With the rise of “girl power” and girls outperforming boys at school, it seems we are at the dawn of a new “post-feminist” world where women have achieved equality with men in many aspects. Young girls growing up these days do not need to worry about their place in Western society. Or do they?
In the book chapter “Phallic Girls?: Girls’ Negotiation of Phallogocentric Power” Emma Renold and Jessica Ringrose question the possibility of the existence of the “alpha girl”: a girl who is “poised to change the world, economically, politically, and socially, as a new hybrid that embodies the best traits of masculinity and femininity. This new hybrid is somehow confident, assertive, competitive, autonomous, future oriented, risk taking, as well as collaborative, relationship oriented, and not obsessed with boyfriends or her physical appearance”.
Renold and Ringrose interviewed young girls to find out how they are to miraculously balance the masculine (rational, competitive, sexually assertive) with the feminine (nice, nurturing, passive, sexually desirable).
While reading pieces from the interview, it actually struck me how the young girls were criticizing each other:
We don’t like geeky girls,” “tomboys,” “mosher girls,” and “smelly” “disgusting girls that fanc[y] another girl . . . a lesbian.
It seems that young girls are quite harsh in their negotiation of “being clever” with “being feminine”, especially for each other. For instance, when it comes to being clever:
Nyla[,] yeah[,] she always goes off[,] and she is really moody[,]
yeah[,] and she rushes her work[,] and then she gets a sticker. She then goes
out to play and says[,] [“O]h no one can do those sums and everything[,] and
I can![,”] and she always shows off. We call her Moody’s Point! . . .
But girls shouldn’t be too feminine either:
She’s kind of [a] slut if you think of, in my perspective, it’s not like she’s fat and she’s like, she looks horrible, she has got a nice figure but like she shouldn’t do it, she shouldn’t show it off to everyone.
And it’s not just young schoolgirls. I guess grown up women are also doing their fair share of criticizing other women. It made me wonder: in women’s attempt to battle gender inequality, did a new form of inequality emerge? Instead of competing with men for power and status, are women now competing with each other to become the best new ‘hybrid’ of femininity? And are women competing for something that is not possible anyway? Feminism is dead. Long live feminism.
J. Landreau, N. M. Rodriguez (2011). Phallic girls?: girls’ negotiations of phallogocentric power Queer Masculinities: A Critical Reader in Education
Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t