Shared Girlhood

There’s an article hopping around the blogosphere called The Myth of Shared Female Experience and How It Perpetuates Inequality by Mia McKenzie.

Many of us object to the article’s claim that shared female experience is a myth or perpetuates inequality.

What is shared girlhood?

Shared girlhood is the idea that girls growing up under patriarchy are all oppressed based on their being treated as girls when they were younger.

For example, we’re told we exist to please men and be pretty, or we experience unwanted sexual harassment or contact, or we’re told to be small and eat less than boys.

There are obviously huge differences based on race, class, nationality, etc. But there is shared oppression based on sex.

When we grow up and become women, our experience as women is shaped by the way we were oppressed growing up.

Thus, growing up as girls is an important part of being a woman.

Some of us are on twitter today sharing our experiences of shared girlhood on the tag I created #sharedgirlhood. Join us in sharing stories from your girlhood, or just read our stories there.

About smash
Women's liberationist.

18 Responses to Shared Girlhood

  1. SheilaG says:

    A timely and brilliant article.

  2. Kim says:

    I read the article you’re referring to. The entire premise that there’s nothing “shared” because things happen to WoC at a greater rate than white women was…baffling. By that criteria, there’s no shared African-American experience, because AA males and females suffer similar issues at different rates. There’s no shared Latina/Latino experience, because Latinas and Latinos share similar issues at different rates. So, if we are to buy the thesis of the article, we can make no class-based analysis of any group ever unless everyone shares the same experiences at the same rate at all times in all places. To see the number of so-called “radical” males who are eating this shit up doesn’t surprise me, but it still angers me.

    • smash says:

      Hey Kim, that’s a very good point. Certainly working class folks have different experiences, but that doesn’t mean that the working class doesn’t exist, or that acknowledging that it does perpetuates inequality.

  3. Brooke says:

    It’s “oppression olympics” so to speak. Which drives me insane… I don’t feel it is necessary to wave around all the disadvantages one has had in life to prove a point. Rather, your point should speak for itself. I don’t feel it is necessary to show scars to validate what I have to say, so I don’t. Unless the black middle class author was involved in the sex industry as a teenager, I’d probably “win.” But that is so STUPID! I came from a biracial marriage, which is weird in the fact that you never quite belong anywhere without giving half of yourself up. This is a point of view worth sharing, but not worth lording over others in an academic, black-rimmed-glasses attempt at superiority. My experiences are mine, and they do not invalidate other women’s experiences. I read her article on the myth of shared girlhood. She seems to have drank the kool-aid they serve at Paulo Frere’s oppression olympics. It goes without saying that we gravitate to “people like us.” In her words , she likes them female, black, and bookish I believe. However, being unable to relate to others who are different from oneself (and then blaming those others for your own shortcomings) speaks more to an inability to think outside your own narrow confines of race than other people’s racism. Obviously not all women grow up the same… If she feels more should be done in poor black neighborhoods with poor black women, why not organize it? Or at least push for it. Write a pamphlet for racial sensitivity or something.

    • smash says:

      I think it is important to acknowledge multiple oppressions that face individuals and groups. But this can sometimes derail discussions and focus more on the background of the speaker than on what is being said. I like this post on the topic.

      As has been pointed out elsewhere, all of the individuals that Mia McKenzie feels she would have common ground with are women. Why doesn’t she note that commonality in her post about how we don’t have shared common experiences qua being women?

      Also, I’m not quite sure why she seems to equate “folks I feel like hanging out with” with “folks I experience similar oppression with”.

  4. I think McKenzie makes some important points about intersectionality but then falls flat by getting into affinity rather than an analysis of power. For example I think the shared sex-class of women of trans* and cis-sexed history is sufficiently similar for us to be in solidarity within radical feminism. I also think the shared girlhoods of white and Black cis-sexed women is sufficiently similar for us to be in solidarity within a network of global women’s movements. Power and oppression analysis explains why Disabled women are less protected from rape than non-disabled women where an affinity with bookish people does not.

    I think it is wise for feminists, especially radical materialist feminists to name the differences in power between women at the same time asserting that shared girlhood and/or shared womanhood are *sufficiently* significant to base solidarity for liberation on. Feminists, especially white feminists, have made mistakes and harm to other women by failing to deal with racism as a glaring example – but we also have a deep, lively and nuanced herstory of intersectionality that is more theoretically and practically realised than other liberation movements and has been for several decades. Girlhood is important *enough* to be a core part of feminist analysis – it doesn’t need to be universal

    • smash says:

      Thanks for sharing your comment here, awwd. I especially appreciated your point about power and oppression don’t come into play when we are talking about bookishness in the way they do when we are discussing, say, disabilities.

      Would you mind further elaborating on this: “Girlhood is important *enough* to be a core part of feminist analysis – it doesn’t need to be universal.”

  5. red says:

    The essay comes out of a male rights support group where women of color blame white women for the oppression of all peoples everywhere. Not men. Men are part of their groups. In real, and online. Rather than take on murdering pimping males, they attack radical feminists, who these male centric women have decided are all white, and all privileged, and murdering and spoiling every thing. It’s so much safer than standing up to the patriarchy. You know, we are the ONLY females who do that now, Rah rah rad fem!

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  9. Flux and Virtue says:

    The article you refer to has now been taken down. Too much backlash?

    It upsets me that WoC assume that ‘our’ feminism is a separate one. Our struggles are by no means the same and class and race do factor in, and the intention is in no way to negate that. The basis of sharedgirlhood comes back to the fundamentals of what happens to you as a girl, they way you are treated because you are a girl, and the things that happen to our bodies as we grow into women. The experiences are not meant to be identical and/or collective. Someone tweeted to the HT which I thought was spot on “sharedgirlhood means that if it didn’t happen to you, it happened to your friend (sic or sister)” ….. and that suffering is understood and transferred regardless of class or colour.

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