“The Young-Girl wears a mask, and when she admits it, it’s always only to suggest that she also has a ‘true face’ that she wouldn’t or couldn’t show. But that ‘true face’ is also a mask, and a frightful one: it is the true face of domination. And in fact, when the Young-Girl ‘takes off her mask,’ the Empire is speaking directly to you.”
– Tiqqun, “Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl”
“‘We have a saying here, perhaps you’ve heard it: Official decisions are as shy as young girls.’ ‘That’s a good observation,’ said K, he took it still more seriously than Olga, ‘a good observation, and the decisions may have other characteristics in common with young girls.‘”
– Franz Kafka, The Castle
“At other times I would tell myself that it was all a question of attitude, that there was really nothing wrong in being moved to distraction by girl-children. Let me remind my reader that in England, with the passage of the Children and Young Person Act in 1933, the term ‘girl-child’ is defined as ‘a girl who is over eight but under fourteen years’ (after that, from fourteen to seventeen, the statutory definition is ‘young person’). In Massachusetts, U.S., on the other hand, a ‘wayward child’ is, technically, one ‘between seven and seventeen years of age’ (who, moreover, habitually associates with vicious or immoral persons). Hugh Broughton, a writer of controversy during the reign of James the First, has proved that Rehab was a harlot at ten years of age.”
– Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
“Hoes on my dick cause I look like Miley Cyrus”
– Lil B, “Hoes on My Dick”
The typical personification of the state and/or capital comes in the form of an old man – “the man” we call him. But there exists a counter-figure, legible in these passages, of the “young girl.” What is it about the young girl that connects her – the polar opposite in both gender and age of the powerful – to the state and capital? As Humbert Humbert muses in the passage from Lolita, the young girl is a product of injunctions from religion and the state, her body is a site of prohibition and regulation. The state declares that neither it nor anyone else will have anything to do with the young girl’s body for as long as she conforms to the statutory definition, but in doing so, indelibly marks her with its authority.
I hesitate to even begin to write about how capital constructs the figure of the young girl because so many people have written so much great material on the subject. I’ll confine myself to these two Seventeen magazine covers. The horrifying order “Look Pretty!” declares itself boldly without reservation. In fact, it escalates in the second cover to “Look Pretty Now!” which requires only a comma to reveal its chilling true meaning. This is capital speaking to itself, relaying a message from headquarters. Are the exclamation points cheerful or bubbling over with fear? Both. The young girl is subject to the naked command to become a commodity. Made to constantly worry about how she “looks” rather than how she is, the young girl is made to be watched.
I quoted all men (with the possible exception of the anonymous Tiqqun) at the beginning of this post for a reason. There is a horror and reverence in these quotes that I see as the product of the male gaze as it falls (as ordered) upon the figure of the young girl. As a locus for so much power, the young girl reflects its rays like the moon. Lil B goes so far as to identify Miley Cyrus (a jeunefille if ever there were one) with the phallus. For Tiqqun, she is the mouth for the Empire’s voice. The “young girl” is not powerless nor powerful, but rather power-full, traced from head to toe by these relations and differentials.
At this point, I either have to go into a long analysis of the later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or go to sleep, and I’m just not, at this moment, mentally prepared to write seriously about a divine key disguised and personified as a teenage girl. So until next time: Look Pretty! Look Pretty Now!