I sat down separately with one nine year old girl, and one twenty year old girl, to ask a series of questions concerning body image and general life as a woman. Both females agreed to answer the following questions honestly… I think their contrasting answers will speak for themselves.
When girls look at themselves in the mirror, what do they say?
AGE 9: “They don’t really say much. They kind of just fool around in the bathrooms at school so they don’t have to be in class. Sometimes they talk about hair, but not really.”
AGE 20: “At the bar they’ll ask for lipstick, fix their makeup, gossip. At home the girls will joke about how the mirror makes them look skinnier or fatter. We look at ourselves a lot, primping, fixing, before we go out anywhere.”
What is the meanest thing you’ve heard a girl say?
AGE 9: “Maybe that they don’t like someone’s hair, I guess.”
AGE 20: “Something with the C-Word in it. Anything degrading to other women about their appearance or aggressive sexual expression… with many people.”
Have you ever seen anyone bullied?
AGE 9: “No, my friends just tell me when they hear about someone who was bullied, and then they’ll go to tell a teacher.”
AGE 20: “Yes, but at this age, it’s weird. If someone were wrongfully being harassed, I’d step in. But, when it’s between a couple at the bar, or a bunch of guys fighting, getting involved can either result in myself getting hurt, or sometimes it’s just really none of my business… If it was bad enough, I’d call the cops.”
What’s your favourite thing about yourself?
AGE 9: “That I’m my own person.”
AGE 20: “Um, my ass I think.”
How would your friends describe you?
AGE 9: “I think they would call me girly, but most of them are more like tom-boys.”
AGE 20: “Outgoing, creative, insane, OCD, sarcastic.”
What do you usually do with your free time?
AGE 9: “At recess I like to play tag or like hide and seek with my friends.”
AGE 20: “Drink with friends, watch Netflix, sleep, go out to various bars downtown.”
What celebrities do your friends talk about the most and why?
AGE 9: “We talk about Taylor Swift because we really like her music and we know a lot of her songs.”
AGE 20: “My friends talk a lot about the Bikini A Day girls on Instagram. They’re not even really celebrities but there’s always comments flying around about how fit the girls look, which tropical island they’re on, what bikini we like best, and how we can’t believe they’re eating the food they’ve posted a picture of and still look that good”.
What do most girls wear at your age?
AGE 9: “We really just wear t-shirts and pants. It’s popular to shop at the store Justice.”
AGE 20: “To the bar we usually go with a flared skirt and a crop. Sometimes jeans and a dressy top… sometimes a short dress and knee-high socks. Usually accessorized. To class, we either somehow manage to pull something cute together, or go full hobo chic: messy bun or beanie to cover up bad hair, and maybe a leather jacket to make it look a little less drab.”
What is considered unfashionable for girls your age?
AGE 9: “Boot cut jeans.”
AGE 20: “Anything that has a brand name written across it, so that everyone knows where you bought it. For example: Hollister… we don’t do that…anymore”.
In what outfit do you feel the most happy and comfortable?
AGE 9: “Pajamas.”
AGE 20: “I feel my best when I’m all dressed up and feeling good to head out for the night.”
What kind of undergarments do girls your age wear?
AGE 9: “Like two girls wear sports bras or built in bras. Boy-shorts are the most comfortable underwear.”
AGE 20: “I only wear thongs, other underwear just doesn’t feel right. Full bottoms are for one week of the month ONLY. I have a million bras, some with zero padding and some with lots, depends on the day and outfit. I think most other girls my age are the same.”
What fashion trends do you see older girls wear?
AGE 9: “The Grade 6’s wear like short-shorts and tank tops, but we aren’t allowed to wear those to school. Shorts have to go past your finger tips and tank straps have to be two fingers wide”.
AGE 20: “I’m pretty comfortable with my own style now, but I can’t wait to have more money when I’m older to get all the beautiful and expensive work clothes I can buy. We’re almost at the age where more clothing is sexy and there’s no pressure to wear the short dress. I love looking at Olivia Palermo’s website, so classic.”
Do you wear any make-up?
AGE 9: “No, some girls will like talk about it, and how they want to wear makeup to look prettier but it doesn’t really matter to me. Even if I was allowed to or wanted to, it’d only be a little bit of lipstick, the clear kind”.
AGE 20: “I’d say I have three looks. The little to no make-up look… when I really don’t care or am just hanging around or have a night class. The second look is the everyday basics which includes some mascara, bronzer and eyeliner, and the third is when I go out… that’s when I’ll add lipstick, some eye shadow maybe, just to look a little more glammed up. Make-up makes me feel prettier I guess, a bit more finished and put together.
If you could change one thing about your appearance, would you?
AGE 9: “I’m fine with how I look.”
AGE 20: “I’d really like to have a more toned stomach, arms and thighs. I also wouldn’t complain about a firmer ass.”
When you hear someone say negative things about their body how do you react?
AGE 9: “If they say like “I look too fat”, or “I don’t like how I look”, I would say it doesn’t matter, people don’t care what you look like”.
AGE 20: “I usually ignore it … they’re either looking for attention or being too self-critical. Yes, sometimes I am that girl. Of course I don’t like everything about my body, but at this age, we all don’t like things about our bodies and that’s how it is. We have to start accepting it or become active towards making our desired change. I’m not saying starve yourself or work out every day, but complaining gets you no where…”
What type of groups do you hangout with?
AGE 9: “My best friend and I play with the boys sometimes, like sliding down the hill. One group of boys just kind of plays superheroes, and other girls just sit and talk at recess. Sometimes I sit and talk too, when I don’t feel like playing”.
AGE 20: “I’d say my friends are well known within our year at University. We have a smaller group of close-knit friends and the people we live with, but we also kind of exist within a larger community of people we drink and socialize with. Being popular is much different at this age. I wouldn’t call it popularity; I’d call it being social, fun, friendly, and likable. Those things get you a long way. However, when the “popular” thing to do is go out and get drunk, it’s the introverts that seem to get left behind…”
Do your friends date?
AGE 9: “This one time boys were spying on us and then one came up and asked my best friend to date him. She said no though. She thinks its gross”.
AGE 20: “If sleeping with someone counts as a date, then yes, quite frequently. Some do have boyfriends though… but it’s rare to keep relationship solid in this environment. Hooking up is easier, more flexible, and we’ve all had our share of the enjoying single life.”
How often do you talk about crushes?
AGE 9: “We do sometimes but we don’t really want boyfriends now, we just think we might want one when we’re older maybe.”
AGE 20: “I don’t think we ever stop talking about boys, other girls, or sex, to be honest. It’s kind of sad now that I think about it.”
What kind of boy would you like to date?
AGE 9: “When I’m older I’d like a boy who is nice, honest, kind and cares about me”.
AGE 20: “Someone who can handle me, gives me the time of day, can make me laugh, and make me feel comfortable. I also need to be attracted to them physically, or else it would never work.”
What stresses you out most about school?
AGE 9: “When the teacher asks me a question and I don’t really understand, and she keeps telling me over and over, and then I get a bad mark”.
AGE 20: “Failing a class and having to do summer school… or not getting into the honours program I want.”
What stresses you out the most with your friends?
AGE 9: “All of my friends are on the basketball team and so am I, but they all understand the drills and I don’t always get it. The teacher will yell and say I’m not in the right spot”.
AGE 20: “FOMO.”
What stresses you out most about being at home?
AGE 9: “That I have to do homework.”
AGE 20: “My house at school: dishes, cleaning, bills. My house in my hometown: family troubles, grandparents becoming sick, money, future plans…”
What do you think you are best at?
AGE 9: “Math, I always understand it.”
AGE 20: “I don’t really think I’m the best at anything, I’m kind of just average at a lot of things”.
Who is your biggest role model?
AGE 9: “Taylor Swift because she’s a really good singer and lots of people like her, and my Mom, because I want to be like her when I grow up”.
AGE 20: “I really don’t know, I’m kind of lost here.”
What is your biggest wish?
AGE 9: “That the whole world is safe and there is no bad guys.”
AGE 20: “To graduate with honours, become successful in my job, stay fit, find a rich husband (kind of joking), find my dream house, have some kids, be happy… that’s a lot of wishes.”
What are you most afraid of?
AGE 9: “Bees.”
AGE 20: “Being forgotten, failing, having my heart broken, gaining a lot of weight.”
Who do you think is the most beautiful person in the world?
AGE 9: “Me.”
AGE 20: “Ou, that’s hard. Right now I’m obsessed with Miranda Kerr.”