International Day of The Girl
“Boys will be boys”
- Thought Leadership
My mum has told me stories about what life was like when she was a girl. She told me about how she was taught to cook, sew and knit starting from age seven. Her mother would pull apart the children’s sweaters every few years and re-knit them in a larger size using the same wool, which was wound around my mother’s hands.
She told me that they were given one pencil for schoolwork at a time, and that they had to use it until it disappeared. When the barrel became too short to hold, they would roll a piece of paper around it to ‘lengthen’ it.
This Day of the Girl, I also think about the other stories of girlhood from around the world.
I think about the girls who spend a week in a small hut when they menstruate, temporarily cast away from her family and friends to live out the ‘shame’ in a dim, dank room.
I think about girls who underwent genital mutilation in their infancy, shoved into a life with pain in the place of pleasure with no choice in the matter.
And I think about myself.
I think that I am not really a girl anymore. I am nineteen years old, working, studying and living away from home. My girlhood was (mostly) full of love, laughter and success.
I think about what turned me from a girl into a woman.
It sure as anything isn’t merely turning eighteen. The things that make me a woman — responsibility, strength and resilience — were taught to me much earlier. If these things define womanhood, I am certain girlhood is intertwined with becoming a woman much too early.
And this is the story that every girl and woman can tell.
This story transcends knitting, pencils, dark rooms and razor blades.
When I was twelve, a boy at my intermediate school was dared to hit my butt. He ran quickly away and his friends high-fived him. I wanted to berate them, but no-one else had seen. And if they had, that sort of behaviour was typical for that group of boys.
“Boys will be boys” is a piece of that story.
When I was fifteen, I was cyberbullied. The bullies never told me anything more than a few vague words about me being a “know-it-all” why they did it. My equally intelligent twin brother, in all my same classes, was never cyberbullied.
Behavioural double standards are a piece of that story.
Having to carry unequal burdens, numerous and widespread, from a young age is the name of that story.
In my situation, it’s thanks to the work of strong leaders and determined women before me that my girlhood wasn’t threatened by education inequality, menstrual stigma or female genital mutilation. But it was threatened by double standards, objectification and rape culture. By never feeling safe on public transport or on the street until I got home — which is more than some girls facing sexual abuse, domestic violence and poverty can say.
Lastly, I think that I am still a girl sometimes.
I still feel lost and uncertain about my future. I still like to walk barefoot in the grass, and I still make wishes on dandelions. I still feel red-hot frustrated when gendered double standards are not acknowledged by those around me — women and men alike.
The Day of the Girl embodies passion, frustration, defiance, big ideas and bigger dreams. I know the system and our circumstances can seem designed to stamp those out of us. But, for the girls we once were, the girls we know and the girls we will meet, let’s never let those qualities dim.
Let’s dress, walk and talk the way we want, oblivious of external opinions, the way girls do. Let’s spit in the face of what enrages us the way girls do. Let’s close patriarchal disparities with bare hands and bared teeth.
Let’s give our stories to the next generation.
May they be that little bit more hopeful, more innocent, and more triumphant.
Aimee was part of our last year's project 18x18. If you would like to learn more about her check out her story here.