Why Do Girls Love Horses, Unicorns And Dolphins?
Published: February 09, 2011
by The Kitchen Sisters
People have long speculated about why girls love horses, according to Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.
By identifying with these dynamic, strong animals, Orenstein says, girls are expressing their own power.
“They’re all active, they’re all sources of power and motion and transformation,” she says.
Laurel Braitman, an MIT graduate student in the history of science who writes about animals and what we think about them, says girls’ fascination with these animals is more than power — the animals fuel girls’ imaginations.
“Horses and dolphins and unicorns — these are all borderland creatures; gateway animals to other worlds,” she says. “They help us imagine wonderful other ways of being in the world. They let us be cowgirls and oceanographers and mermaids and princesses.”
Unicorns: The Dreamland Of The Horse
Posters of unicorns paper 11-year-old Jennifer Green’s bedroom walls. For her, unicorns are magical. They symbolize dreaming and achieving.
“I know that unless you believe in them, they won’t show themselves to you,” she says. “They’re like a very pure spirit.”
Girls and unicorns have been linked in stories, art and on tapestries since at least the Middle Ages. One of the iconic myths about girls and unicorns has to do with the unicorn hunt, writes Nina Shen Rastogi in her article for Slate magazine, “Why Do Girls Love Unicorns? It’s More Than Just The Horn.” In this myth, she says, the only way that a hunter can lure the unicorn is to bring out a pure young virgin and have her sit in the woods. The unicorn is attracted by the maiden’s innate goodness, purity, beauty and youth.
“I think for many young girls, there’s a fantasy that someday you will be recognized as the secretly beautiful, magical thing that you are,” Rastogi says. “The unicorn will be attracted to something ineffable about you, secret from the rest of the world.”
When you’re small, you’re more imaginative and open to possibilities, says graduate student Braitman.
“That’s maybe the most beautiful part of girlhood,” she says. “Knowing that you can’t actually be all these things — but not being entirely sure.”