Tina Fey’s ‘The Hidden World Of Girls’ Highlights Girls You Would Never See
I spend quite a bit of time monitoring how young girls and women are portrayed in the media, and the depiction is never good. It seems that while there are young women who vow to end female infanticide at 13 years old and nine-year-olds who give eloquent speeches, they often are not the ones that make the news. The mainstream press is far more concerned with trainwrecks like Courtney Stodden and the poor girls on Toddlers & Tiaras to take significant notice of a young girl who is doing well for herself in some capacity.
It’s disappointing that for every teenager who is chosen to participate in G(irls) 20, there are generally about 10 girls who are publicized for making sex tapes or for sending sexy pictures of themselves over the internet. But that’s why I really enjoyed listening to Tina Fey’s “The Hidden World of Girls” on NPR this week, because Tina chose to highlight girls who are noteworthy for more than their plunging necklines and sexual activity.
The 30 Rock Star and mother of two has put together a two-hour radio segment about the stories of women and girls, in which they narrate their own memories and experiences from all over the world. As the host, Tina offers up tidbits from her own childhood in Philadelphia with a father who taught her baseball and a mother who wanted her to go to Princeton. She shares with audiences a story her mother told her about how she was denied a college education as a 17 year old. The money that the family was considering for her college education would be sent back to their family in Greece. Yet, Tina’s mother was told that her brothers would definitely be going to college.
From there, Tina takes us to the stories of traveling women — Gypsies in Ireland who marry as young as 15 with lavish princess weddings that come to define their entire womanhood. Once the elaborate dresses have been packed away and the children are born, traveller women age into a powerful matriarch. In South Dakota, Sioux girls participate in a four-day rite of passage ceremony, as described by one young girl who has been adopted.
In Mississippi, we meet a little girl who likes to hunt animals. When not practicing for her cheer team, she gets up early to hunt animals in the woods. Tina tells us that there are nearly 300,00 female hunters under the age of 16 in the United States. But when was the last time you saw a little girl on TV who was good at more than smiling and wearing makeup, let alone hunting animals? The young huntress gets good grades, enjoys being on her cheerleading squad, and proudly tells boys that she has killed deer in her spare time.
The stories of these girls are fascinating because they veer far from the narrative we always expect now of oversexualized, sexting, backstabbing young girls who only want to be famous. These girls and women have experiences and memories that they themselves are recounting — not a sexist media that consistently diminishes the voices and accomplishments of girls.