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Are You a "Girl" or a "Woman"?

Are You a

By Lauren Passell

Are you a woman or a girl?

When does the transition happen? Do you wake up one day and feel like you’re a woman?

The dictionary defines “girl” as a “female child,” or a “person’s daughter, especially a young one.” And “woman” is described as “an adult human female” and “a female worker or employee.” But what does the dictionary know? Is it really a dictionary, anyway? Or is it a "dictionary child?"

Both definitions seem to rely strictly on age, ignoring the myriad of components that make us people. What about all those little things that might make a woman feel like a woman? Financial independence, being responsible for others, and as the “woman” definition states, having a job. Herbel Essences shampoo? Or those little things that make you feel like a girl? Pink, sparkly sneakers! Snuggling with your stuffed animal! Ring pops!

Does a girl do her own taxes? Does a woman watch Disney movies? Does getting your first period or having sex make you a woman, or wearing high heels?

Legally, an 18-year-old is an adult, so perhaps it's as simple as that. Happy 18th birthday, Suzie! You're a woman now! Turn of the Disney and put on the heels! And buy some lotto tickets and fight for our country, because those are things you can do, now, too! But make sure not to commit any crimes because you'll be in EXTRA TROUBLE! Alcohol? Not so fast. That will be another three years.

But what if Suzie doesn't feel like a woman?

It should be noted that the transition is not only hard to peg, but it’s a blurry, wandering line to tread. I consider myself a woman, but I love Disney movies, pink, sparkly sneakers ,and Ring Pops and I have trouble sleeping without my stuffed dog, Ralph. I do my own taxes and work! Am I still a girl?

The Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico puts girls through the ringer, testing them in areas of strength, endurance, and character, before they are considered women. A Coming Of Age Wilderness Program in Washington takes girls in for two weeks, “helping them enter adolescence with strength and self-confidence by speaking their truth and believing in their worth based on talents, skills and interests rather than on appearance, popularity or sexuality.” They claim to build girls physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and challenge them as they “move beyond self-imposed limitations, take on greater responsibility, and work cooperatively with others.” And for centuries, in some parts of Africa, female circumcision is practiced to turn girls into woman. For good or for bad, clearly, there’s something inside us that wishes to concretely mark this distinction. What is the common thread, here?

Perhaps it has nothing to do with what you’ve got, and it’s more of a state of mind. Maybe a woman is more sure of herself and confident in her own skin. She might be a little further along in the adventure of finding out exactly what she wants and who she wants to be. A girl is looking to those women for examples.

Or perhaps there’s no difference at all.

What do you think the difference is? Boys, we want to hear from you, too!

Topics: Life
Tags: language, gender, growing up, adulthood

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