New York, USA 2013
A few weeks ago I asked my seven-year-old American daughter to draw “what it means to be a girl.”
“What do you mean, ‘what it means to be a girl?’” she asked me. “There are many ways to be a girl.”
“I know.” I told her. “But I want to know what it means for you.”
So she drew this, and I was captivated.
For her, “being a girl” means “being yourself.” It means loving snarky fiction, junk food, pop culture, animals, and action. Knowing her, I know this assertion – and her selection of objects – reflects a pride and a struggle to be authentic in a sea of gendered expectations.
But, like any parent, my child’s assertions tend to captivate me in different ways; this one fills me with wonder, and it makes me worry. The wonder is personal; not likely of interest beyond our circle. The worry, however, is social; likely reflecting our moment in time, place, and space: What does it mean that, even as children, Americans tend to experience gender nonconformity in purely individual terms? What does it mean that, like adults, American children often express gender – and gender nonconformity – through dichotomized consumption?
For now, though, at her seven years, I’ll return to the wonder.