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September 21, 2023

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Students discuss girlhood and femininity as a part of Women’s History Month

As part of Women’s History Month, students got a chance to discuss girlhood and femininity.

The event was hosted in the Union by instructor of theatre and film Roz Sibielski and Chris Klein, graduate assistant in the office of multicultural affairs. The event was part of the Ethnic Student Center Discussion Series.

The disussion started with Sibielski asking the question, “what is a girl?” She explained that concepts of girlhood are very diverse, stretching from females young and old and across sexes.

“[Girlhood] encompasses a lot of different people,” Sibielski said.

Sibielski said ideas of girls and boys haven’t always been around.

“It’s interesting that girl did not exist as an identity before the 19th century,” she said.

Before that, she said children were just seen as “mini adults.”

The topic of the color coding of gender was also discussed. Sibielski said the idea of pink and blue came relitively recently, and was originally reversed.

Klein brought up that toys are often very gendered not only by their subjects, but also by color.

Sibielski said toys often reinforce gender roles and keep children from exploring alternative roles.

She said there are some toys that allow girls to explore subjects outside of feminine stereotypes, such as GoldieBlox, a construction set aimed at girls, but don’t go far enough.

“I want to encourage this so much, but all the parts are pastel colors and the girls are very much in line with traditional ideas,” Sibielski.

Klein mentioned the double standard between the breaching of gender roles between genders.

He gave the example of Boy and Girl Scouts, and said it’s okay for a girl to go into Boy Scouts, but it’s seen as “a sin” for a boy to go into Girl Scouts.

He and others attributed this to girls being seen as lesser; women stepping into men’s positions raise their status, but men stepping into women’s roles lower their status.

Junior Chris Lanton thought the discussion was enlightening and informative. He was surprised to learn that the colors for genders were once opposite and was glad he took something away from the event.

Sophomore Mercedes Chumbley came to the discussion, finding it informative.

She found it interesting hearing older people’s perspectives on femininity and seeing how media portrays gender.

“I like it,” she said, “I want to go to more of them.”

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