Don’t Man Up, Girl Up!

Back in December, I attended a talk by Laura Bates, the inspirational founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. This talk was to promote her latest book ‘Girl Up‘ which is a survival guide for young girls teetering on the precipice of womanhood. Unlike her first book, ‘Everyday Sexism‘, ‘Girl Up’ is more focused on young women and girls who are still in education, dealing with things like cyber bullying, peer pressure, bodily changes and informed consent.

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I confess, I didn’t know that the book was aimed at this demographic when I picked it up, but I am glad I read it all the same. As a 20-something, I spend a lot of my time thinking about my own opinions and discussing these opinions with others in the same age group.

Laura Bates explains that, in her experience, a lot of fears held by young girls are rooted in the things they feel are expected of them, whether that be body image, sexual relationships or simply their role in society.  I can’t say that I agree with everything advised in ‘Girl Up’  but  it does seek to dispel some of the myths that young people grow up with and provides a ‘soft’ introduction to feminism.

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Laura Bates

I don’t often get the chance to discuss gender equality with anyone below the age of 18, so when I was approached by a GCSE student from London to provide my comments on female homelessness for her school project, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her personal experiences and opinions.

What kind of issues do you think are facing teenage girls and young women at the moment?

I think the issues that young women/teenage girls are facing today are [the] gender pay gap, women getting judged more than men for being who they are or want to be and gender stereotypes. People still think that women are weak and that women are supposed to cook and do the housework. I think that this idea of stereotypes still existing in 2017 is bizarre.

Do you see social media as a good thing or a bad thing?

I think social media is a good thing and a bad thing for young girls. It is a good thing for young girls because they are able to voice their opinions on social media on things like stereotypes towards women and [the] gender pay gap. Also, young girls can receive positive feedback from their peers.

However, it’s a bad thing because girls see photoshopped images of models and think negatively about themselves and they also feel like they’re not good enough. In addition, young girls may start to think that they have to look like the models and they may stop eating which will result in eating disorders.

Have you ever experienced something which you considered to be sexist?

I have fortunately not experienced any types of sexism during school but my friends on the other hand have. One of my friends burped out loud during lesson and then said “pardon me”. Her teacher of the lesson, who is a WOMAN, said “that isn’t very lady-like,” and then my friend had an argument with the teacher saying that she was being sexist and that she shouldn’t say that in the future. My friend made her teacher understand that what she said was wrong. I was surprised when I heard that story because those words came out of a WOMAN’S mouth.

Would girls in your class at school call themselves feminists?

I think that most of the girls in my class would call themselves feminists because in some of our classes we talk about our experiences with sexism and we all agree that sexism is still an issue in society and we hope to make men and women’s rights equal in the future. 

How would you define feminism?

I think the definition of feminism is a group of people [whose] aim is to make the rights of women equal to men’s.  

What made you interested in the issue of female homelessness?

There [are] a large number of women who face problems with paying for sanitary towels, having heating in their homes, looking after their children, providing food and resources for their children [who] aren’t homeless. So the fact that there are women who don’t have a home and are dealing with these issues is heartbreaking and it makes you feel fortunate and grateful for the things you have.

What do you hope to achieve in the future? Do you worry that your sex will hold you back?

I am not sure what I would like to be when I am older but I know that I would like to have a job where I can be independent and provide for myself. Also I am not worried that my sex will hold me back because I know that there are going to be people [who] will encourage me to do what I want to do and people [who] will try to put me down. I know to ignore those people and achieve what I want to achieve. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with our young contributor and if you would like to see the same thing from the male perspective, please leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading,

~Sanya

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