Let Us *Be*

Inglewood, CA - August 03: Taylor Swift fan Morgan Scott, 11, of Los Angeles shows her friendship br...
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Girlhood Isn’t Fleeting — Society Just Thinks It’s Cringe

So just enjoy your Stanley cups, your Taylor Swift, your moisturizer.

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I have three daughters, and it’s my favorite fact about myself. “Long live girlhood” is pretty much our family mantra. Because despite what so many think, girlhood isn’t fleeting. If 2023 taught us anything about women, it’s that we know how to enjoy ourselves — and we’re tired of squashing that joy. We can still make friendship bracelets; we can proclaim our love for romantasy books; we can make nap dresses our entire personality — even if the whole world thinks it’s cringe.

If there’s one thing I hate for my three girls to see, it’s so many people mocking grown women for doing things that they insist my daughters should be doing as children. “It goes by too fast, enjoy it while you can!” people shout about childhood, about girlhood. Then they turn around and sneer at grown women also trying to enjoy it — life, Stanley cups, snacky dinners, whatever — because they worry it’s a sign of moral decay or frivolity or the decline of the Great American Experiment as we know it.

Like the pearl clutching response to young girls asking for skin care for Christmas. What are these little girls doing? Don’t they know they should just be enjoying themselves? They have the rest of their lives to worry about things like that. Girlhood is fleeting! There’s plenty of time to worry about makeup later. Girls just need to be little. Except, of course, as they grow we need them to start shaving their legs and armpits lest they look disgusting. We need them to start caring for themselves, but ope! That’s too much makeup! They really need to tone it down.

You don’t get to decide what girls can find joyful and the expiration date on the joy.

Girls should be playing with Barbies! But not for too long. Grown women wearing hot pink dresses and going to see a movie about Barbie is a little embarrassing. And adult women should definitely not be running to Target to buy a specific hot pink cup they want.

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Because little girls who delight in things will turn into women who delight in things and that’s just frivolous. We can’t have grown women tuning into the NFL because Taylor Swift is there. A shirtless Jason Kelce screaming and chugging beer and jumping out of the suite so that he can interact with his brother’s fans is fine. But Taylor Swift jumping inside the box and doing heart hands at people while she wears her boyfriend’s number? Come on. What kind of mockery do you hope to make of our most beloved sporting pastime?

Everything a woman enjoys becomes a joke once she reaches a certain age. That is, until this year, when women reclaimed some of that energy. Our “hot girl walks” sound frivolous until we call them that ourselves. A dinner consisting of crackers and cheese and olives becomes a “girl dinner,” but not in an unserious way — in a way that gives us ownership. This is what we want to eat; this is what we’re having for dinner. Believe me when I tell you that enjoying what you enjoy just because you enjoy it gives confidence to the little girls watching. Pleasing yourself is the best way to teach someone to grow up and do the same.

You don’t get to mock women for enjoying things — any things! all the things! — and then turn around and demand that girls start enjoying those same things.

The truth is that this mythical age of innocence — the innocence so many people think little girls should experience — has long been dead. And not because of TikTok or the Kardashians or Taylor Swift, but because puberty has doubled in length in the last decade. Because there’s a “national crisis” of anxiety for teenage girls. Because of proposed bills that reverse child labor laws. Because of the wage gap that hasn’t changed in two decades. Because of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade (and dozens of other state and local measures), girls now have fewer rights over their reproductive futures than their grandmothers did.

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Fighting for our interests and our dreams and our enjoyment isn’t frivolous — it’s confidence. It’s activism. “It’s worth thinking about what has driven girls — so minimized and degraded — to spend these hot months seeking refuge in spaces that declare without hesitation that girls matter and their tastes and passions deserve attention,” Mattie Kahn wrote in an essay for Instyle. “We don’t know whether it will move them to protest or mint a new generation of activists. But we do know that girlhood mania has done it before.”

You don’t get to pick and choose which part of childhood is childish and which is too grown-up. You don’t get to decide what girls can find joyful and the expiration date on the joy. You don’t get to mock women for enjoying things — any things! all the things! — and then turn around and demand that girls start enjoying those same things.

But they should enjoy childhood while they can! They’re only little once! They have the rest of their lives to be grown! All of that is true, sure. But joy is forever. And in a world that constantly tells my girls they don’t matter, they aren’t enough, they don’t count, I want them to find joy any and everywhere. Long live girlhood — even if it annoys everyone else.

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