Wellness (body talk)

Americans have given girls more advice than boys, and girls have pushed back against expectations.


Americans talk about girls' bodies a lot. They have for more than a century. Why? Because girls' bodies are often treated like community property.

Body talk—everything from advice to advertising—has centered on the ways girls' bodies are different. Such talk often, but not always, determines what it means to be a girl and steers girls toward certain ideas of womanhood.

How have girls talked back and taken control of their bodies?

I often hear from girls that their parents and schools obsess over what they wear and how they look. Whether this is positioned as minimizing the temptation for boys to behave badly (a.k.a. victim blaming) or just commenting nonstop like your dad does, the message is the same—and all wrong: Women’s bodies are community property.

—Philip Galanes, New York Times, 2018

This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. . . . Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.

—Jada Pinkett Smith, 2012