Alpha girls. Phat girls. Riot grrrls. Girly gurls. Divas. Jockettes. Suddenly they're swaggering everywhere, showing off curves that pop out of their hip-huggers. Dribbling basketballs with their meticulously manicured hands. Rolling their eyes at boys' catcalls and charging into an astonishing future. As my friends and I make way for them on sidewalks and ready ourselves for the rapidly approaching day they bound into our offices, we have one question: Where did they come from?
This winter I went on a fact-finding mission around the country to learn what's fueling this explosion of girlhood achievement and what it feels like to be growing up in the midst of a cultural blast ring. I interviewed more than a hundred girls, from ages 8 to 22—girls who are passionate about knitting, fractal geometry, green garbage, and their friends. Even before we started talking, they had me amazed.