Column: How we destroy girls during their adolescence


Reena Alsakaji, Story Editor

Going into my junior year, my personality was a stark contrast from my younger years as I slowly unwound the perfectionist personas chained down to me. 

As I grew up and was exposed to more media, I found myself desiring to be the type of teenage girl that turns my stomach today: intelligent but timid, well-read but reserved, opinionated but suppressed. I never raised my hand unless I absolutely knew the answer, and it always had to be factual—the idea of expressing my opinion in a confident manner and the fear that it would be chastised overwhelmed me. 

This mold of a girl essentially characterized me up until last summer, and there are still parts of that fallen figure that revitalize in moments when I need it least. The thought that other young girls have felt this way enrages me at the societal norms we impose upon them. There is an unspoken pressure for girls in both the workplace and at school—to set enough of a presence that they are considered a pleasant person to go to for help, but obedient enough to not cause a disruption in the system. To put it simply, this is one of the most simple-minded and ill-advised ideas I’ve ever heard. Girls should be as unconventional, controversial and bold as they desire. 

This doctrine is one I attribute to societal pressures on girls, backing them into a corner of seeking self-worth from others, especially from young boys and other adults. Oftentimes, the treatments we inflict on girls leads to them retrieving value from praise—regardless of whether or not that praise comes at their own expense. An article by the Atlantic outlined research with Ypulse, a polling form, and surveyed over 1,300 girls. When asked to rate their confidence out of 10, the average girls’ response plummeted 30% from an 8.5 to a 6 between the ages of 8 to 14. The article outlined key points in the survey, one of which being that girls are constantly rewarded by adults—parents and teachers—for their people-pleasing behavior.  Receiving such praise only for being mature, quiet and self-sacrificing while boys are put on a pedestal for their creativity and outlandish ideas sets a poor narrative for girls as they move into adulthood. What happens then, when they move into their jobs and fear asking for anything that may be of the slightest inconvenience for anyone else? In doing this, we are squashing the exuberance of teenage girls and replacing it with compliance. 

As such, setting boundaries in a school setting, a home environment or in any situation is not only optimal, but crucial. If girls do not want to do something, they do not owe men or anyone else an explanation. We so often hear the phrase “no means no,” in the context of consent, but its value does not end there—it can be applied to all situations. Girls should not have to worry about whether or not they are being a burden for setting the same boundaries others have had no problem with. Being assertive is not being aggressive—and scolding girls for the same actions boys are encouraged to do is both hypocritical and nonsensical. 

Since I adopted this mentality, my life has looked up. A disregard for others’ opinions has allowed me to set boundaries, in that I am no longer sacrificing my own needs for the fear of being considered “unkind” or “selfish.” It is deplorable that girls have to go to drastic lengths over their time of adolescence in order to fight for the basic privileges of others, and it is even more shameful that society does nothing to help them thrive in adulthood.