“Be a lady” – the contradictory messages girls get every day

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This video from Girls, Girls, Girls magazine is pretty powerful:

There’s some discussion about the magazine promoting it and whether it’s genuinely a change of direction, but I think the message of conflicting messages is a powerful one – and the debate about whether the magazine itself is promoting or challenging only intensifies that conflict.

I start my book, The Lost Girls, with this quotation from Caitlin Moran: “When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what
she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today” — Caitlin Moran, How To Be a Woman. I chose it because I think we talk so much about authenticity, and about being ourselves, but often that’s a very hard ideal to live up to. There’s a lot of pressure – on both genders, but I think women are hyper-aware of it – to perform. Gender is, after all, a social construct and performance of gender as any Literature student will tell you, is a highly constructed series of actions, thoughts, appearances and choices (some more conscious than others).

It feels like the public discussion is about authenticity, but the public instruction is to hide behind a mask. Who are you supposed to be, today? Identities shift fairly fluidly. We are wives, girlfriends, lovers, mothers, daughters, friends, colleagues, carers, students, teachers. We’re brave, nervous, ashamed, angry, joyful, We shift between all these overlapping identities but it’s hard to find that core of self.

I think the understanding of self and the bravery to enact that openly is what feminism needs. To be able to embrace all that multiplicity and to be honest about who and what we are and who and what we want from our lives. Living that kind of life takes a lot of courage. For our teenage girls – for all girls and women – I think it’s essential. Part of the role of education is to enable you to explore and understand that inner self, and to find the courage to make it your outward self.

What do you think?

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