A Guide for Girls: how to be respected
I'm not sure what people will be expecting as they read this but I'm writing it about this: the persistent idea that girls should be encouraged or pressured to change the way they are in order to fit in with what is seen as socially acceptable.
Let me say, before we get too far in, that I strongly oppose the idea of 'social norm' and what is right and wrong appearance-wise - for boys and girls. But it seems to me that there is an underlying warning for girls; that when they don't dress 'right', there can be consequences not found for the opposite gender. This could range from verbal mockery to social media humiliation and doesn’t seem to matter who you are - whether it’s taunting celebrities or poking fun at peers.
The world is already warped enough, and the way young girls are viewed is no exception to that. There is no 'perfect body' - if she is overweight, or 'curvy', she should hide herself under baggy clothing because nobody wants to see a fat girl showing skin. It is her own fault she is this way, and she should be under no deluded impression that it is acceptable. She should be ashamed of the body she carries; it is a symbol of her weakness; it is a representation of her flaws. It couldn't possibly be the result of unfortunate genes, or a mental illness - and it couldn't possibly just be who she is.
If she is 'skinny' - healthy, but with 'nothing to spare' - she cares too much what people think of her. Because, of course, she has tried hard to make herself look this way. She has chosen to be like this. If she is thin, she is still judged.
And there are all the body types in between. There is no universally accepted body, no matter how much society would have us believe there is. In magazines, models are computer-edited to create a human that actually doesn't exist in real life. Barbie dolls (a toy that provides entertainment for both boys and girls - despite the stereotypes - and therefore impacts upon the perception of women for both sexes) have legs 50% longer than their arms; whereas the average, on real women, is 20%. A Barbie's neck is twice as long as the average woman's in proportion to the rest of her body. What this all means is that we are creating images of what a woman should be in this society that aren't physically possible to achieve.
We need to stop finding flaws in people wherever we turn our heads and start realising that, especially among the young generation, we are all different. The point? Let a girl dress how she wants - act how she wants - be who she wants. Because - and this is the crucial point - she never can be what society wants her to be.
Louisa Dollimore, Year 10
Image - India Bonnet Year 12