Future Girl: Young Women in the Twenty-first Century by Anita Harris
Early nineteenth century signaled the rise of women from the prevailing gender-biased tradition, culture and societal roles. The chief objectives of women during this period were liberation from the patriarchal structure of society, reformation on women’s rights and access on different kinds of opportunity such as in workplace, political affairs and involvement in economic development. During this period, women had learned to assert for their own individual rights.
Feminism took its place as the only mechanism that can truly express women’s thoughts, feelings, desire and passion on self-government and self-authentication. As a movement that advocates women’s rights and welfare, feminism struggle to eliminate the ill-factors that obstruct women from gaining equal-footing alongside with men.(Moore, 1993-2007) Moreover, in making such goal possible, women became more vocal and expressive in airing their complaints as well as in moving towards the legalization of their status as women having equal rights with men.
In the coming of the twentieth and the twenty-first century, women had started to penetrate almost all of the human life aspects. They claimed for the identification and government of their own sexuality transcending from the traditional gender roles and stereotyping. Access to competitive markets was one of the highlights of women’s struggle for liberation. They anticipated that by having a direct participation in competitive markets would make them hold sufficient economic rights.
Also, women emphasized their right for self-ownership which is primarily directed towards women’s control on their reproductive aspect. Although such campaign opposed the traditional way of looking at women’s fundamental function as child-bearer, women argued that they did not really intend to abandon such responsibility however they should be given the right to decide for themselves especially when it comes to motherhood. Finally, women had furthered stressed out that their field of experience should not be confined in doing household chores and attending to her family needs. They believed that there were lots of opportunities outside home thus they should be allowed to go out and explore themselves. (McElroy, 2002)
In this contemporary period and post-modern period as well, women have truly become important in society and in its definitive aspects such as in education, employment, political associations, economic affairs, and in environmental issues. With this fact, women’s dealings and efforts in society have been subject for analysis and evaluation.
Young Women in the Twenty-first Century
According to Anita Harris’ discussion on Future Girl, debates about young women’s activities in society had started in the 1990’s. The rise of the two classifications of young women was the central theme in Harris work. The role of young women was said to be significant in the field of competitive markets, consumption and sexual aspect of life.
This significance of young women in the said aspects of society caught the attention of the public such as the state itself, some private sectors, researchers and media. They became aware of the fact that young women have this tendency to create good effects on the society as well as bad effects. Thus, social change was most represented by a trend on young women’s character. Such character of young women can be either seen as moving towards success or failure.
As stated above, the rise of two classifications of young women, namely: the Can-do girls and the At-risk girls; and their relationship towards the society greatly indicated the social change. The aforesaid classifications were established due to the contrasting view on the character of girlhood.
The former was said to be the kind of young women or teenage girls who are optimistic, resilient and confident in character. They are high-spirited and self-motivated with regards to their future. They do things that they think would help them achieve their goals in life no matter what their condition is. These kind of young women are more likely become successful in any of their endeavor due to their positive character and outlook in life. On the other hand, the latter was described as those young women who are involved in juvenile crimes and possessed unwilling attitudes towards the society.
They are the young women who pose threat to social order as well as to other individuals (chiefly because they are the ones who involve themselves on crimes, illegal activities, and untoward actions). At-risk girls are often cited as failure in the society. Consequently, their lives are becoming unsuccessful. Due to these distinctions between can-do girls and at-risk girls, the subject of womanhood has been a target of criticisms and debates.
One of the most important concepts that were introduced in Harris’ work was the term girlpower. Girlpower was referred as an expression of women’s success, autonomy, influence, confidence and self-determination in pursuing their lives. It was originally used by radical feminists to convey women’s liberation from patriarchal form of society.
Such expression also goes with the idea that women can re-invent and re-identify themselves in opposition to the patriarchal notion of being a woman.(Konzak et al., 1999) In this regard, young women tended to go out of the box created by the society and do things on their own way. This expression of girlpower made the young women assured of their place in society – that without them society cannot completely accomplish its ends. Young women, especially the can-do girls, realized the fact that they hold their lives such that they can manage it and shape it the way they want it.
Nevertheless, the used of the expression “girlpower” was also classified in two ways: girlpower as used by the can-do girls and the girlpower as used by the at-risk girls. The former entails a successful undertaking such that young women recognize themselves as persons who can excel in their chosen field. Conversely, the latter notion of girlpower goes with the idea that young women can enter into different experiences such as those that are labeled as adventures (for young women). More often, young women who engaged themselves in premarital and irresponsible sexual intercourse are said to use the expression girlpower unfittingly.