In her revolutionary book The Second Sex philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argues:
One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
What she means is that in traditional societies, boys have been taught how to become hunters or builders or businessmen or preachers or anything else that appeals to them. They’ve been encouraged to follow the call to adventure. Girls, on the other hand, have been taught how to be women: meek, mild, sweet, beautiful, helpful, helpless supporting characters in the stories told by men.
But before we become women, we are girls, and there’s a power in girlhood.
I use the term girl often, even when I’m referring to myself (and I’m no spring chicken). Some women find that insulting, as if I’m speaking down to them.
Read what de Beauvoir has to say about girls:
The young girl throws herself into things with ardor, because she is not yet deprived of her transcendence…
When I refer to you as a girl, I’m speaking up to you. I’m suggesting that you have all the potential for transcending the myths of womanhood that might otherwise burden you with false modesty and needless insecurity.
When I address you as a girl, I do so with respect and admiration. If you are a grown woman, like I am, I am addressing the part of your spirit that has remained untamed despite every attempt by society to domesticate you. I am summoning up that part of you that defiantly broke Bobby Smith’s nose when he pulled your pigtail in Kindergarten. I’m speaking to the part of you that dreamed of becoming Rambo when the world told you to be Barbie.
I’m asking you to access that part of you that was (and remains) fearless, passionate, and confident that you can become whoever you feel called to become.
P.S.If you’re interested in learning more about Simone de Beauvoir, I highly recommend Stephen West’s brilliant podcast Philosophize This as a way to dip your toes in the very deep waters. He’s dedicated three episodes to her ideas, and his admiration for her makes these an inspiring and easy-to-follow introduction to a truly transcendent thinker. When you get done with those episodes, keep going. West’s whole project is a powerful tool for deeper thinking.