This Is The Life Of A Little Girl Who Will Soon Enough Be A Woman One Day Or Another

We know the Britney Spears and Miley Rays of Hollywood tremendously influence the lives of our pre-teen and adolescent girls. The voices we keep hearing on television are those of white, multi-generational American, and suburban teens.

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Their experiences are being boxed and represented as THE experience of adolescent girls in America. Rarely on television does the media interview pre-teen and teen girls of color from immigrant backgrounds living in urban/rural areas about their perceptions of life and the future unless the story is on teen pathology from pregnancy to drugs and violence.

Therefore, I was pleased to see the trailer of a documentary, Going on 13, that is about pre-teen girls from minority, immigrant, and urban backgrounds discussing how they negotiate the whirlwind of changes and choices, from body image to relationships, just as girls in the suburbs.

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The only distinction is how their social, economic, and cultural contexts add a different layer to the experience that is not a form of “mal-adaptation”, but another way of living. The film-makers’ goal was to show the reality of preteen girls and urban minorities, which isn’t often portrayed in the mainstream media and wasn’t just focused on the pathology of urban youth.

Film-directors, Dawn Valadez and Kristy Guevara-Flanagan stated:

There are many films about teenage girls, but few films follow them through puberty. And biological changes are only one part of this transformation. There is a whole world of emotional, cultural and social relationships that girls experience. It’s an intense period. We wanted to capture that and ask, “How do girls separate themselves from their parents and develop their own identity? How does this happen within today’s complex social and cultural context?”

In addition, Valadez and Guevara-Flanagan wanted to show the environment in which they grew up:

we wondered what life is like, today, for girls like us. Girls from the city, from immigrant and multiethnic families; girls who grew up with step-parents and within extended families. These are girls with whom we can relate and yet their world is a much different place.

Valadez, a 43 year-old social worker from San Leandro, California states,

“When you look at the role models for girls, if you only have images of women that are really pretty, skinny and over sexualized, then it looks like there is this particular image of what beauty is supposed to be. We wanted to counter that.”

Going on 13 focuses on the lives of four girls over four years from ages 9-13. These girls from the Bay Area (California) come from varied ethnic/racial backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. One of the girls, Isha, is South Asian (her dauo-guthaa [two pony-tails] and gold baliyaa [hoop-earrings] took me straight back to my childhood). It was nice to see a pre-teen girl of her background included in this film. As many of us know, California, particularly the Bay, has a large and growing South Asian population.

According to the film,

Ishas 5th grade look includes glasses and a reserved demeanor. People stream through her parents new liquor store in the gritty hotel district of San Francisco as Isha stocks cigarettes and prices snack food. At home, Isha makes tea for guests, attends to the familys Hindu shrine and, like many other girls her age, idolizes the girl power cartoon characters The Power Puff Girls, which decorate the walls of her room. For Isha there are always two ways of doing things: the American way and the Indian way. And while she is at home singing songs and playing games on the rural farm where her cousins live, the crowded, frenetic playground of her school is foreign, and foreboding.

Post-Film:

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Isha continues to travel to India every summer where her family is now building a house. Her big dream is to become a nurse. Shes currently working at school as a library assistant and taking dance production.

I personally know many South Asian girls, particularly Punjabi Sikh, who could relate to Ishas experiences.

However, I am skeptical of directors archetype of the student who would never dream of defying authority because out of the three other archetypes and four girls, I think Isha is this student. I wonder how strongly the directors focus on this stereotype and that of always having two-ways of doing things: the American Way and Indian Way. Do they show any of the complexity and nuances of Isha living within these “boxes”?

Regardless, I am excited about viewing this film.

It will be interesting to see how the directors depict one reviewers belief that:

Its content is truechanging body image, learning how to love yourself as you are, weighing what other people say about you against what you know about yourselfand none of it easy.

Going on 13 is currently being shown this weekend in New York City at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, May 02, 2008 and Sunday, May 04, 2008!

Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure!

\”Going On 13\”

Let us know what you think!

Do any of you relate to these stories? What were your experiences as pre-teens and teens in America? How do you think they compare to the lives of pre-teens and adolescents today?


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8 Responses to “This Is The Life Of A Little Girl Who Will Soon Enough Be A Woman One Day Or Another ”

  1. ”Going On 13”

    Wasn't Jennifer Garner in this?

  2. Wait, I'm thinking of "13 Going on 30." Nevermind.

  3. \Going On 13\

    Wasn’t Jennifer Garner in this?

  4. Wait, I’m thinking of “13 Going on 30.” Nevermind.

  5. Suzy Kaur says:

    I wonder how strongly the directors focus on this stereotype and that of “always having two-ways of doing things: the American Way and Indian Way”. Do they show any of the complexity and nuances of Isha living within these “boxes”?

    Sadly, I'd say that's pretty much the norm with how these issues are viewed by mainstream media or depictions of the Indian diaspora experience.

  6. Suzy Kaur says:

    I wonder how strongly the directors focus on this stereotype and that of always having two-ways of doing things: the American Way and Indian Way. Do they show any of the complexity and nuances of Isha living within these boxes?

    Sadly, I’d say that’s pretty much the norm with how these issues are viewed by mainstream media or depictions of the Indian diaspora experience.

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