This semester I have the opportunity to spend a great deal of my time on a lone documentary project. Though I have no idea what I’ll call it, or even what exactly it is I’m hoping to uncover, I’ve taken it upon myself to photograph what it means to grow up a twenty-first century American girl.
My mother’s side of the family breeds tall, opinionated, women. Since my grandparents were married in 1959 there have been only two boys born into our kinship. Being raised with all sisters in the 60/70’s, my mother was brought up with the “girls can do anything guys can do” mentality. This carried through to my childhood as well. Very rarely, growing up, did it come to my attention that boys and girls do different things. My father played a huge part in this too. Being an only child, I stepped into the “son role” and he took me along wherever he went. It wasn’t as if I was being forced into spending time with the guys, I genuinely enjoyed it. The best way I can describe my young self is as an incredibly girly, tomboy. Weekends were spent wearing princess dresses in junkyards, elbow high in grease. These are some of my fondest memories.
When I grew old enough to notice how most families raised their sons and daughters differently I was floored. Not once in my home had someone told me I couldn’t do something because “girls don’t go fishing or play with Hotwheels”. In my family this mentality is known as the “no dinky” rule. As a child (and honestly even now as an adult) whenever I was kept from doing something because I was a girl my mom would look at me a say “no dinky” which translates quite sarcastically to “they think you can’t do this because you were born without a penis”. Of course, being a strong-willed individual, such ideals only fueled the “girls can do anything guys can do” fire and I was left constantly trying to prove myself: throwing the football farther, climbing the tree higher, swimming the length of the pond faster. Everything became a contest between myself and a male cousin who is only three months older: air hockey, mini-golf, test grades, 4-H judging, even ridiculous things like seeing who could eat the most bacon. To this day he reminds me that he walked at seven months; I walked at fourteen. I remind him that I graduated 5th in our class; he graduated 8th. With him, it’s friendly competition, but not so much with others.
This upbringing has peaked my interest in documenting different aspects of growing up female in American culture. During this multifaceted project it is my goal to show a wide variety of what exactly it means to grow up girl by investigating places/activities commonly thought of as dominated by females and the young ladies I encounter whilst I’m there.
Here’s the beginning.
Lucy as Elsa.