When I was a young girl (and didn’t identify as non-binary yet), I tread on the internet carefully. I discovered my worldwide web haunts mostly through my friends. Rarely did I search for virtual spaces on my own accord. The internet gave off a mysterious vibe similar to the Window 98’s default jungle wallpaper that I didn’t really bother to explore at the time. Apart from my gal pals’ tips, websites for your girls came on my radar after I read about them on tween magazines.
Growing up with the internet, there were pieces of myself and interests that I adopted because of the time I spent on my fave sites. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. As a young girl, spending time in online communities made especially for you felt as encouraging as having a crowd silently cheering you on. Online games were often geared towards a male audience and computer shops back then were seen as man caves. Now, women-focused websites have grown in number and social media sites have provided everyone a platform for increased visibility. I thought of revisiting the websites of my youth to remember how they helped me define girlhood and to find out how they’ve changed over the years.
If you enter EverythingGirl.com on your search bar, it will lead you to barbie.mattel.com. Personally, I think the original site name was catchier but perhaps they changed it to become more sensitive to how interests shouldn’t be gendered. I do miss ye old days when digital initiatives were less brand-centric and Mattel offered more than just Ms. Barbara Millicent Roberts. Remember Polly Pocket, My Scene and Monster High? Although, I do admit that it’s nice that they’re releasing a more diverse set of dolls and pointing out that fashion and food are not the only industries where women can thrive.
Since it now leads to a Barbie catalogue, you’d have to head over to play.barbie.com to play games. It still offers styling games but there are some that really caught my attention and made me wish they were available back then such as the Video Mixer and Video Game Hero. As with their toy releases, the site isn’t just focused on having fun but empowering kids to consider a variety of careers.
So a lot of dress-up game sites and apps have sprouted over the years but Dressupgames.com is still the classic. Founded in 1998, the site continues to have regular updates—quite a feat since they’ve been producing their own games since 2006. Their website design and game art aren’t the best but you have to admit that their commitment to still providing kids with makeover games is their true selling point.
When I checked their website, the latest release was a merfolk creator dress up game. The art style for it reminds me of Picrew icons which are pretty on-trend and often used on Twitter. Since it’s still keeping up with the times, I think that sites like these continue to be great resources for kids who have an interest in fashion. It gave me an avenue to be more adventurous in my own sartorial choices (or baduy in my mother’s words) and makeover games overall remain great artistic outlets.
Neopets wasn’t exactly marketed as a girl’s website but a lot of young girls flocked to it because of its cute graphics and well, who doesn’t want a virtual pet? Nicole Carpenter wrote an article for Variety about how Neopets got a lot of young girls started on coding. Sadly, my personal Neopets experience stayed on the site. No web profile for my (starving) Kacheek. But it’s cool that a game could inspire so many young people to create content and digital structures to expand their experience. At the moment, I think Animal Crossing crafting is what comes close to it.
The website taught me a thing or two about world-building—even sans coding. It was perhaps my first experience with creating a sort of internet persona and visualizing pockets of virtual space divided by aesthetic preferences. I’m not sure if the site still has a considerable number of active users but it still seems like a good first internet haunt for kids.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who teared up when Tavi Gevinson announced that Rookie Mag was going to stop publishing new articles after seven glorious years. I was a bit older when I discovered Rookie but it still left an impact on me. With such a well-spoken and thoughtful team of young content creators, it was a treasure trove for those coming of age. Thankfully, we can all continue coming back to it and a younger generation can still access the site.
Rookie was earnest, honest and brave which aren’t traits shared by a lot of teen girl-oriented publications. I hope another endeavor like this pops up because the world still needs it. The Dear Diary and Live Through This categories have especially personal pieces that will make you feel that the internet really isn’t just a vacuum—it’s full of people who face similar struggles as you.
When you feel like you’re losing sight of yourself or starting to feel disconnected from the world, visit the places that you used to love (like your fave websites!). Maybe it will help you remind yourself of the path that led you to who you are now.