“Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield

This weekend a friend showed me a blog called Girl Culture where the moderator posts highlights from Lauren Greenfield’s photography book Girl Culture, which was first published in 2002.  The site features eight pages of photographs of young girls and women, as well as a handful of really powerful excerpts from interviews with girls between 6 and 19 years old.

 An interview that really stuck out to me was with a “popular” 13 year old girl named Hannah.  In her quote, she describes what it meant and what it takes to be popular at her middle school. The part that struck me is how the requirements for being popular are different for boys than they are for girls. Obviously the popular kids of both genders have to be sexually desirable, but the girls have to look pretty while the boys have to be good at sports. This 13 year old’s idea of popularity/identity relates so smoothly back to Laura Mulvey’s argument that men are expected to be active while women are expected to be passive that it is kind of scary to see how early on these ideals are engrained in us.

“Girl Culture” was Lauren Greenfield’s attempt at deconstructing the effects of popular culture, doing the same thing we do in our class every week through her photographs.  In her artist statement, Greenfield wrote:

The photographs in this book and exhibition are both very personal and very public. They are about what is private and what is public and where the line that divides the two lies, when that line exists at all anymore. They are about the popular culture that we share and the way the culture leaves its imprint on individuals in their most public and private moments.

This reminded me of the Walkerdine essay and this unescapable idea that we have to have two selves and present these selves at different times in different ways that are deemed societally acceptable, as opposed to being able to be ourselves.

(Lauren Greenfield’s artist statement)

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3 thoughts on ““Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield

  1. I think this is a really good read of the particular “popular” interview in relation to Mulvey.

    I also thought that the example with the interview of 15-year old Sheena, from San Jose, California, was interesting as well. In one part she says, “Just because they’re bi and female doesn’t mean girls can’t think like a guy does.” I thought this was really relevant to our discussion of the phallic gaze. The term phallic does not simply imply the male perspective, and I thought that Sheena, through her bi personal story, really shed light on the fact that the phallic gaze is used regardless of gender and sex.

    I also thought six year old Lily’s example did a good job of demonstrating how women are more critical of the way other women dress than men are. Lily stated, “If I don’t dress well, I feel geeky. And if I feel nice, I feel like people like me. Fashionable clothing is way better and cool.” I feel women are more inclined to dress better for other women, to dress to impress other women, not men. And a six-year old is capable of pointing that out to us.

    Thanks for posting this blog link! It is definitely an interesting look on girl culture, and I feel it sheds so much light on many of our class discussions.

    • Thanks for affirming my thoughts on this blog that I am now completely obsessed with. I’m trying to get the book now and will definitely bring it to class when it arrives.

  2. Pingback: Post-feminist Celebrities and the Price of Self-Interest | Girlpower

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