Girl Triptych

Girlbrain: A Theory

March 8th, 2024



All imagery and memes by Jess Henderson

1. Girlbrain is not astrology. It’s noticing every Freudian slip.

2. Girlbrain is the open-mouthed sigh that moves ‘everything matters’ to ‘nothing matters.’

3. Girlbrain is how the world perceives a woman’s mind to work, without knowing that she is deeply in on the joke.

4. Perceptions and projections make for a gorgeous playground.

5. Every complicity known. Every contradiction understood. Girlbrain is aware of her entanglements to the depths of hell.

6. Girlbrain does not believe in destiny. The only potential act of fate is an accidental swipe-right.

7. Girlbrain is not a mindset. Girlbrain is not mistaken for the possibility for ‘Girlmind.’ Girlbrain evolved over time, like any development of the human brain, like any neuroadaptation to an environment. Girlbrain results as a response to and an inclusion of external developments – positive and negative. For better and for worse. Do not think that Girlbrain does not know her, our, histories.

8. Girlbrain has no age but is probably past 25, post-girlhood. Single, or not. Straight, or not. Cis, or not. Sometimes ‘he’ is just the pronoun for whoever is standing in front of you, on your mind, or leaving you on read.

9. She’s part of a lineage and knows it. What came before will come after, forever morphing into iterations.

10. Girlbrain is Cherrybomb, Barracuda, No One’s Little Girl, Typical Girls.

11. Pre-pubescent Girlbrain says, or at least thinks, ‘I’m not like the other girls.’ Then one day you wake up grown and see we’re all the same and that’s the best thing about it.

12. There are men who feel a dagger twist in their guts when they say the words ‘independent women’. Their torment is visible. (It’s an ‘alpha’ thing, they’re bad at dog whistling.) Chugging on poison, waiting for us to die.

13. Girlbrain is what is taught to be feared, unlearned, minimised, ran from, sought after.

14. Girlbrain is multiplicity.

15. Girlbrain is summation.

16. Girlbrain is involuntary.

17. Rehearsing in the notes app is Girlbrain.

18. Girlbrain is holding hands with fingers intertwined, making eye contact between your legs.

19. Girlbrain is the feeling you get before sending a twenty-times rewritten txt.

20. Girlbrain is your head on her lap as she runs her nails through your hair. The touch is light but firm. If you’ve had it, you know it. You know that rhythm. You know the moment signifying the turn to drag and go back. Fingernails moving parallel, gently across sand – zen garden raking on your skull. Methodically, melodically, mindlessly. Back and forth, forward and back. Wavelike, crashing on the shore. Hypnotic. Soft sweeping sinking into a world where everything is sweet and safe. A return to the womb. Pacifying. Girlbrain knows how to give the feelings she dreams to receive. Girlbrain can guide with step-by-step silent instruction on how to give a lover, a friend, a confidant, the greatest gift: permission to calm. Entry into a place where there is nothing other than the moment itself. High mindfulness with zero effort. More skills that have no place on a resumé.

21. Girlbrain is listening earnestly to males with overt Madonna–whore complexes explain their preference for an ‘open relationship.’ We know everything before they do. We see them in the moments they can’t see themselves.

22. Knowing that the negation is never just a negation but the thing and the whole thing.

23. Seeing the poetry in any and every given moment, breathing it in as if dragging on a cig. (Girlbrain vision)

24. Girlbrain is swimming in the sea and opening your mouth to gargle salt water.

25. Girlbrain is prof cal’s audios.

26. Girlbrain is predicated upon accepting and mitigating what is unavoidable.

27. Girlbrain has no single aesthetic.

28. Girlbrain to Girlbrain agrees on the logic. Sophisticated, emotional, sensual logic. Irrationality is what someone says when they don’t want to accept the rationale. Irrational weaponised as a newer word for hysterical.

29. Girlbraindem.

30. Girlbrain is feeling that everything matters whilst knowing that none of it does.

31. Girlbrain is speaking your mind all of the time, on the inside.

32. Girlbrain accepts little as prescribed.

33. Rewriting the past or rewriting the future. Both are possible.

34. Girlbrain is everything personified as feminine. The moon, July, sailboats, a pistol.

35. ‘Good girl’ upgrades to ‘There’s a good girl’ upgrades to ‘My good girl,’ and so on.

36. ‘I always know what I want to sing whenever I feel moved, which isn’t very often.’ Lana on Girlbrain indifference.

37. The beauty of feeling indifferent. Girlbrain holds a potency when entering that mental state, engendered by a life of doing without believing. Living in a culture that sells a commodified version of her own unrest back to her, saying that her anguish belongs to her alone. It’s her fault and her responsibility. We transpose indifference all over the show. Indifference isn't opting out. It's a different mode of being with; More potent than disavowal could ever be.

38. Men think calling a woman ‘mysterious’ is a compliment. Every woman is a mystery that can never and will never be completely understood. It’s been collectively decided so.

39. Girlbrain is not complicated. She is complex in the same way that beauty, love, sex, and suicide are. Ultimately, they are all very simple.

40. When she talks, I hear the revolution
In her hips, there's revolution
When she walks, the revolution's coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution – Bikini Kill Girlbrain allusion, circa 1993.

41. They think the movement is two steps forward, one step backwards. But those two steps were always two steps ahead of theirs. We were always running, looking for a line of flight.

42. If emotions are information and not facts, as information they inform; behaviours, decisions, priorities. Girlbrain doesn’t deny emotionality and provides the space it needs.

43. Girlbrain is skinny-dipping for the way water feels moving across your body, bare.

44. Girlbrain holds her emotionality, sometimes beholds it.

45. Holding onto sentimental souvenirs that make moving house go from dreaded to deterred. Would rather stay here forever.

46. We keep mementos not to look at them, but to know that they are there.

47. Girlbrain is knowing the difference between kisses with and without hands on the face.

48. Girlbrain is constant motion sickness. Zooming in on everyday life minutia and interactions, dissecting analysing chewing, then zooming right out to see your tiny body sitting so little in the middle of the greater scheme of things. Then back from bird’s eye view peering down upon your insignificance, to placing everything you’ve ever said and done and been, under a microscope. Oscillation Non-Stop. Back, forth, out and in, over and under, flying the spectrum, making stops again and again and again along the way. Nauseous on arrival to the temporary, false end of the cycle. Having never taken a single step.

49. Defiance (designations) and non-defiance (aging).

50. Girlbrain Kintsugi gold seams stretchmarks mental dents moving on and out re/e/merged nothing but adoration for the damage.

51. Femininity is a shapeshifter and a spectre. Expect no single nor final form.

52. May every mind and all brains be free to change.

53. Let ‘I know I overexplain, but...’ be my famous last words.

54. Let me continue providing benefit of the doubt to places I know don’t deserve it.

55. Let me give you the best of me, my whole self, my true self, my best attempt at believing in a Self, my sweet heart, the softness rarely shown, until the day you no longer perceive what sits before you.

56. There is always more you wish you’d said,
and you always wish you hadn’t said so much.
Fuck it.

57. SZA is Girlbrain
Lana is Girlbrain
HEART is Girlbrain.
Warpaint is Girlbrain.
Billie is Girlbrain.
Boygenius is Girlbrain.
Halsey is Girlbrain
Sinéad is Girlbrain.
Marina is Girlbrain.
Ari Lennox is Girlbrain
Bratmobile is Girlbrain.
Mitski is Girlbrain
The Slits are Girlbrain.
Peaches is Girlbrain.
Garbage is Girlbrain.
The Raincoats are Girlbrain.

58. Let me rehearse how I’ll stand up for myself then lose it all when we’re standing face-to-face.

59. Girlbrain is post-Sadgirl. Girlbrain gets sad, though it’s not definitive nor glamourised. To Girlbrain, crying is everything that is right with this world. Crying is a chemical process, a medium-hard reset, a private release, a process of purification. Girlbrain loves to cry and feels it as part of the procedure for letting go. The crying is not the point, it’s the path to what comes after: that sweet and deep oxytocin calm.

60. Girlbrain is not antagonistic.

61. Not mean.
Not melodramatic.
Not anti-men. (That’s the problem.)

62. Puritanical about nothing. You don’t know the half of it.

63. Girlbrain is post-morality.

64. Uncensoring how you feel in a moment of strength is like throwing a glass bottle out the window of a moving car. Those seconds between it leaving your hands and hearing it hit the ground; a shattering piece of presentness. Nothing is there but the rush. Only for the days after to be spent worrying about somebody standing on your broken glass.

65. Cruel dreams where his skin is bare and his conversation and attention is all on, all over the dreamer. The visual is natural, the dreamscape stretches around and down the sides. Like a children’s fort made of blankets draped over chairs. Dark and small, intimate and private. The world shrinks to this moment. That look impales with its focus. The question that surfaces on waking is not the ‘What does it mean?’ of traditional dream interpretation, but dismay towards your own subconscious ‘Was that really necessary?’

66. Adulting is an attempt. It can be performed to a degree and then one day you’re let in on the secret – that nobody knows what they’re doing. Everyone is making it up as they go. The sense of fumbling along and figuring it out never leaves. A 59 year old Girlbrain told me so.

67. Girlbrain can read Freud, or Baudrillard, or listen to genres of music still characterised by misogyny, or watch films that fail the Bechdel test, or… whatever the likes, and see the entertainment/art/lesson beyond the problem. Picking over it like a dinner plate and leaving behind what’s dated and tasteless. Problematic masculinity et al. is not the element sought. When what’s problematic is omnipresent it’s not the problem, it’s an environment.

68. Girlbrain is trying on a different shoe size sometimes. Just to see if things changed.

69. The fatal attraction of hands. A good pair make the most platonic gesture an observation of Eros. Pointing towards the stars. Air-scrawling for the cheque. Rolling a cigarette. Digits that say nothing of their owner’s insides but provoke enough draw to stick around.

70. Superlatives are not a sign of lack of eloquence. More like playing for comedic effect, or feeling lazy, or guarding a wound.

71. Always too little. Always too late. Always.

72. Love is not a science.

73. Girlbrain is solace in knowing you’re the one driving yourself crazy.
We break our own hearts over and over again.

74. and its ‘Blind Leading the Blind’ segment was Girlbrain before anybody knew it.

75. Girlbrain learnt how to draw a line. Solid, wavering, dashed, dotted, ephemeral or eternal.

76. Girlbrain is creating the apparition of choice at every opportunity.

77. Necessity is the mother of waking up and knowing all that’s to do is to do it all again.

78. Pre-sad: The state of feeling pre-emptively sad before the thing that will cause to you become sad occurs. Pre-empting the sadness. Feeling sad pre-emptively. Being so enamoured by the present moment that you start preparing to mourn when it’s over.

79. Girlbrain doesn’t plot seduction. Against popular (male) understanding, seduction is a strategy but rarely the strategy. Seduction is naturally occurring, subtle, uncanny, unnecessary.

80. Is there a Boybrain?

81. Taking selfies in the dark. Flash off. The portrait of portraits.

82. Girlbrain toys with the past, present, and future of heteronormativity.

83. Tickle convention with the same dexterity that makes a lover memorable.

84. Course correction is living. Let the subconscious be sticky.

85. Overthinking is an automatism. A consciousness. A preparatory exercise. An undermining. A gift. A counter-production and a sense of becoming better equipped all at once. Gaining illusionary ground.

86. Girlbrain essentialism: Ten things can be true.

87. Out of sight is never out of mind.

88. Taboo is but an excuse.

89. ‘No choice’ is a truth nestled in the increasing illusion of infinite choice. Girlbrain is awareness of absence.

90. Girlbrain experiences the world as a series of moments open to interpretation.

91. Girlbrain is knowing that your naked foot has value. (Fallback plan.)

92. Girlbrain is being an amalgamation of every person you’ve ever met, everything you’ve ever read, every song you’ve ever sung, ever lover you’ve ever touched.

93. Girlbrain is feeling the passage of time pass since you last spoke, noticing how what felt urgent has dulled and what was intense has subdued. Memories of nights spent on the balcony crying to Luna no longer hurt to recall.

94. Such travels through pain erect signposts behind them, leaving messages to be returned to at a later date. Corny reminders we hate to hear but love to be true, like this too shall pass.

95. Girlbrain is the triangle-tryst; A tussle between head, and heart, and gut.

96. Girlbrain is affection.

97. Socialised like this?

98. The history of male rock and roll musicians is the history of Girlbrain encounters. They touched her once and never forgot. Those contagions that once caught change your makeup forever. You can hear it in the lyrics just as you can hear it in a single chord. The song in all its parts, glazed in her. A bassist plays a bassline dripping in the Girlbrain he never could forget.

‘Been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true.
Wanted a woman never bargained for you.’
– Led Zeppelin.

‘What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me? Has he taken any time to show you what you need to live? Tell it to me slowly.
I really want to know.’
– The Zombies

‘You drive us wild; we drive you crazy.’ – KISS

‘Maybellene, why can't you be true?
Oh, Maybellene, why can't you be true?’ – Chuck Berry

‘So messed up, I want you here. In my room, I want you here…
Now I wanna be your dog, and now
I wanna be your dog, and now
I wanna be your dog. Well c’mon’ – Iggy Pop

‘Whoa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good, I got you’ – James Brown

‘I want you. I want you so bad.
I want you. I want you so bad it’s driving me mad… she’s so heavy.’
– The Beatles

‘…a month on the road and I'll be eating from your hand.’ – Aerosmith

‘I got dosed by you and. Closer than most to you and
What am I supposed to do? Take it away, I never had it anyway.’
– Red Hot Chili Peppers

‘When you're, you're talking to me
You see right through me.’ – Wolfmother

‘I got a certain little girl she's on my mind
No doubt about it she looks so fine
She's the best girl that I ever had
Sometimes she's gonna make me feel so bad
Na na na na na na , Na na na na na na
[…] She's got loving like quicksand
Only took one touch of her hand
To blow my mind and I'm in so deep
That I can't eat and I can't sleep.’ – Deep Purple

99. Girlbrain has her tongue in her cheek.

100. I’d rather feel everything than feel nothing. (A lie.)


Jess Henderson is a transdisciplinary writer and researcher. She has collaborated with the Institute of Network Cultures since 2018 publishing under No Fun, and has a new artistic research project Aestheticising Anxieties at Avans University’s Cultural and Creative Industries research group. Jess works as a mentor for students in Zurich University of the Art’s Cultural Analysis MA programmes and is the author of Offline Matters: The Less-Digital Guide to Creative Work (Amsterdam: BIS Publishers, 2021).
Her new book is forthcoming in 2024.
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