girlhood with a pair of mature eyes. We can finally see how our time as girls is lived inadvertently between pivotal moments and mundane occurrences that we look back on nostalgically and realise, ‘yeah, that mattered’.
© Nassima Alloueche
Reclaiming girlhood is becoming a part of adulthood that is being represented more and more in creative media; Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (2023), Taylor Swift re-release of her teenage-days albums, even the uber-popular Y2K aesthetic incorporates elements of long-lost girly staples of simpler days. Think of the plastic butterfly hair clips, baby tees, beaded necklaces in bright colours and the overabundance of pink. All this and more form a new space for girls and nostalgic women to feel that the validity of their femininity does not exclude their intellect and both have and can coexist, despite the patriarchy’s hard attempts to convince the world of the opposite. This idea is gaining traction as I write this article. Look around, the Barbie movie has grossed over a billion dollars already, the Eras Tour is soon to follow, the Twilight Renaissance is thriving so successfully that reboot is already in the works and Paris Hilton has successfully iconified herself as a real-life Barbie embracing her femininity while flaunting a law degree.
With the rising popularity of different aesthetics on social media, a large window has been opened into the multidimensional significance of ‘girly’ aesthetics in intersectional feminism. Bimbocore, Barbiecore, Coquettecore and many other popular ultra-feminine aesthetics announce a new dawn for female expression that approaches girlhood and femininity with the outer superficial adherence to materialism that has been the subject of ridiculisation for decades. It’s the Elle Woods effect that adopts a purposefully deceitful pink exterior to test how much people, men especially, judge a person based on their level of femininity or ‘girliness’. With a sharp eye and tongue, we aren’t afraid to roll out a pre-made speech on the importance of respecting women regardless of their appearance. Stating proudly and warning loudly that presenting as feminine or ‘girly’ is not an invitation to point out shallowness and superficiality and if one even dares to mock it, they will surely be proved wrong. This new train of thought is here to reclaim all things ‘girly’ as part of a feminist rhetoric that seeks to validate all women in all ways they choose to present.
© Nassima Alloueche
Throughout all of this, a message is sent to younger generations: don’t let the pressure of growing up come in the way of your passions and identity. There’s already enough pressure on young people and young women especially, to grow up fast and become functioning members of a capitalist society; let’s not add on more pressure on ourselves. Let’s take time to grow.
Head over to the INJECTION Podcast to hear more about this topic