The Woman Child

The Woman Child

Is the Woman Child just shallow, obssessed with trends and superficial? Is it OK to like sparkly nail polish?

We’ve all heard of the ‘manchild’, the guy who still lives with his parents, works crappy minimum wage jobs and is obsessed with the pop culture of his childhood. Recently however, we’ve been seeing the rise of his female counterpart, thanks to shows like Girls and movies like Bridesmaids and Young Adult. Deborah Schoeneman has written a Kindle Single (the e-book equivalent of an essay) on the subject, called Woman-Child ” rel=”nofollow”>Woman-Child, both exploring the phenomenon and giving it a name.

So, what’s a woman-child then? According to Schoeneman, she’s ‘a woman over the age of 21 who still wants to dress, act, and consume pop culture like a girl.‘ She obsesses over teen culture icons such as Twilight and Hello Kitty. She loves teen fashion, such as sparkly nail polishes and ribbons and polka dots. She would rather be posting pictures of girls’ nights out rather than babies onto Facebook. She’s, in Schoeneman’s words, ‘aging backwards.’

Can you judge the woman who wears this sparkly nail polish? Photo: Ka Wong

A sample of the Single is available on Jezebel right now, and having read it, it seems that these Women Children are coming across as shallow, trend obsessed and superficial. Rather than going out and facing the real world in these uncertain times, they turn back to their childhood and take comfort in what they used to know instead.

Reading this, I realised I fit the mould of Woman Child myself. I’m staring down my late twenties without a mortgage, a baby or a ring on my finger, and I couldn’t care less. I live in my jeans and hoodies when I’m not working. I’d rather corral my friends into the nearest theme park rather than into a fancy restaurant. Does this mean I’m emotionally stunted, too afraid to become a real ‘adult’?

I beg to differ. I may not be married, but I’ve been with my partner for nigh on 10 years now. I may collect My Little Pony toys, but I chose my job because it actually makes a difference for other people who need it. I’m not the only one either. I can almost guarantee that if you don’t fit the Woman Child mould, you have a friend who does. She may be bedecked in glitter and bows, but she’ll still be a resourceful, hard working human being.

There is, however, an upside to this kind of pigeon holing. Meredith Borders has argued that the Woman Child has opened up a whole new world of female characters for Hollywood. She points out that in the past, the female character in any movie would either be Madonna or Whore, a saintly, patient creature waiting for the men to finish with their foolishness or a borderline sociopathic seductress.

With the advent of films like Bridesmaids, however, that pattern has been broken. Female characters have been allowed to screw up, act stupid, and learn from their mistakes just like the men have been doing for decades. Annie Walker can be jealous of her soon to be married friend, and mess up one event after the other, without being demonised for it.

I would like to argue that the Woman Child movement is not an attempt to crawl back into the recesses of nostalgia, but actually a statement against the traditional expectations of women. Even in this day and age, it’s expected of a woman to grow up, get married, and have children. Sure, you can go to university and start a career, but if you’re not doing it with a baby on your hip and a ring on your finger, you’ve not fulfilled your potential as a woman. A Woman Child is living her life simply as she sees fit. She’s not interested in marriage or kids, so she doesn’t get involved. She knows she only has one life to live, and that life is too short to spend trying to live up to someone else’s ideal.