This post first appeared on queenestheerr
GROWING UP FEMALE
Before I go into this post, I just have something to say. I really hate going off without any notice or warning. It’s just life has gotten stressful, even more stressful than it has ever been for me. But I’m making a promise to myself and to you guys, to keep creating content and posting more stuff. I do want to continue inspiring and reaching out to as many people as I can. Please bear with me and thank you for your continuous support ❤
Challenges of growing up as a female.
Being assumed that we cannot do some of the things that guys can do, or that we should do certain things and guys shouldn’t have to do it
A couple of weeks back, I asked a question to females about their struggles growing up, as a female, of course. It was alarming the number of different responses I got but yet, they seemed to centre around similar things. Growing up and going through teenage years (still going through it honestly) was tough on its own, but as females, we seem to have more challenges stemming from our family, our society, schools, community and even among ourselves.
Growing up to be a mentally and physically healthy girl in this world that we live in is a huge struggle that takes a lot of hard work due to the challenges that we face while growing up. From all the feedback I got, I grouped them into various categories, from the most popular to least.
Puberty – this was a huge one for most girls that responded. Growing up and going through puberty, growing breasts, getting body hair, menstruation and all of that was really stressful and was kind of something to be shameful about apparently. With puberty came a lot of hormonal changes such as acne and stretch marks and a lot of us didn’t know how to handle these situations. It was even worse for those who grew up in Africa, because body changes in puberty wasn’t something that we were properly educated on. So imagine my surprise when one day, I see blood coming from my vagina.
I started shaving my legs when I was in grade 6, because at gym when I was wearing shorts, a couple of girls came up to me and asked why I didn’t shave my legs because I look like a gorilla and only boys were allowed to not shave their legs
Getting stained at school, or in public even was something to be totally ashamed off. Even teachers and parents would really scold you for getting stained. Like it was our fault that mother nature decided to show up a little early? If you were on your period, it’s something to be kept a secret because apparently, boys should not know that your uterus is shedding. Even collecting sanitary pads from your friends was a total secret and you had to act like an undercover agent, because no one had to know. Not to even talk about the never ending cramps.
High school boys and “your chest is flat”. I hit puberty and was accused of wearing a butt pad to school, one of them touched my butt on “accident”. A lot of down talking and humiliation over something we had no control over
Remember that awkward stage where your boobs were growing but not big enough for a bra so you had to like wear some type of tank top so your breasts would stay in place. Then boys would point and laugh and you would be ashamed of your natural body growth. Why was it such a big deal for a young girl just naturally developing?
Body Image issues– This was another major issue that I found most girls agreeing with. I think I speak for most girls when I say there was a period in our lives when we didn’t care how we looked, we didn’t see anything wrong with hanging out with boys, we were just all kids. Not until society started to place so much emphasis on how you, as a girl looked, walked, talked, sat, acted or did anything. we were not overly bothered with being seen as “physically attractive” until society made us aware that you need to be pretty, or look a certain way to be accepted. There was so much pressure on us to have beautiful faces, skinny bodies, perfect skin all of that. Majority of the pressure came from our teachers in school, our parents, even our friends. The pretty ones were always favoured more, well liked and God forbid you looked any different from what the “normal pretty girl” looked like, you would be treated differently. Even among ourselves, there was a constant feeling of “she’s better than me, or she’s prettier than me”. we were not taught to love ourselves the way we were.
I think most of the struggles of growing up female centres around Self worth and esteem. There was so much to deal with while growing up but I feel peer pressure and social media can really affect a growing female especially her esteem. It can get overwhelming sometimes and can affect how a young girl starts to think of herself
It doesn’t take a lot for self-esteem and confidence to be reduced especially as a young adolescent girl. there are so many young people out there suffering from anorexia, because they want to look a certain way, because they feel that society would not appreciate their natural beautiful bodies just the way it is.
- Educational and intellectual issues
Trying to do things knowing fully well that you’re being compared to guys and most girls around you; in school and the entertainment industry
As females, you had to work extra hard do extra for you to be recognized. It was, and still is a big deal for a female to outsmart a boy at something, making girls feel like they’re not supposed to be as good in something as boys. If a boy is good at something, it’s because he’s talented and just good at it. But if its a girl, it’s because she worked very very hard and had to do extra stuff to be where she is at. We’re more than just a pretty face, you know?
Trying to fit into this current men’s world, where it is believed that as a female you have little or nothing to offer
The common phrase “you can be what you want to be” has a hidden message “as long as it conforms with the traditional female role”. As kids, our toys were dolls, teddy bears, everything pink and so on and boys got toys, trucks, cars, aeroplanes, and stuff that made them more inclined to feel like that’s the sector in life that they belong in. We are taught to not be too intimidating to boys, to pick roles that are stereotypical with being a girl. Not to even talk about boys always being prioritized before girls and being viewed as less than a man.
- Violence and Sexual issues/abuse –
Constant cat calling, having to politely decline advances and still getting insulted for it
Remember the scary feeling of walking down the streets alone and seeing a bunch of guys ahead. I remember always turning back because of the thought of what could possibly happen if I continue going. Or when random strangers would objectify your body and get mad when you refuse to answer them. I remember hearing stories of young girls and what their uncles/cousins or even random strangers did to them, and it was absolutely heartbreaking and scary at the same time because you don’t know who to trust. Plus, at that time we were so little and ignorant. Someone invites you to come get candy behind a shed or in his room or somewhere no one else is and you go because, its candy, which young child doesn’t like candy. To even say anything about it was something to be ashamed of. who would even believe you? How dare you say such about your uncle/cousin/family member? Do you know how respected he is in the family? Even in high school, when a girl and a boy get intimate or engage in sexual activities and word gets out to people, the boy is praised and the girl is shamed and called so many foul names that makes her feel worthless and brings down her self esteem. To even think of the effects of these abuse is just sad because they are traumatic and long lasting. Our parents get so overprotective of us, which I totally don’t blame them for, because there’s a lot of danger out there for us. The imminent feeling of danger in every corner or with every guy that gets too friendly also never leaves us.
- Family and gender roles
It was always my job to cook and anything that went wrong was always my fault
As young girls, we were brought up to assume the traditional female roles such as learning to cook, cleaning, just basically doing the chores at home. No doubt it is important to know these basic things, but why is it the sole responsibility of a girl to know these things?
We were continuously reminded that we were going to be a wife and mother someday and none of our male siblings got none of that.
Being expected to do chores whilst your brothers or any of the men in the family are not expected to do so
We had heavier responsibilities than our male counterparts and there was this pressure on us to be this housewife material. Yes, women are natural caregivers due to our loving and kind hearted nature but as kids, why couldn’t everyone get the same chores? All boys had to do was wash the car or take out the garbage but we were stuck with cleaning, sweeping, cooking, doing laundry and all of that. These unconscious gender stereotypes could be a potential influence when girls are making career decisions.
Having to check your morals by the way you dress, speak and act in public
Also, as a girl, values and morals were highly emphasized on us. There were a lot of Do’s and Don’ts as a young girl it was even too much to keep up with. Young boys got none of that. You can’t be rude/assertive because it’s not “ladylike”, you have to be sweet and gentle and calm. If a young boy acted a little irresponsible, it was okay because he’s a boy and boys are like that. But tables are turned when it’s a girl and suddenly she has no morals and values. Take for example, a young adolescent boy who comes back late could be pardoned with the excuse of he was probably hanging out with his friends, playing game or something. But as a girl, being seen outside your home anything past 10 was a big issue. You’re definitely screwing someone, or out doing irresponsible things that “girls” shouldn’t do.
The scales are unfortunately harder for us as girls in this world often referred as the “men’s world”.. We all start out as young kids running around just as free as boys, until things start changing and we start getting different treatment. We unconsciously check our behaviours and attitudes because the society has certain standards for us as women and as young girls. We’re always viewed as the lesser gender, in every aspect. We always have to work extra hard to get as much recognition as any man.
Proving that your existence in STEM related fields was warranted and legitimate
Life as a female is hard, no doubt. But females are still out here doing amazing things. It really is a wonderful feeling seeing women smashing those glass ceilings and doing wonderful works and sitting in high places in our society.
Even with these struggles that women go through, there are still some strong young women amongst us who although have been through very tough times in life, still find a way to draw strength. For the next couple of posts, I will be posting about a few strong women I know of who are inspiring and have inspiring stories. If you have a story to share, feel free to contact me with this form. I want to use this medium to share their stories to encourage young girls out there that although life as a female can be challenging, you can still do wonderful and amazing things.
You are strong, you are beautiful, you powerful.