Exis­ting as a girl under the patri­ar­chy isn’t easy.

An artic­le by Maxi­ne Katz and Ron­ja Zemmrich

As young women gro­wing up under the patri­ar­chy, we rea­li­ze that the cons­traints and pres­su­res we suf­fer under seem to be infi­ni­te. Our oppres­si­on is not only mani­fes­ted in ageism, but also in many other fac­tors, con­side­ring the fact that we are girls living in a man-domi­na­ted world.

It is all around us

The uni­que inter­sec­tion of age and gen­der make girls coming of age par­ti­cu­lar­ly vul­nerable to phy­si­cal, emo­tio­nal, sexu­al, and men­tal health issues. The mar­xist-exis­ten­tia­list Simo­ne de Beau­voir once wro­te: „One is not born, but rather beco­mes a woman.”

Learn to be a women

The time of girl­hood acts as a pre­pa­ra­ti­on. It is a tran­si­ti­on bet­ween being a child and being socia­li­sed as a woman. One could cla­im that to be fema­le is crea­ted by socie­ty. The “pro­per” way to dress, speak, behave and think is taught. The­r­e­fo­re our society’s view of femin­in­i­ty is demons­tra­ted through an altera­ti­on of self.

The role teenage girls take on in our socie­ty can be descri­bed as a dou­ble-edged sword. Due to the fetis­hi­sa­ti­on of youth, teenage girls are regard­ed as the beau­ty stan­dard. Most beau­ty stan­dards, such as smooth skin and hair­less bodies, are roo­ted in pedo­phi­lia and lead to young girls being regard­ed as the embo­di­ment of the­se ide­als. Girl­hood is most often repre­sen­ted as a glamo­rous and gol­den time for women. During this peri­od women are seen as being at the peak of their exis­tence. It also seems as if girls have true power at this time. This power mani­fests its­elf in the abili­ty of get­ting into clubs, recei­ving atten­ti­on and free drinks.

What girlhood truly means

But this “power” is not given, it is lent. It does not exist uncon­di­tio­nal­ly, but at the expen­se of teenage girls’ huma­ni­ty. Teenage girls’ bodies are objec­ti­fied and ulti­m­ate­ly only seen as a com­mo­di­ty. The pri­vi­le­ges are only given in return for the pos­si­bi­li­ty of sex. Ulti­m­ate­ly, this posi­ti­on is also flee­ting and pre­ca­rious, as women over the age of thir­ty are not tru­ly valued by socie­ty in the way teen girls are.

The sexua­li­sa­ti­on young women expe­ri­ence is even more pre­va­lent for teenage girls of color, as they are dee­med as more matu­re. As Mik­ki Kend­all sug­gests in her book “Hood Femi­nism”, this “adul­ti­fi­ca­ti­on remo­ves the pos­si­bi­li­ty of inno­cence from young girls, espe­ci­al­ly Black girls.”

The downside is often accepted

This intrin­sic rela­ti­onship bet­ween girls, their appearance and socie­ty lead to an inter­nal con­flict. Many girls seek this power that they are offe­red, all though they are awa­re that it is dis­em­powe­ring and dama­ging. It is dama­ging in the sen­se that it fur­ther­mo­re sup­ports this rela­ti­onship, as well as lea­ding to self-objectification.

A para­do­xi­cal cir­cum­s­tance ari­ses: In order for girls to gain power, they have to give up their alre­a­dy exis­ting power in order to appeal to men. The only impres­si­on girls have of femin­in­i­ty is aimed for male con­sump­ti­on. And while girls are awa­re of their pre­ca­rious posi­ti­on, they rea­li­se that this situa­ti­on only occurs becau­se their worth is not depen­dent on their own huma­ni­ty, but only becau­se of their rela­ti­on to men.

What if I just refuse

One can obser­ve that the bene­fits of girl­hood are con­di­tio­nal to the ful­film­ent of cer­tain stan­dards. But what if the­se impos­si­ble stan­dards are not met? By not achie­ving the­se ide­als, it leads to a dis­con­nect from girl­hood, as it is por­tray­ed. Becau­se the “per­fect girl” is an ide­al for­med to maxi­mi­ze con­sump­ti­on and fur­ther­mo­re fuel capi­ta­lism, the stan­dard is pur­po­seful­ly unat­tainable. The mold of woman­hood is desi­gned to enforce the noti­on that it is only attainable through con­sump­ti­on, which it at last will never be. This dis­con­nect often leads to the attempt of try­ing to sepa­ra­te ones­elf from other girls, as well as the inter­na­li­sing of misogyny. 

Now, how are girls coming of age per­pe­tua­ting and repro­du­cing patri­ar­chal regimes? The ans­wer lies in struc­tu­red miso­gy­ny (inter­na­li­zed by women to an ext­ent as by men, reve­al­ing its­elf in “Girl-Hate”) and the power it has on young fema­le bodies. Inter­na­li­sed miso­gy­ny starts in kin­der­gar­ten and pri­ma­ry school, the­r­e­fo­re beco­mes a con­stant com­pa­n­ion of one’s girlhood. 

Competition above cooperation

Having a rest­ric­ted view of femin­in­i­ty and woman­hood whe­re a girl/woman must sub­vert all tra­di­tio­nal noti­ons of woman­hood and chall­enge the exis­tence of others, deems femi­ni­ne rela­ti­onships as a com­pe­ti­ti­on rather than col­la­bo­ra­ti­on. Yes, inter­na­li­sed miso­gy­ny can be per­cei­ved as the anti­the­sis of femi­nism, howe­ver it is unfort­u­na­te­ly an obs­ta­cle that most femi­nists have to enga­ge with, due to the inher­ent patri­ar­chal struc­tu­re of our world. 

The appeal at this point must be: Only pro­found coope­ra­ti­on bet­ween girls from young on (espe­ci­al­ly in a tran­si­tio­ning peri­od such as girl­hood) helps to stop the per­pe­tua­ti­on of the dis­cri­mi­na­to­ry struc­tures of patri­ar­chy. The key word here may be soli­da­ri­ty. In this situa­ti­on we can­not rely on the ally­ship of men, as we can­not count on them to libe­ra­te us from the sys­tem they bene­fit from. The dif­fe­rent mani­fes­ta­ti­ons of patri­ar­chal cons­traints around the world affect women to very dif­fe­rent degrees. Coope­ra­ti­on wit­hout soli­da­ri­ty can the­r­e­fo­re not exist.

Polen legt den Rück­wärts­gang ein: Wie unser Nach­bar­land LGBTQIA*-Rechte mit Füßen tritt.

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