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)