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Redefining Girlhood: Reclaiming Passion, Interests & Identities.

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delhi North chapter.

Since time immemorial, women have always been subjected to an onslaught of guilt and criticism for their hobbies, interests, and cultural preferences. Whether it’s playing with dolls, watching romantic films, or listening to mainstream music, women’s hobbies have frequently been questioned, minimized, and written off as frivolous or beneath them.

Romantic comedies have long been criticized for being predictable, bland, and aimed largely at female viewers. The epithet “chick flicks” (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 13 Going on 30, The Notebook, Mean Girls (2024)) is used to disparage romantic comedies, despite their lasting appeal and cultural significance. Romantic comedy fans are sometimes stigmatized as emotional or naïve, which serves to perpetuate the idea that their passions are somehow less legitimate or deserving of respect.

Throughout history, pop music has also served as a platform for women to feel judged and ashamed. When it comes to women-centric content, pop music has mostly been written off as shallow and superficial, especially the sugary-sweet bubblegum pop of the 1960s and the fiercely independent anthems of today. The idea that women in the music industry are somehow less skilled or deserving of success than their male counterparts is perpetuated by the scrutiny that female pop musicians frequently face over their beauty, personal lives, and perceived lack of authenticity. This hyperfocus on superficial aspects overshadows their talent and contributions to music, creating a hostile environment where their abilities are constantly questioned. This systemic sexism highlights the need for greater recognition of female artists based on their talent alone and underscores the importance of challenging societal expectations and stereotypes in the music industry.

Gender stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes that aim to restrict and regulate women’s autonomy are a few of the primary causes of the historical guilt associated with women’s interests. Society perpetuates the notion that women’s lives should center on men’s wants and goals rather than their unique passions and aspirations by trivializing and undervaluing women’s interests.

Trends that celebrate girlhood and women reclaiming their interests, hobbies, and pastimes without the weight of social guilt or the limitations of the male gaze have been increasingly prevalent in recent years. The “male gaze” is a concept from feminist theory that describes how visual media and culture are often constructed from a heterosexual male perspective, emphasizing the sexual attractiveness and objectification of women. Coined by film critic Laura Mulvey in the 1970s, the male gaze suggests that women are typically portrayed as objects of desire for the pleasure of male viewers, reinforcing power imbalances and gender stereotypes. This concept has been widely applied beyond film to various forms of media, advertising, and everyday interactions, highlighting the pervasive influence of patriarchal norms on societal perceptions of gender and sexuality. Concerning empowerment, self-expression, and the deconstruction of entrenched gender norms, this movement represents a significant shift.

Throughout history, women have faced strict social expectations and have frequently been compelled to adhere to limited notions of femininity that are shaped by the male gaze. Interests and activities labeled as “feminine” were written off as pointless or frivolous, whereas those associated with activities that are often associated with men were valued. This double standard still exists today, as typical feminine pastimes or fandoms such as Taylor Swift are sometimes regarded with contempt or ridicule.

Consider the scenario wherein followers of Taylor Swift are called “basic” or “crazy,” yet male-dominated hobbies such as sports fanaticism are not subjected to the same scrutiny. This stark disparity highlights the widespread impact of the male gaze, which aims to suppress and marginalize women’s interests, pushing them into the background.

But women are taking back control of their lives and fighting against these antiquated ideas. Tiny movements such as the coquette trend, which is defined by a celebration of femininity, flirting, and confidence, are making a significant contribution to the larger empowerment movement. Women are resisting the male gaze and reclaiming their freedom to self-expression on their terms by embracing their femininity without reservation.

Furthermore, the drive to reclaim girlhood is more than just a fad—rather, it is a fundamental change in perspective. Women are rejecting the idea that a man’s affirmation or approval determines their value. Women are embracing their true selves without apology, refusing to shrink or change their hobbies to meet the preconceived notions of what men find ‘attractive’.

The realization of the damaging narrative that the concept of a masculine hero or knight in shining armor perpetuates is essential to this paradigm change. Recognizing the damaging narrative of the masculine hero is crucial for societal change. This archetype limits men to stoicism and dominance, perpetuating toxic masculinity and harming mental health. It also undermines women, portraying them as passive recipients of rescue. Challenging this narrative promotes inclusivity, allowing individuals to break free from gender stereotypes. Embracing diverse forms of strength and heroism fosters empathy and collaboration, contributing to a more equitable society. Women are taking back their agency and autonomy when they realize they don’t require male acceptance or saving. Women are now free to follow their passions, interests, and hobbies without being constrained by patriarchal norms, which gives them a renewed sense of confidence and independence.

Essentially, the emergence of fads that celebrate girlhood and women taking back their identities is a revolutionary act of empowerment and self-affirmation, rather than just a passing facade. Through questioning the male gaze, distancing themselves from antiquated stereotypes, and embracing their true selves, women and their allies are paving the way for a more just and inclusive society in which everyone is free to follow their passions without feeling guilty or judged. By doing this, they are fighting against larger societal myths that attempt to marginalize and demean them, in addition to recovering their agency and autonomy. They are paving the way for a society where everyone is free to follow their passions and interests without feeling guilty or judged by others by embracing them without reservation.

Arshia Mehta

Delhi North '27

Born into a generation characterized by tumultuous times and instability, Arshia possesses a profound zeal for global politics and international affairs. Since 2019, she has actively participated in more than 90 Model United Nations (MUN) conferences, showcasing her fervor for diplomacy and negotiation. Arshia stands as a dedicated orator, earning accolades not only from MUNs but also from debates, extempores, and various other competitions on both national and international stages. Her commitment to social responsibility is exemplified by her collaboration with numerous humanitarian organizations, including Goong NGO, The Menaka Gandhi Organisation for Animal Welfare, Humans for Humankind, and Sexceed India. She firmly believes in the pivotal role of nurturing young minds to contribute to a better world that upholds our shared values and principles.