Being a young woman I have noticed that sexism has always played an underlying role in my everyday life. It has affected the way in which I live my life and the difficulties that I face. I have found that there are many harsh realities that come along with growing up as a girl. These realities can have a negative impact on growing girls and are often unfair double standards.
You will be sexualized at an early age.
I remember feeling self conscious about my looks before I even began wearing my first trainer bra. When I would go shopping I was told I couldn’t wear the styles that I wanted in the little girls department because they were too ‘low cut’ and too ‘revealing’ before I had even developed any real curves. I couldn’t run and play in dresses for the fear that I may reveal too much of my body. I was told to sit ‘lady like’ for the fear that I may accidentally show a bit too much skin to the young boys. Adults would even remark about my messy hair and my unkempt nails before I had any real concept of appearance.
As I began puberty, the shame I felt about my body began to increase rapidly. The more curves I began to develop, the more I was subject to criticism about my appearance. In middle school I remember crying in the bathroom because I was forced to wear my gym uniform, as my brand new shorts were a ‘distraction’ to the boys. I couldn’t wear my favorite clothes to school anymore for the fear that they may show too much of body. I remember being called down to quarterly meetings with the principal who would interrogate us girls about our recent following of the dress code and remind us that it was our responsibility to keep the boys focused. I was taught that my appearance mattered more than my education, making me feel more like a sexual object than a girl trying to get an education.
You will be told to not speak your mind.
As a girl that is very outspoken, I constantly find myself in situations where I am told that I need to be quiet. I have earned the nickname of ‘the queen bitch’ around school for being very vocal about my opinions on social media. Guys who are similarly as vocal as me face no opposition and feel free to speak their mind. Many of them are actually praised for being vocal by the same guys who shame me for it. When I work in groups with guys I am told that I am a bossy yet, guys who take on similar roles are praised for the leadership skills. I have found that many guys do not respect girl’s opinions in the same way that they do a man’s.
You will be shamed for expressing your sexuality.
When I first began being slut-shamed I had never even had my first kiss. I had earned the name of ‘the freshman slut’ through online hate pages accusing me of things I had never done and a circulation of rumors about my supposed ‘sex life’. This was all because I had engaged in some innocent flirting with guys like most girls do in their teenage years. The slurs that had become attached to my name that year made me ashamed of who I was, just hearing my own name made me cringe because of the negative connotation that came along with it. I started skipping class constantly because I didn’t want to face the shame that was instilled onto me by my classmates. I felt that I deserved the hate because I was told that it was my fault by those I tried to confide in.
As my friends first began leading active sex lives with boys I noticed that they were called names by our peers, while the boys they had sex with were praised. Girls who have a lot of sex are often alienated by their peers and made to feel ashamed for doing something that is completely natural. Many guys will refuse to date a girl who has had many sex partners because they feel that it somehow makes a girl ‘tainted’ and less valuable than those who have not. This double-standard makes girls feel that they cannot be sexual in the same way that men are.
You will be faced with unrealistic body standards.
I can’t help but notice that my body is a lot different from majority of those that I see in the media. Models tend to be tall and very thin with few exceptions, while I am very short with a bit more of a curvy body type. Girls like me who don’t fit the narrow ideal of body standards often grow up feeling that they are not ‘normal’ or conventionally attractive. I have been faced with negative remarks about my body, often from people I consider my friends. A boy who I was interested in once told me that I was too fat for him and that he wasn’t attracted to ‘girls like me’. It made me feel that there was something wrong with my body because I didn’t look like the girls I saw in the magazines which he desired.
You will be told that it’s always your fault.
The first time that I was catcalled I was about thirteen years old leaving the mall with my friends. I remember being absolutely humiliated and the woman standing by the door told me to not wear such short shorts next time and completely disregarded saying anything to the much older men who actually did it to me. From that moment I realized that because I was a girl I would always have to take the responsibility when it came to sexual harassment from men. When my friends and I were taken advantage of or harassed by guys later on life the blame was always put back on us. It’s always “what were you wearing?” to the girl instead of shaming the guy for doing the action.
You will be told that you can’t do the same things that boys can.
I can’t even tell you how many times I was told to act ‘ladylike’ growing up. I couldn’t like superheroes or action figures because that was a “boy” thing. I needed to wear feminine clothing styles and have my hair long so I could fit in with the other girls. When I got older I learned that if I were to curse like the guys I would immediately be ostracized or even told that it was “unattractive” by the guys. If I was interested in anything that attracts more guys like politics and certain TV shows it was because I only “wanted to impress the guys.” I found myself faced with a set of double standards that prevented me from acting as my true self.