Just Girly Things

A cartoon of a smiling girl with her eyes closed twirling her hair around her finger. On her left side are the words: "1. They play with their hair" and "So cute!".

So cute! And what could possibly be more important to a girl (or woman) than cuteness? Well, there are a few things. Self-protection, for example, as long as it’s, y’know, done cutely. 🧡 In this November 2021 cartoon from The Nib, cartoonist and illustrator Gemma Correll lists “ten cute things that all girls do.” Adorbs!

Read it here.


1. Although she never states it directly, Gemma Correll is using her cartoon to draw a connection between cuteness and personal safety. What is that connection? Is it that cuteness makes girls (and women) safe? Or maybe it’s that being safe makes girls cute? Or could it be that cuteness gets in the way of safety? Or that safety gets in the way of cuteness? Or something else? Explain the connection that Correll is making, and point to examples from the cartoon to support your explanation.

2. In the first panel, Correll introduces her list as “10 things that all girls do.” Why might Correll have used the word “all” there? It’s not really true, we know it’s not true, and Correll knows that we know that it’s not literally true. So what is that little word doing there? What is its function? How might the list intro be different if the word “all” wasn’t there? In what subtle ways might the message change? Is the title more effective with or without the word? How did you arrive at your response? Explain your reasoning.

3. LET’S TALK. We know that out in the world, in clubs, workplaces, and everywhere else, people who are perceived as girls or women are vulnerable to certain types of undesirable gender-based treatment—everything from belittlement to harassment to assault. What, if anything, is the role of cuteness in those circumstances? And what is cuteness, anyway? Explore these questions with a few classmates. First, try to construct a definition/explanation of cuteness. Next, examine how cuteness, as you define it, might contribute to an increased risk of abuse. Heads up: these aren’t easy tasks, and you may not end up with tidy answers to the questions. Your goal here should be a deeper understanding of a complex situation; the key is hearing each other and being heard.

4. AND NOW WRITE. What do you do in order to protect yourself when you go out? Do you carry pepper spray or another defensive device? Do you do any of the other “cute things” on Correll’s list? Write an essay describing what you do (and perhaps what you don’t do) in order to feel reasonably safe when you go out. Address how your gender presentation may  influence your assessment of risk and your protection strategies. Also consider how other elements of your identity or appearance—size, skin color, or physical features, for example— may affect your exposure to risk in public spaces. Do those elements influence your protection strategies? Use examples and narrative features to enliven your essay.

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