Growing Up A Girl: Barbie Dolls & Blood

Revisiting Girlhood's Traumas as a Woman

Vasudha Mishra| India


When I turned five, I decapitated the Barbie I was gifted, grinning gleefully

I yanked the doll's arms and legs out, to my mother's horror.

I grew up to learn that men do the same to girls and women -

Brutalize their bodies, mangle their minds and suppress their spirit.

When I turned ten, my body was sprouting hair all over, turning my skin coarser and darker.

I stared at my thick thighs with intense hatred each morning, wishing them away.

I began to avoid mirrors: bathroom mirrors, full-length mirrors,

Glassware, glass doors, reflective surfaces, rear-view mirrors.

When I turned eleven, I began to notice the eyes of strangers - men, young and old, following me.

I grew up learning words to describe it: hungry, lecherous, lewd.

When I turned twelve and got my first period,

My mother told me I was to wash my own clothes and sheets.

As if the fluids of my body were poison.

As if the little trickle of blood from my body was shameful.

My mother says I must be a good girl.

My teachers say I must be a good girl.

My grandparents say I must be a good girl.

The world around me signals that I must be a good girl.

Good girls don’t disobey. Good girls don't say no.

Good girls don't let boys touch them.

Good girls cover up. Good girls wear baggy clothes. Good girls hide their breasts. Good girls don't show their legs.

Good girls don't talk back. Good girls don't argue. Good girls don't raise their voice.

Good girls don't laugh loudly.

Good girls don't sit with their legs spread.

Good girls don’t cuss.

Good girls don't cut their hair short. Good girls don't leave their hair open

Good girls iron their unruly curls out till they're silky straight.

Good girls get up early.

Good girls smile

Good girls don't question. Good girls do as they are told. Good girls don't voice their opinions.

Good girls don't lock their rooms shut

Good girls bear pain. However unbearable it may be.

Good girls smother their dreams and asphyxiate their desires


Good girls don't live.

When I turned eighteen, I moved out of home to college

I began to find myself and develop my own choices - clothes, hairstyle, aesthetics, food.

I learnt to chart my own travel plans but to be wary of trouble (and men) at all times.

I learned that the world was not very kind to an outspoken, opinionated young woman.

When I turned nineteen, I started driving on the city streets

The boys who tried to trip me over when I began cycling as a teenager had grown into men who micro-aggressively honk and whizz past to rattle me, it seemed.

When I turned twenty-one, I took myself out on a movie date

Only befitting that my tiny solo adventure was to watch the story of a badass woman whose actions were as thunderous as her thighs.


I forgive myself for ingesting shame I did not choose but was fed anyway.

When I was twenty-three, I worked my first all-night shift at the hospital

Meticulously transfusing tiny amounts of blood into a tinier, 28-day-old baby

Two long hours of standing under the NICU warmer later, my period cramps knocked me out dizzy

“It must be the sight of blood”, exclaimed the male resident

I snicker. I was no stranger to blood.

A hundred and forty-two times the crimson tide has flowed, unmaking the crib in my body.


As I turn twenty-five, I'm learning to take up space, unapologetically.

I'm wishing for a speedy death to my conditioned compulsion to people-please.

I'm ridding myself of the nice-girl trope and the stifling expectations that accompany it.

On the days that I’m down in the dumps,

I look up to the little girl I once was, unfettered and free,

Who truly believed she could be anything and anywhere that she wished to be.


A freshly minted doctor, Vasudha is passionate about writing, storytelling and social justice, especially in the context of health and education. She is easily lured by coffee, chocolate and conversations. Connect with her vasudhamishra31@gmail.com.

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