By Yasmine Dean
A girl wakes up in the morning, the sun is playing hide and seek through her blinds. She rolls over and is greeted by an Instagram notification. It is not a DM from some strange man telling her how beautiful she is. It is a reminder that her favourite celebrity has just posted. A photograph of a woman, acne blossoming on her face, stretch marks flowing down her arms. The girl smiles. She is reminded that her body is beautiful, it is beautiful even as it changes.
A girl goes downstairs and is not encouraged by her mother to tweeze her eyebrows. They are instead furrowed as she argues whether or not to eat toast for breakfast. No one tells her that she should ignore the rumbling in her tummy. She eats her jam on toast and flicks through channels on the TV. The screen freezes on the news. It is not a story about another missing woman. The reporter is smiling next to the CEO of an FTSE 100 company, as she says she is happy to have been accepted for her new position.
A girl heads to school, where the bus driver does not peel away layers of her uniform with his eyes. She sits on her seat and listens to Taylor Swift; she learns that women can be powerful, and celebrated for that power. The bus pulls in at her school and she skips off the vehicle, excited for the academic day ahead.
It does not seem like a lot to ask for. A peaceful outing with friends, an accessible way to exercise, and the freedom to dream.
A girl walks into her school building. Her Head of Year does not welcome her by commenting on the distraction that is her school skirt, she says ‘Good morning’. The girl goes to her lessons. She learns about Jane Austen, long division and stem cell isolation. Her teachers encourage her to become a software developer, they do not ask her to be more realistic and look at jobs more suitable for her, like a preschool educator. Her male friend is inspired to become a dental hygienist because his parents do not force him to become a farmer like his father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather. They talk about their dreams at lunchtime without the lunch staff gossiping about them getting together. The school bell rings at the end of the day.
A girl gets changed in the changing rooms before her football training. She is not sniggered at by other girls her age because her breasts are smaller than theirs. The field is occupied by the boys running around. Her coach does not battle with the boy’s football coach for use of the field. The boy’s coach does not say his team is better just because they are boys. Everyone is enjoying the sport.
A group of girls, aged between eleven and twelve, walk to McDonald’s after school without an older man hanging out of his window to shout profanities at them. They eat their meals in peace without the male gaze poisoning the experience.
It does not seem like a lot to ask for. A peaceful outing with friends, an accessible way to exercise, and the freedom to dream. However, the misogynistic pressure that weighs down on everyone is enough to squash these ideas. My hope, as a woman, is that everyone is able to enjoy a fulfilling life and do what makes them happy without ever having to question their safety or their choices because of gender.
Illustration by Alexandra Baker