Girl Culture


Pennsylvania State University, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs135

Despite much contemporary interest, the term “girl culture” is not (yet) included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Defining “girl culture” is not a simple task, as the individual components are themselves complex concepts with shifting meanings. The word “girl” can be traced back to the Middle Ages in both English and German, where the idea of a set chronological age or even sex or gender being associated with the term is undermined by the definitions. In the 1300s the term (usually in the plural) referred to a child or young person of either sex. Beginning in the late 1300s “girl” began to be associated with the female sex: some matter-of-fact and some derogatory, referring to a young or relatively young woman, a woman of any age, a female child, a sweetheart, a prostitute, a female servant, a female slave, and an effeminate man. The question of who is a “girl” continues to be asked today with variability of chronological age being a constant feature. Who is included and excluded? Does it matter if a girl is of preschool age, between the ages of 10 and 14, or a young adolescent as defined by the UN Population Council, or 18 and at the age of consent in many countries and at the far edge of American adolescence? If the UN definition of child is applied, the age limit rises to 29, so young and not so young women are then included.

Similarly, culture cannot be simply ...

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