>>img credit - kate parker photography, found on huffington post
My main hobbies when I was younger were karate, reading, listening to music and playing football. I had no interest in clothes - I remember wearing my Reebok basketball trainers to a school disco because I didn't have any 'girly shoes'. I wasn't in the popular crowd so when I saw all the 'cool girls' wearing earrings, heels and rolling up their skirts at school, I just remember thinking that I was glad I didn't have to put all of that effort in. I remember seeing all of the things they had to do - hang out in the park in the evenings in tiny strappy tops, BnH cigarettes hanging deliberately from lips smothered in Rimmel Coffee Shimmer lipstick and just thinking, 'it is really hard work being a popular girl'.
My earliest memory of being limited by being a girl was when I was in Primary School. I was really keen on playing football and could obviously play on lunch breaks with the boys, but I wasn't allowed to play in the football team because it was 'boys only'. I remember being really frustrated because I knew I was just as good as the boys, but because of an arbitary, pointless rule, I wasn't allowed to play in the team. It made no sense to me. I used to occasionally go to football training at the weekends and I remember once winning a 'best player' trophy after a weekend football camp and hearing a group of boys say under their breath 'she only got that because she's a girl...' I didn't play football as much after that.
I think I was lucky that I grew up in the 90s, when there was no social media, and mainstream media didn't focus quite as much on saying what young girls should or shouldn't do, and making women feel inadequate all the time to sell products. Even now as a 30-year-old (when in theory I shouldn't be quite as impressionable), I still look at the celebrities in magazines and then compare them to the person that looks back at me in the mirror, wishing I had a flatter stomach, wishing I was a bit taller, wishing I was good at putting on liquid eyeliner, wishing I was more tanned, skinner, etc. It worries me that, if I think that now, it must be almost impossible to be going through your most impressionable, vulnerable years of learning who you are when there is so much pressure to be perfect, pretty, girly, and do and to be the sort of girl that boys like. I genuinely don't know how I would have coped (not to mention having everyone else's lives plastered all over Facebook at the same time, with every photo of you up for comment).
That's why I am 100% behind the lastest global feminist campaign from Always - #likeagirl 'Unstoppable'. As part of the campaign, Always conducted research to find out the extent of how society's expectations of girls and women have a damaging effect on their confidence, particularly as they go through puberty. They discovered that almost nine out of 10 (88 per cent) UK girls feel pressure to conform to how girls 'are supposed to feel and act'. Girls are also twice as likely as boys to say they don't feel comfortable doing certain activities at school because of their gender.
This year, Always has also launched a global partnership with TED-Ed to produce a series of educational videos that will be spread worldwide. TED has committed to helping Always to teach confidence to young girls at a critical stage in their lives. I watch TED videos so much for my own learning and exploring of new topics, and I love the idea of girls much younger than me - in schools or at home - feeling excited and inspired about their futures in the same way I do when I watch their videos.
Have you ever felt limited by being a woman? What does it mean to you to do things 'like a girl'?