📑 What’s in a Girl?

Bookmarked What’s in a Girl? (Meanjin)

The Young-Girl is an empty vessel. And this is because—like Temple, like Drouet, like Shields, like Pecola—she does not exist for herself: she exists only for the pleasure of others in society, for the impossible example she sets for flesh-and-blood girls. Her existence is only to embody the meanings—always in service of another’s ends—with which she will be imbued.

Kali Myers explores the construction of the girl.

Marginalia

The Young-Girl is a social category created through film, television, media, magazines, the social imaginary, the arts and literature. This social category is at once ephemeral and the standard by which all flesh-and-blood girls are measured. The category ‘girl’ did not exist before the eighteenth century.

In Tiqqun’s terminology, then, the Young-Girl is an |absolute|, a tautology. Consumed because she has value, imbued with value because she is consumed; desirable because she is frivolous, frivolous because she is desirable. Like a snake eating its tail, the Young-Girl co-habits with her image, which is the only thing she has to offer either herself or society. Created out of her consumption, the Young-Girl is at once incredibly powerful and incredibly weak. She seduces by consuming. And the victims of this seduction are the flesh-and-blood girls encouraged to re-create themselves in her image.

In 2015 Melbourne-based toy maker Moose Toys created a new product called Shopkins. That same year Shopkins were named Girls’ Toy of the Year by the US Toy Industry Association. Their success led to CEO Manny Stul being inducted into the Australian Toy Association Hall of Fame in 2017. Shopkins are tiny anthropomorphised groceries sold as collectable items in bright coloured packaging covered in bubble letters. Each character has a name and a story, fleshed out through an online portal featuring games, colouring-in sheets, interactive activities and a web-based animation series. The Shopkins world is rounded out with trading cards, clothing lines and even a newly launched live-show extravaganza—all celebrating the notion and act of shopping. Alliteratively named, generally gendered feminine and absolutely adorable, Claudia Cake, Molly Mop, Bettina Bag and friends are just so excited to teach you all about consumerism!

We’ve seen how the notion of the Young-Girl as assemblage created from various narratives and representations has become pervasive. We’ve also seen how the Young-Girl’s synonymy with consumer culture leads to her replication regardless of where she is in the world. Now we must acknowledge how that representation edges out others who cannot see themselves reflected in her radiant image.

The Young-Girl is an empty vessel. And this is because—like Temple, like Drouet, like Shields, like Pecola—she does not exist for herself: she exists only for the pleasure of others in society, for the impossible example she sets for flesh-and-blood girls. Her existence is only to embody the meanings—always in service of another’s ends—with which she will be imbued.

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