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Sometimes it's Hard to be a Woman

Strap yourselves in readers, today's going to be a rambling one again! In the recent light of the Doctor Who announcement that the 13th Time Lord will be female and the backlash the whole thing received (guys, I don't even watch Doctor Who yet I felt it was feverishly important to voice my opinions), I felt it was time to have a little discussion and/or rant about how hard it is to be a woman. Now, before you all think I'm going soft on y'all, I want to make it clear that this isn't some sort of pity post. I'm not trying to highlight all the difficulties most women go through in order to gain some sympathy - I simply want to vent frustrations, express things I've learned, and hopefully, be a comfort for some who might feel alone or angry/upset with any number of situations women may find themselves in during this rollercoaster called life.

So, the pity party is not welcome. The feminist party? Those of you who support that women don't just deserve (deserve suggests its a reward) but are entitled to every right a man has in equal measure? Then you guys get a plus one for the party so you can bring some like-minded friends. There's a lot of pressure on girls and women in all corners of life and whilst of course I'm having to talk about these pressures from a very white and western viewpoint, my voice and opinion is as valid as the next girls and as a working class, petite sized, academically gifted woman, I feel I have some shit to say. Women are constantly faced with suggestions and sometimes sheer forced views of how they should act, what they should wear, how they should conduct themselves in public, in the bedroom - even how it seems unladylike to fart or need to take a shit. We're constantly ridiculed for putting on weight, for being too thin, for being happy with our appearances, for "looking for attention", for being sluts because we like having sex, for being "prudish" if we don't, for being too opinionated, for being "crazy" because we're on our periods, for having "no shame" for breastfeeding in public, for being "prettier" if we don't alter our bodies in any which way... The list goes on and on.

External and Internal Misogyny
Something that seems to be the root of many unachievable and narrow expectations of women is misogyny. Now, before anyone calls the meninist police, I am not a man hating feminist, but there is no denying that misogynistic opinions and aspects of life can certainly been seen as an influence for some of the daily difficulties women face and I'm categorically *not* singling out men as the reason for this. Quite the opposite in fact (so let me explain). Misogyny is defined as a "dislike of or ingrained prejudice of women" and is something that is ever present in society and is unfortunately, something that is mirrored onto young girls when they're children so it's no wonder it is still abundantly prevalent in their older years. When we're little girls, we're given the kitchen sets, the beauty desks, the hoovers and cleaning toys whilst the boys are given the toolboxes, the fire engines, the police uniforms and toy guns... You have to think is it any wonder when girls try to do jobs such as becoming mechanics, constructionists, or soldiers they're often met with disbelief and tickled humour that a female mind would even have the audacity to think they could *do* such a job?! Thankfully, more and more parents are giving their children the opportunity to explore across "gendered" toys and are more open minded, but it's still an ever-present issue. We're told "he just likes you" when boys pull our hair or hit us in the playground and are told to retaliate this "affection" with a kiss and cuddle so our parents can take a cute picture.

The misogyny and sexism we receive from men is one thing, but something that is equally as damaging is the misogyny we receive internally from our own female circle. It's the phrases such as "I'm not like other girls" or "I get on with guys better because girls have drama/girls are bitchy" that are throwing women under the bus. Often, things like this are said unintentionally and people don't mean to say them with misogynistic attachment, but it is still categorising women and doing it in a negative way. I'm in no way innocent here and have caught myself saying those two exact phrases in the past, but I can see how damaging they are now and there is no positive point that can be taken from them so they're better left unsaid. It's the sly comments about a girl's hair, her makeup, her sex life, her personal style... It's those comments that are letting the sexism filter into oUr inner circle that should actually help build other women up. I'm not saying every girl or woman will want to and should support every other girl and woman because of course not everyone likes everyone, but we need to stop partaking in the misogyny because we've got enough to deal with on the daily without creating more angst amongst ourselves.

Beauty Standards
We are exposed to media and societal definitions of perfection and what is expected of us when we become aware of women on TV, in magazines - we're told that a "bikini line" is a thing and that it should be tamed. We're told that if we use *this* product, we will have carved out cheekbones but nope, don't do it *that way* because that's not good enough and looks silly. We're told that you shouldn't eat that but you should eat this if you want you cum to taste a certain way - it is relentless, it's about so many parts of our lives that it's almost impossible to avoid or escape, and worse still, it's not just visible for us but for everyone.

We put pressure on ourselves to try and meet this level of perfection that society has created but no one has ever actually managed to achieve and retain it because it's not real and then the boys we try to impress in high school, the bitchy friendship group we find ourselves in at that age, they all also point out that you're not reaching that level of perfection. Whilst outside influences such as other people or the media have a lot to answer for here, we need to look at ourselves too because we're our own biggest critics. The internalised misogyny I mentioned earlier can lead us to body shame ourselves and has even been proven to be a catalyst for individual cases of eating disorders. We're all incredibly guilty of comparing ourselves to others and instead of celebrating our unique qualities and talents, we ask "why has that person got success and not me?" "why does *that person* have this many blog readers but I don't?" "why are they so pretty and I have a nose like this?". We all do it - myself included - and we've been almost conditioned to do it, but it's a habit that needs breaking and when I've found a successful way to stop it, I'll let y'all know.

Education Expectations
Women are still paid less in certain roles in comparison to their male counterparts and women's successes are often overshadowed by their heterosexual partner's and they're just labelled "wife" instead of "critically acclaimed, multi award winning badass". We need to constantly fight for our relevance and accountability in society and unfortunately in our education and careers especially. Gweni from G Beauty Blog made an excellent point last week that we use the term Girl Boss but why? Why do we need to put the "girl" in front of "boss" as if "boss" is an unattainable career or title for a woman? Are we segregating ourselves once again and feeding into the misogyny unintentionally? My heart always drops a little when women don't own their achievements and big themselves up. When I see "so I wrote a thing" or "I don't know if this is any good by I tried to draw this" I want to scream about how much more credit they need to give themselves. I'm guilty of doing this myself before but I've started asking myself who I'm so worried about offending or upsetting with my positivity and self appreciation? And honestly even if a hundred names come to mind, I now think "tough shit" because I should be proud of everything I do and own. it.

I remember what it was like doing my undergraduate degree and the assumptions made about women in the archaeological field. I remember the comments made on my 4 week excavation of a medieval leprosy hospital about how it would be better to give me the jobs such as sketching the finds or dusting away the finer sediment to make areas clearer to photograph because of course my 5 ft 2 self couldn't possibly do the digging. Of course I couldn't shovel away the sediment and carry it in the wheel barrow to the pile heap. Of course because I wore a full face of makeup due to a mix of insecurity and expectations of others that that meant I couldn't possibly do any of the required jobs that the boys were never questioned about. Whilst that attitude was met with sheer determination from me to prove both fellow students and even my lecturers wrong by showing I can be surprisingly really strong for my size and build and that I could pull my weight and hold my own in that physically demanding job, I shouldn't have needed to. That attitude should have never have been present in the first place. We've come on leaps and bounds in contemporary education and workplaces when it comes to women getting a fair and equal education/job role, but we still have some prejudices to erase. Answers on a postcard if you've got any quick-fix ideas because I am stumped!

"That's Not Very Ladylike"
The last thing I want to touch on a little here is stigma surrounding interests that are not deemed "girly" or "for girls" full stop. Growing up, I didn't know there was such a thing as girls football teams or rugby teams because there were no role models. Even now football is very much a mans sport and women's football isn't on the major TV channels or reported with as much scrutiny or intrigue. This lack of equality makes it difficult for some girls growing up to make sense of what they like and what they're interested in. As a very young child, I loved everything deemed boyish and therefore was called a "tomboy" by family rather than just accepting that I was a girl who liked cars, playing with toy garages and tanks, and power rangers. When I turned around 7, I had a complete 18O flip and wanted everything Barbie and pink. I became a "girly girl".

This confusion over girls liking things that "aren't for girls" seems to be ever present in my adult life as I've witnessed it and been part of it myself. I think my favourite one is men assuming women are lying about liking video games if they find said women remotely attractive because obviously your appearance dictates your level of interest in that particular thing. I've had men quiz me because I've said I enjoy playing video games because I can't possibly like those and doing my makeup?! I've been victim to former colleagues recoiling in surprise because I have listed some of my favourite comic books or graphic novels because "I don't seem like the sort of person who would like those" but I'm still waiting to be told what mould "the sort of person" who does like them is like so I can understand how I don't fit. Funny that, isn't it? I know sometimes we can take a step back from things like that and think "come on Amyleigh, you're just being nit-picky" but I'm still trying to understand how I'm supposed to demonstrate my interests, my appearance, and personality on a whole if apparently my jigsaw pieces don't neatly fit together enough for some people and I still haven't worked it all out.

Apologies if this was a bit of a Negative Nelly of a post, but it's something I feel a lot of us observe and naturally have opinions on. This post can certainly be taken in a very self-indulgent "me me me" way, but I just needed to get these things off my chest and where better to do it than on NB? Even trying to think of a fitting title for this post was a struggle - don't worry the irony of the rest of the lyrics to the banger of a tune I've used for inspiration haven't been lost on me - because as I said earlier, it's not a post seeking sympathy or pity, it's just a chance to vent and hopefully find familiar minds out there. I want to continue to learn how to support women and learn from mistakes I made that might have been sexist or belittling to fellow females who need anything but more angst, setback, or knockdowns. So ladies, please look after one and other - no one is asking us all to be friends and run around fields of flowers, singing and holding hands, but support our rights collectively to be heard, valid, relevant, and positively necessary in society.

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