For starters, Salon pointed out that an adolescent girl doesn't have just one "age" — instead, we construct an idea of a girl based on more than just her birthday. The first, and perhaps most destructive, is her physical age. Many young women develop at different stages, so a 14-year-old who has gone through puberty is thought of to be much more adult than her less-developed classmates. The same goes for emotional age — school-age children can often seem more advanced than even a grown adult, so we tend to forget that she is not, in fact, and adult. Sadly, these two discrepancies often creep up in our judicial system, and have been blamed for reduced and unfair sentences when it comes to sexual assaults and other crimes. Judges become bias, assuming that victims with advanced physical or emotional ages assume more culpability.
The media industry as a whole is also responsible for several different viewpoints on age — when a girl becomes commercially profitable and is targeted with marketing and ads, and when she becomes a sexual product herself. Advertisements and articles are frequently targeted to a younger and younger audience, instructing them on the best ways to lose weight, get a date, or do their hair. Even worse, young women are so often portrayed in media as far older than their actual age. Teens and tweens become sex symbols, and are subjected to much more physical scrutiny.
As Salon points out, this phenomenon is something that truly only affects girls — our cultural imagination doesn't subject boys to the same treatment. The site doesn't go so far as to offer up a social remedy, but just bringing the issue to light is important. The advanced maturation of girls is something that has become so ingrained in our psyche, that we often don't realize we're doing it. Head over to Salon to read the full article, and here's hoping we'll all think twice the next time we move to judge adolescent girls. (Salon)