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beauty is pop culture // sex rules the world 

  • Ennie Fakoya.

Who Gets to Be a Girl? Girlhood & Secrecy.

Black Girlhood
Jada Bovia

Who Gets to Be a Girl? Dissecting Black Girlhood Then and Now.

Experiencing girlhood isn’t promised. For centuries, women have been forced to shed parts of their youth that deemed them as girls. The Encyclopedia defines this period of girlhood as a ‘privileged experience’, considering that, “In this manner, the end of childhood and the beginning of womanhood happens early and fairly seamlessly in colonial society.” Women were made into women before they even got to be girls. They were reared and trained for the day that they would marry instead of being congratulated for any milestone that was a show of their independent merit or skill.

Black Girlhood
Girlhood (2014) by Céline Sciamma.

In recent times, however, the prospect of girlhood has become a mainstream phenomenon, praised for the nostalgia-inducing media and a certain desire for play. But in every listicle and ranking you search on Google, media surrounding black girlhood is alarmingly sparse.

Enter Girlhood (2014) by Céline Sciamma; story of black girlhood, taking place in the projects of Paris. Marieme, our central protagonist, joins an all-girl gang to escape her complicated life, and as a result she is thrust into the world of shoplifting, fighting pits where snatching bras and shirts from other girls is considered a win, and most importantly, female friendships. Filmobsessive notes that, “Female circles of friends often seem impenetrable to an outsider, so when welcomed into one, it is easy to feel like the whole universe has acknowledged you as well.”

In a world where women are targets for simply existing, the feeling one experiences from having friends is indescribable. Your teenage years never let you breathe, and in turn, the world doesn’t either.

Black Girlhood

Black women have long since bore the harshest brunt when it comes to fighting themselves as a result of growing up too fast. According to Girlhood Interrupted, a report written at Georgetown University, “Caricatures of Black femininity are often deposited into distinct chambers of our public consciousness.” Tyler Perry movies are rife with said caricatures, where black women are never nuanced enough to show the full brevity of their being. We are placed into the same angry box that, on the surface might seem self aware, but at the core there is no substance. Black women are treated as though the very beginning and end of them will be their role as women.

Black Girlhood

In the same vein, black girlhood compared to its white counterparts is still an issue. The same report states that, “ Compared to white girls of the same age, Black girls need less nurturing, less protection, know more about sex and adult topics, are more independent, etc.” The adultification of young girls is only a reflection of older traditional models that have yet to change.

Girlhood is a privilege and femininity is inevitable.

Girlhood, however, is being reclaimed by black women. From donning endless shades of pink, consuming and partaking in subcultures that were previously partial to them, or living a soft life, black women have realised that womanhood is whatever one decides it to be. It isn’t uncommon to see an older black woman donned in bright, eye-catching colours, boisterous in her laugh and kind because she wants to be. What was once considered a fantasy - the freedom of expression - has seeped into the previously confined walls of womanhood and nostalgia is a privilege that black women can indulge in freely. To an extent there is still work to be done, and a part of me feels like there will always be work to be done. Black women are sometimes the ones shaming and degrading other black women for what they can and can’t do depending on their upbringing. Self-hate is not surprising, considering it is a byproduct of inherent racism, but it shouldn’t stop women from pampering their inner girl with the love she craved.


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